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Decisions made today can last a lifetime

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeanine Steele
  • 90th Logistics Readiness Squadron
As I sat waiting for the Central High School graduates to receive their diploma for their efforts, the principal announced the student speaker, Connor Walters. He spoke powerfully to his peers with future expectations and the understanding of life. He didn't look at the podium once as he 'poked' at his fellow classmates to make choices which will matter throughout their lifetime. He stated up to this point what they were doing was just practice, the real decision making was just beginning.

I was astonished by how this graduating student "got it." He really understood the need to take charge of life or it will absorb you. As his speech continued, I wished my Airmen were in the audience along with the graduates, so they could get the message as well. I found Connor after graduation in the sea of red caps and gowns and asked him for a copy of his speech. I wanted to share his passion with you. Life is not about standing by, but about taking action and making a difference so tomorrow can be a better today. His speech is called "Decisions."

"Look to your left. Look to your right. Everyone in a gown and cap around you has just reached a very significant milestone in their lives. They have completed 13 years of education and have been successful enough in that endeavor to achieve the standard of high school graduates. For some it has been a struggle, for some it has been an adventure, but for everyone here, willpower and determination have been required. Standing upon the brink of the dark sea of adulthood, we find ourselves being forced over the edge by the school system, society, and our families. Common sense is the only thing that will keep us afloat for the rest of our lives.

Certainly high school is a proving ground. You go through phases and friends faster than at any other time in your life. You must keep your head up through adversities and challenges, all while keeping in mind that you are fast approaching adulthood and the true realm of decision-making. This being said, don't kid yourself. The hardest and most challenging times in your life are yet to come and high school is simply the foundation upon which you build the rest of your life. High school is now behind you and it is now time to face the real world. Decisions now matter to a level that is unprecedented up to this point in your life. Now is the time to decide whether you will become a contributor or a bystander.

The only thing separating college students from prison inmates is decisions made. The only thing separating beggars from tycoons is decisions made. The only thing separating presidents from peasants is decisions made. It is now time to take responsibility for your actions. No matter your situation, it can be improved. No matter your station, it can be lost. I am not saying that everyone who leaves this ceremony will become fabulously rich, or Hollywood stars, or the next president, nor am I saying all of us will fall short of our dreams and end up far from where we wish to be. What I am saying is your destiny is now in your hands.

You have two options going forward, two ways to live your life. You can either make excuses or you can make decisions. Nobody's life is free from catastrophe and nobody's life is full of misery. This being said, absolutely everybody has the option to make the best of what they're given. Excuse makers give out blame and give out reluctance. They choose to take no responsibility for their circumstances and find no solutions that have not been handed to them. Decision makers take charge of their life, accepting their hardships, correcting their mistakes, and excelling to the best of their abilities. Nobody can tell you how to live your life, and I am no exception. All I can offer you is the advice that you take all those lessons, from both life and books, and use them. Go forward into the world and succeed. Work your hardest. Do your best. Never let anybody, including yourself, hold you back.

All of us will leave this ceremony with a prospective plan for the rest of our lives. Some will join the workforce immediately, some will travel to college, some will enter a trade school, and some will enter the military. Never let anybody tell you that you are making the wrong decision. As long as you are contributing to society in a way that makes you happy, what anybody else wants from you is secondary. Go into the world with your head held high, remembering those people you have met in this school and those lessons you have been taught, take those experiences from where you're sitting out into the world and succeed. Never hold back, never compromise, and never fall short. Become whoever you want to be and live a life that makes you happy, for today, you have succeeded."