Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Spreading Your Wings

This coming Friday, my son, Stephen, will graduate from the ranks of junior high and officially become a freshman. Just hearing those words brings pride at having reached a new milestone, and a twinge of heartache knowing, that once again, my young man is growing up. Too quickly, albeit, but growing up nonetheless.

About two weeks ago, Stephen informed me that he had been selected by the academic staff of his current school for a special honor. Each year the collective body of teachers at High Point Academy selects one student of the graduating class who exemplifies leadership, a positive attitude, strong academic achievements, and overall good moral character. For the High Point Academy’s graduating class of 2010, my son was the student selected who best exudes the above criteria. Both Stephen and I were pleasantly (and I emotionally) surprised by the honor. Having gone through an incredibly difficult year this past year, with having lost my job and coming within hours of almost losing our home and subsisting on very little, this was a most welcomed proclamation of good news.

Throughout the extenuating circumstances of last year our mantra was “Positive outlook equals positive outcome”. I’ll admit there were days when it was hard to utter or live those words, but overall, it was a driving force for us. I would never have known that one end result would be Stephen being recognized for his attitude of gratitude and overall optimism.

As a result of having this honor, Stephen was asked to write a 4-5 minute speech. He thought long and hard about what message he wanted to convey and how he could have one final positive impact on his classmates. He started writing his speech on a paper placement at our favorite Mexican restaurant. From there, the speech continued to evolve. Last night he put the final touches on his speech and I was blown away by what he wrote. I applaud you, Stephen!

Here it is.

First and foremost, I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to address you today. As most of you know, I came to High Point Academy in 2008, entering the 7th grade. I had previously attended The Walden School, which offers a more alternative learning program. I was attracted to High Point because of its solid reputation and structured, disciplined, academic environment. I was also impressed by the genuine welcome of the existing student body. When you’re the new kid on the block it can be quite overwhelming. I had concerns about moving into a vastly different learning environment, but the students and teachers at High Point quickly put me at ease, made me feel welcomed, and instilled in me the belief that I could, indeed, be successful here. Within my first few weeks at High Point I realized that I was in a place that was far better than I had expected. I was being challenged academically, trained in new fundamental principles about life, forging new friendships, and being allowed to flourish creatively. Every morning at drop off, my mom would say “Stephen, make good choices today”. In looking back over these past two years, I can honestly say that I’m thankful that my parents were successful in making the good choice for me to attend High Point Academy.

Although I’ve only been at High Point for two years, my time here has been filled with great memories. A few of those highlights are

- The School Dances
- Premiering my films Twisted and The Giver.
- Going on the end of year camping trip to Leo Carrillo. We all really bonded on that trip.

As you all know, our school mascot is the eagle. The eagle is the American symbol of nobility, strength, freedom and pride. The eagle is immensely powerful, yet majestic to watch in flight. Before an eagle can even learn to take flight, it must go to the very edge of the safety and comforts of its nest and make the choice to jump. It’s said that one must fall before one can fly. This is no different for the most regal and honored of birds. Almost always, the baby eagle will fall to the ground. Once on the ground, it builds up its strength, masters its flying skills, and with unwavering discipline, determination and practice, the baby eagle becomes strong and confident enough to take flight and spread its wings in full extension into the boundless sky above.

As the High Point class of 2010 stands here on the precipice of the nest’s edge and heads off to our respective high schools and the adventures that await us, I’ll agree it can look intimidating. Yet, until each of us takes that daunting leap off the edge, we’ll never know the bliss of being able to soar to our full potential. Granted, we’ll tumble and fall, but in due time, we’ll build up our strengths, come into our own awareness of who we are, develop specialized skills, grow, master our potential, and eventually, like the eagle, spread our wings in full expansion into the boundless sky of life’s limitless possibilities.

To the class of 2010, today is the day to spread our wings. To the teachers of High Point Academy, thank you for being the strength and support in helping us take flight. To the parents of the High Point Academy graduating class, thank you for being the never-ending wind beneath our wings. You all have our eternal round of applause.

And now my friends, it is time for us to spread our wings, and fly into the limitless sky before us.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Getting Your Purple Heart

The Military Order of the Purple Heart was chartered by President, George Washington in 1782. Although protocol around recipients and variations of the medal have changed throughout the years; its purpose has always been to honor military men, and women, for wounds suffered in combat. The actual order includes the phrase "Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the Purple Heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen."

There’s an irrefutable sense of respect we afford military personal who don a Purple Heart. Its very presence on a soldier’s uniform signals the bravery and sacrifice they’ve selflessly made. We bestow the utmost of reverence to veterans who exhibit their purple hearts, as they regale in the details that lead them to this declaration of personal sacrifice.

Several times throughout these past two years, I have unwillingly been recruited into personal battle. Although my battles weren’t government sponsored battles, but rather inspired by the reckless events of government, I’ve nonetheless found myself on the front line of combat. And, I know I’m not alone. I see my fellow soldiers in the unemployment line, food stamp offices, pleading with their banking institutions, in newspaper headlines, on television, writing blogs about their plight, and in extreme cases, homeless.

Each day, I’ve had to arise early and don my battle gear. Be it a new strategy to finding work, putting on the breastplate of determination to make it through the day, or simply yielding my sword of resilience. The enemy camp is always in full force and at the ready. They have launched their attacks through job loss, financial despair, bullying tactics via bill collectors, charlatan organizations claiming to help, foreclosures, bankruptcies, and all out intimidation and devastation. Unlike any battle, there have been casualties in this war and the wounds suffered have been depression, anxiety, personal loss, and bone crushing exhaustion from the never ceasing battle. Yet, like any good solider, when hit with enemy fire, I’ve had to find the strength within to get back on my feet and continue to charge against my opponent. I’ll admit there have been times throughout this battle when I’ve had to come inside for a time of retreat. Any first-rate solider needs time to recharge and renew themselves. The important thing is to get right back out on the front line and keep fighting with the utmost of fortitude. I don’t mind having holes in my armor as I return to the battle field. I’ve learned that without the holes, the light can’t shine through. Every time I step back into combat I feel stronger and more prepared. My weapons are my faith, determination, network of family and friends, and a well devised strategy. Despite wanting to just drop my sword and surrender, I know that I’m not just fighting this battle for me. My son, my family and my friends are all counting on me. There are no white flags in my survival kit.

When all is said and done, and the losses totaled; I guarantee that my soul, dignity, integrity, or lack of determination will not be part of the final sum.

I have and may continue to emerge with battle wounds. These are scars I’m beyond proud to display. They proclaim to the world that despite taking a hit, I remained constant, took a stand and fought valiantly for what I believed in. That despite how intense the heat of battle became, I never quit. That victory was my only option. In the end, I will receive a purple heart for the wounds incurred. It will be in the form of my business growing, celebrating another year in my home, building my savings account, imparting invaluable life lessons to my son, and waking up each new day celebrating much deserved peacetime.

"Let it be known that she who wears the Purple Heart of life has given of her all in defense of her home and what’s rightfully hers, and shall forever be respected by her peers and fellow soldiers."

Copyright 2010