I’m always a little (a lot?) self-conscious about my IB Celebration speeches. But a couple of you asked me to post it, so for what it’s worth, here it is. My sweet wife (with whom I celebrated our 33d wedding anniversary yesterday) said it was good, so it must have been.

For background, our school district honors our International Baccalaureate students with a special luncheon, where they receive an IB hood to wear at graduation. They choose a teacher to hood them, and one teacher is picked to give a speech. So with that as background, here is the speech I gave this year:

Introduction, etc.

Now, if you don’t mind, I want one last shot at nagging these children of yours. This time of year we’re all apt to say “it’s out of my hands.” Tests are over (most of you) and it’s out of your hands and up to the graders.
Not really.

It has always been entirely in your hands. Your learning. Your success. Your future. Your IB diploma has never been in my hands, or Mr. Oglesby’s, or Mrs. Buehrer’s, or Mrs. Shane’s, or anyone’s other than yours. Two years ago you embarked on this program, some of you eagerly and some of you reluctantly, but embark you did. I hope you feel it’s been worth it. More than that, I hope that one, four, ten years from now you still think it was worth it. I believe that depends on you, because it was always in your hands.

Now, college and career are in your hands. What are you going to do with them?

I’ve been blessed to have been asked to speak here before (the admins and other teachers are cursed to have had to listen) and I’ve never had any trouble coming up with a new speech, because each of our “editions” has been unique. So I procrastinate. Sorry, make that I wait for inspiration. One difference between you guys and me is that you procrastinate. I merely wait for inspiration. So knowing this speech was coming, I didn’t procrastinate. I merely waited for inspiration.

What is it I would like to tell the Bell IB class of 2012 that I haven’t told anyone ever before?

Inspiration struck a few weeks ago when I read a poem by a 13th century Persian poet named Mevlana Rumi called “Wean Yourself.” Pretty shocking to those of you who took IB Econ. Balthrop read a poem. Even more shocking Balthrop understood a poem. I’d like to read you a translation of that poem.

Little by little, wean yourself.
This is the gist of what I have to say.

From an embryo, whose nourishment comes in the blood,
Move to an infant drinking milk,
To a child on solid food,
To a searcher after wisdom,
To a hunter after more invisible game.

Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo.
You might say, “the world outside is vast and intricate.
There are wheat fields and mountain passes,
And orchards in bloom.

At night there are millions of galaxies, and in sunlight
The beauty of friends dancing at a wedding.”

You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up in the dark with eyes closed.

. . . . . .

Listen to the answer.

There is no “other world.”
I only know what I have experienced.
You must be hallucinating.

So how do you do this? How do you wean yourself to become a child on solid food, a searcher after wisdom, a hunter of more invisible game?

My second inspiration today was from a story I read where a lawyer named Joseph Tomain told about a talk he gave to some high school students. He told them there were four keys to empowerment. Now I don’t know for sure if there are four keys, or forty keys, or maybe only one. But I like his four. They are


Think for yourself

Engage in critical analytical thought.

Question everything.

These may or may not be the definitive keys to empowerment. But they darn sure sound like a four point summary of IB. For two years you have been asked to read, to think for yourself, to engage in critical, analytical thought, and to question everything. I would add that because of IB you have learned to do those things in a global context. I think IB has uniquely prepared you to do these four things. So to put it simply, to empower yourselves to succeed, to grow up, to become the valuable leaders we desperately need you to become, simply continue and extend what you have started over the past two years. Admittedly, some of you may be further along that road than others, but you all now know the way. And it is up to you to take the journey. Remember, it is now and always has been in your hands.

So read. Think for yourself. Engage in critical, analytical thought. And question everything.

Become a searcher after wisdom. Become a hunter after invisible game. There is a vast an intricate world outside. There are wheat fields, and mountain passes, and orchards in bloom. There are millions of galaxies, and in the sunlight there is the beauty of friends dancing at weddings.

We see such beautiful possibilities for you. So empower yourselves. And wean yourselves.

We are so very proud of you and we congratulate you.