Our Obligation to the Future
Below is the transcript of NHS senior Michael Dietzen's speech at the 2018 Commencement Ceremony.


Good evening everyone. For my speech I am going to build upon what Ben talked about with the importance of relationships and writing our stories for the future. But let’s just take a brief moment to visit the past. 

When I first moved to this district nine years ago I didn’t really know who I was or what I stood for. I didn’t really have a friend group, I didn’t really have a purpose, and to put it plainly, I just didn’t fit in. This awkwardness reached its high point in sixth grade with the 5’2’’ 120 pound frame I boasted.  Yes I was chubby; yes I stayed inside for recess to draw and avoid social adversity; and yes, whenever I actually did play tag, the game would effectively end whenever someone tagged me because I was too slow to catch anyone else. 

But even with that said, I don’t look back on that period of my life negatively, and I didn’t mention it just for the sake of self-deprecation at an attempt to get a laugh. I mentioned this because that is my story from the past and I learned from it.  To be kind, I was awkward, but I think many of us have had those types of moments in our lives. 

However, I, too, grew—and like Ben mentioned— I owe that realization to everyone in this room: We all have ups and downs, that’s just a fact of life. Nordonia teachers, administrators, coaches, friends, and community members; you have made a difference in my life. And for that, I thank you. 

Here’s where my speech takes a different direction than Ben’s. Each and every one of our futures can look so promising and so bright, while equally terrifying, just look at how dramatically we’ve changed over just the last four short years. Our future endeavors won’t be easy, but I think if we keep three simple ideas in mind, we can all have great success. 

First of all, we need to make a habit out of learning. And no, I’m not just talking about school, I’m talking the kind of learning that is rooted in living and experience. I’m talking about the kind of learning that results from leaving the social media bubble we all seem so trapped in. I’m talking about learning from the real world—from real people—and getting back to real human interaction, that’s seeing the value in eye contact and a handshake, and that’s being someone that prefers face to face conversations over the confines of a text message or phone call. 

Living this way can be as simple as setting the phone down during dinner, or striking up a conversation with someone new and disregarding the comfort of your twitter feed. Here’s the truth, social media isn’t all that social; rather, it serves as more of a social hidrence than anything else. Followers just don’t determine one’s worth; that comes from who we spend our time with—and the impact we have on the world.

The second piece of advice I offer is for us to be an active presence in not just our own lives, but in other people’s lives as well. Get excited about whatever it is your doing, invest in your work, far too many people go through life hating their career. And we should do our best to be kind to others, not just for the sake of our own reputation, but for the sake of every other human being on this planet and the fact we’re all just trying to find happiness. This could be as simple as holding the door for someone, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or just smiling at someone who’s having a rough day. It may sound cliche, but those simple acts really can make all the difference in someone’s life.

Lastly, we can’t fall into routines and do things just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Instead, we should learn something new each and every day and remain radically curious about the world around us. We should change our direction and attitudes about simple and complex tasks alike—and if we can do that, our lives will be surprising, have more layers, and we will be filled with more joy than we could ever imagine.  

As we move forward, I firmly believe that these ideas are our obligation. We owe it to the world to write the types of stories that better both ourselves and those around around us. For that is true success, leaving the world a better place than when you arrived in it.

What excites me most about the items I have outlined is they’re all so assessable and achievable. We can all set down the phone and talk face to face with each other, we can make an effort to be kinder and we can all learn something new everyday. 

Nordonia Class of 2018: Our stories are waiting to be written and told. And now, it’s just a question of how of many of these obligations we’re willing to accept and act upon. Will we or won’t we? The decision is ours and ours alone to make, but I am confident we will make the right choice, and live full, meaningful lives.  

Congratulations Nordonia Class of 2018. Good night, and Thank you. 
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