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-Gerald Wallace


May 29, 1998

(a long pause to take the props from the wings onto the stage) Thank you Mr. Dressel for the very nice introduction. I'm sure that this is the first time in St. Martin's commencement history where the introduction and the get-ready are longer than the speech! I have to share with you that as I was sitting out in the audience I was a little bit nervous. But after those awesome speeches by Nick and Rebecca, I have to admit that I'm a lot nervous.

I know it is rude to turn your back on the audience but the real audience for my message is the class of 1998 and I would like to speak directly to them. But you are certainly invited to listen! (now turn and face the students)

It was just 36 years ago that I was graduating from high school and I sat in your seat and listened to a very long-winded, dull and boring speech. Now, I have no intention of giving you the boring speech that you are dreading. As a matter of fact I was provided with advice by several of you. I was told not to speak about my daughter, Alisa. There goes that speech. (throw down a few papers). I was also told to not to be long-winded and to keep it short. I guess I can't use that speech. (Throw down more papers.) I was also advised not to be too religious or too profound. (Hold up a Bible). I guess I can't use this either. And I was told to be funny. Well, I'm not taking any chances on you guys. (Bring out laugh box and activate it) I'm bringing my own laughter.

Tonight I want to talk to you about magic...(produce the silver cane)...the magic that lies inside each and every one of you. I hope I can provide you with a few ideas that will release the magic that each one of you possesses. The ideas are actually contained in each letter of the word magic.

The letter M stands for motivation. You know that motivation is a tricky subject that is often difficult to understand and difficult to define. I know your head master, Mr. Dressel, and I am convinced that he knows about the importance of motivation. As a matter of fact, when I visited with Mr. Dressel in his office to discuss tonight's speech, I noticed that the tops of his shoes had letters painted on each shoe. The left shoe had TG painted on it and the right shoe had IF. This novel design motivated me to guess the possibilities:

  • These graduates-intelligent and fantastic...or perhaps Mr. Dressel was trying to place a reminder on his shoes to keep the students focused at the end of the senior year and that the letters stood for.....
  • This graduation isn't final, then I got paranoid and thought he put that on his shoes to refer to me,
  • This guy isn't funny!

Finally, I just had to know the deeper meaning that LAY behind such a bold symbol. Mr. Dressel responded, "Oh, that's just a little motivation that my wife, Jan, gives me every morning as I get ready for school ...TGIF-Toes Go In First!

Whatever your source of motivation, I suggest that you set your goals. Then give your goals a deadline and write them down. Remember you can't hit a target that you can't see. So be a goal SETTER and you'll be a goal getter.

The second letter, A, stands for attitude. Remember attitudes are contagious. Make sure yours are worth catching.

As a reminder of how important positive attitudes are to me I keep this poster that emphasizes the importance of attitude on my wall in my office. I'd like to give each of you a poster that will hopefully be a reminder of the magic of having a golden, positive, attitude. Now don't worry; I won't be offended, and I probably won't even know, if you don't hang the poster on the wall of your dormitory when you go off to school this fall. But perhaps you will look at the poster every now and then and it will serve as a reminder of the importance of attitude in developing the magic in your future.

What I want to emphasize is that it's not your aptitude or how smart you are but your golden attitude that will ultimately determine your altitude or how high you will climb on the ladder of success.

The third letter to make you magical and amazing is G which stands for get going and go for the gold.

Perhaps I can best summarize the magic of the letter G and get going, with a quote from the eloquent, contemporary lyricist and composer Chumba Wumba, "I get knocked down but I get up again. You ain't never going to keep me down."

The fourth letter is I, which stands for imagination and ingenuity. I went to school at the University of Wisconsin and most of the football players took an elementary education course called "kiddie lit" because the professor took a liking to the players and usually gave them a good grade. Also the football players knew what questions the professor would ask on every exam, as he would use the same questions over and over again. For the final exam the professor would always ask, "Describe a character in Dr. Seuss' book and its relationship to contemporary society." One football player, Alonzo Smith, didn't study at all. He just memorized a few facts about Dr. Seuss' characters and felt prepared to take the exam. When the students arrived on exam day, the professor wrote on the board, "Criticize the works of Shakespeare and its relationship to contemporary society." Most of the players walked out and were ready to accept the inevitable failing grade.

Not Alonzo Smith. This is how he began his essay: "Dear Professor, Who am I to criticize the great Shakespeare? What I want to tell you about is the Cat in the Hat!" The point I want to make is whenever you are challenged by a curve ball problem, use your magical ingenuity and your imagination to find the answers.

The last letter, C, stands for commitment. There are all kinds of names for this commitment but I like to think of it as (create fire from hand) fire in the belly! You have to have that burning desire to make your dreams come true.

A great basketball player was asked how he was so successful and he responded, "I've missed 9000 shots in my career. I've lost more than 300 games. Twenty six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot-and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeeded." Who would imagine that the player was Michael Jordan, probably the greatest basketball player of all time, through his courage and commitment failed his way to success.

Yes, it takes lots of hard work and commitment to be successful. Just remember that the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary.

There's no such thing as impossible. Some might say it is impossible to pass a 24-inch needle through a balloon without breaking it. (pass needle through the balloon) Yet the impossible can be achieved just like you can accomplish all of your dreams if the commitment is there. (pop balloon)

I am going to conclude my remarks to you by taking today's USA Today newspaper and tear it in many pieces and attempt to restore it back to its original condition. Now many times when I have done this effect and people said, "Not only did we see you tear the newspaper in to lots of little pieces, but, if you become very quiet, we could actually hear you tear the paper apart." Now many of you may be asking what does taking the USA Today newspaper and tearing it into lots of little pieces possibly have to do with the magic of graduation? Did you notice that the paper was pulled into lots of little pieces? That is what each of you can expect at some time in your future. You will be separated from your family, your friends. and even your loved ones. Next did you notice that the torn paper had some rough edges created when it was pulled apart? That is another certainty that will occur to each and every one of you. There will be rough edges, obstacles and barriers that will occur between yourselves and your destination. But I can promise you, I can even guarantee you that if you remember the word magic and what it stands for...M for motivation, A for attitude G for get going I for imagination, and C for commitment and then incorporate a few of these ideas into your personal lives and into your careers then amazing, magical things are in store for each and every one of you. (restore the newspaper)

Good luck and congratulations, class of 1998.