I recently had the privilege to be the keynote speaker at the Houston High School Baccalaureate service, in Germantown, TN (my Alma Mater). It was truly an honor to be invites to such an occasion and to stand on the other side of the podium and remember what it felt like to be in the shoes of a graduating senior. I wanted to share the speech I gave to extend this challenge to others. I hope your are encouraged by this. [Below is the speech manuscript in its entirety. Special thank to my speech editors, Jessica Savage and Elissa Roberts.]
Houston High School 2011 - Baccalaureate Service
laws of skydiving
you for that introduction. It is
indeed an honor to stand before you the 2011 graduating class of Houston High
School. Doesn’t that sound good? Well done on the achievement of one of life’s
great milestones. You should be very proud. Many thanks are due your Principal,
Dr. Leisa Justus, members of the faculty and the proud parents who have
invested countless hours and patient love to help you reach this goal.
I am a
proud member of the second graduating class of Houston High School, the class
of 1994. I have decided that an invitation to speak at an event like this means
only one thing…I am officially old!
I love looking out at all your faces. You are excited, hopeful, tenacious and wonderfully naïve.
The big, bad world cannot stop your entrance, and you cannot avoid it….and may
I be the first to welcome you.
my privilege today to present to you a few nuggets of wisdom as you prepare to
launch out into the rest of your lives.
A few years back I decided I would finally
muster up the courage to go skydiving. Maybe it’s my intense personality or the
rush of adrenaline they promise or maybe I’m crazy! I will never forget the
feeling, the rush of jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet! There is nothing quite like it. But
what I learned that day is that skydiving is a lot like life. We stand at the
edge of life or at a crossroads and we have to muster up the courage to
jump. Today, I’m looking out at
all of you and I don’t see high school graduates – I see skydivers. All of you
are about to leap into life, whether you like it or not. So, before you jump,
let me give you the four laws of skydiving.
The first law
of skydiving is… Listen to others. To go skydiving, at least the first few
times, you must listen to the instructor. In fact, they make you watch a video
and then sign your life away on a waiver; it’s a wonder anyone ever jumps! Your
instructor and the training you receive are the keys to your safety and success
In life, you will need
to listen to the advice of others. In the Bible we read in Proverbs 19:20
“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be
counted among the wise.”
Be wise to seek out trusted people to give you advice. Train yourself to
be a listener. Listening requires humility. You will regret the pride and arrogance that comes when you
“know it all.” Like skydiving, life offers few “do overs.” Seeking advice and
listening to others is a key ingredient for success in life. Believe it or not
there are people in your
life that want what is best for you – your
teachers, parents, other family members and
friends. Be wise and listen to others.
The second law
of skydiving is...Make a decision. You will never
skydive until you make the decision to skydive. This decision comes long before you get into a plane. No one, well very few, accidentally
skydive, and no one recommends that.
found that in life, so many people are finished before they ever start. It is
the simple act of indecision that keeps them, and their dreams, grounded and
always wishing life was different. In fact, you may think
that by waiting or not making a decision that you are doing some good, but in
most cases, indecision adds to the confusion and may cause you
to forfeit a great opportunity.
You simply cannot underestimate the power of clear and confident
decision-making in your life.
next 10 years you will likely make the largest number of major decisions in
your life. Think about it–many
of you will decide where you will go to college, who will be your lifelong
friends, what career path you will take, where you will live and
possibly who you choose to
marry. You simply cannot afford to be
indecisive. You do not want an accidental life. You must be able and ready to make a decision.
The third law of skydiving is…Have faith. There is no better way to
phrase it. When the plane reaches 13,000 feet and that door opens the only
thing left to do is have faith and “JUMP!” No one can prepare you for the many
times in life when you must walk by faith instead of by sight.
by definition is to believe in something or Someone, you cannot see. In my life
I have found my faith in the God of the Bible, to offer hope and strength when
all seemed hopeless. Everyone needs faith to act as an internal compass that
will guide you when the way is dark and the path is unclear.
over four years ago my wife and I faced a very dark time when the path we were
on was very hard to see. Our
second child, Cooper, was born with Down Syndrome. You may not have thought much yet about having children but
let me tell you - no one expects their child to be born with special needs or
illness. We faced emotions we
never thought we could have. This was simply not what we planned for and not
what we wanted. It’s funny how we
don’t always have a vote regarding what happens in our lives. This required us
to depend heavily on our faith in God. As we made our way through that valley our
faith in God proved again to be trustworthy. God helped us see what we could
not see. I was given a gift I
didn’t even know I needed. Through my son, Cooper, God taught me how to truly
love someone for who he is and not what he can or cannot do for me. I am
forever grateful for my son and the many around us with special needs.
noticed a few young men and women in this room today who have special needs. I want you to know that you are
important to this world and to us. We “normal” people need you in our lives
because “normal” needs work. You show us courage, perseverance and grace. You
are special not because of your disability but because of your rare ability to
make us more loving, less selfish and all around better people. You deserve
special honor today.
So when life isn’t what you expected or
wanted, have faith because without
faith you will miss out on so many blessings you were meant to experience.
The fourth and final law of skydiving…Enjoy the
ride. As a
two time skydiver I think everyone should have the chance to stand at the door
of that airplane, fight every urge to cling to safety and
throw yourself plummeting to the earth in a 120
mile per hour free fall and
feel the rush that only skydiving offers. Once you pull the
ripcord and discover that there actually is a parachute in there, you can enjoy the ride. All of a sudden
everything is calm, strangely quiet, like sitting on your back porch listening
to the breeze. It’s actually quite peaceful.
many people live stressed out lives, full of anxiety. We allow our happiness to
depend on the approval of others or the
economy or getting our way. Life becomes a race - but
no one can really tell you where the finish line is. Everyone simply adopts a
life of working really hard to have it all, yet
live as if they are missing everything. The
truth is, those who are generous and willing to serve others have found the
secret of happiness; it’s giving, not taking. Everyday you must choose to be a taker or a giver. I will
warn you–choosing to be a taker will rob you of the ability to enjoy your
life. There is something peaceful about helping others.
In giving to others, somehow we receive exactly what we need to enjoy the life
God has given us. Along the way be a giver, help others and live
for something greater than yourself.
my fellow skydivers, you stand 13,000 feet above your lives. Listen to the
trusted people in your life, be decisive about your
future, have faith when
things are good and when things are bad and
most of all enjoy the ride. The door is open. You get one jump. Make
bless you and congratulations Houston High
School Class of 2011.
Please leave your comments!