Simple Values Will Help Graduates Make a Difference: Listen, Work Hard, Be Kind, Respect Others

We are in the midst of high school graduations. They are a great way to end the school year, with so much pride and excitement on display. Graduates have big plans for college and careers. It is a complex world they will be navigating, but I believe some of the most important skills they will need are found in simple, time-tested values. Here are the values that can make the difference in their lives and in their contributions, and it’s what I’m passing on to graduates this year. Here’s my short speech:

Today is a very big day in your lives. Graduating from high school is not a simple achievement.

Now you are beginning another part of your story. Moving on to college or a career successfully will take determination.

I am sure you have heard a lot about the 21st Century Skills you need to be successful. First among those essential skills is learning. Continuing to learn is going to be key for you because our world is changing.

But, 21st Century Skills also have their foundation in some time-tested values that don’t change. Here are four that are essential.

Listening. I can’t tell you how important that is. You can learn more by listening than by talking.

Working hard. Whatever the work is. Distinguish yourself by going the extra mile. I know any teacher or employer will tell you this can make the difference for you.

Being kind. My mother always told me to be kind because you never know what people are going through. Simple acts of kindness can change things.

Respecting others. We may not always agree, but we can show respect for each other. In this day and age, respecting others will distinguish you from the rest.

You are already a success story. Remember, others are watching you as you take this step.

Embrace the skills that will make the difference in your life: keep learning new things, listen, work hard, be kind, respect others.

You will be successful, and you will help others be successful too.





About Debbie Wesslund

I served on the Jefferson County Board of Education, Louisville, KY, from 2007-2014 and continue to be an advocate for public schools. There’s a high-level dialogue about public education that swings from positive to negative, with many who seek the spotlight voicing an inaccurate picture of our public schools. Words matter. They get lodged in our public perceptions, creating a narrative that doesn’t reflect the real story. There’s so much more to public education, and much worth applauding in Kentucky and across the country. The stakes are high: public education is the most serious public business we are about as a community, a state and a nation. We must continually renew our resolve to support public education. There’s always more promise in building something up, than in tearing it down.
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