For 7 years, I have been looking for the speech I delivered at high school graduation, and finally found it as an email attachment within my “sent” messages. It was written at a time when things were simpler, more innocent, clearer, and much more hopeful. I pray that God allows my heart to return to that status and continues to provide for the future we worked so hard to build together. My speech is written below:

“I would like to sincerely thank everyone who was able to attend our graduation ceremony this evening and express what an honor it is to represent the 2012 senior class as valedictorian.  The most heartfelt piece of advice that I would like to offer my classmates is to embrace the simplicities of life.  Living in a world in which one must compete on the basis of education, pay scale, and social recognition, it is easy to become engrossed in personal gain, make reckless decisions, and neglect time from loved ones. However, by recognizing what motivates us, setting realistic goals, and appreciating what we have, we may separate ourselves from the concerns of the world and experience simpler, more meaningful lives.

By recognizing what motivates us, we become more mindful of our decisions and priorities.  For example, if you are motivated by your family, make decisions that will bring joy and happiness to your home.  Try to eliminate things from your life that may prohibit you from doing that.  Also, to save yourself from a never ending to do list, do not put decisions and commitments off for another day.   Instead, act upon opportunities when they arise.

When setting realistic goals, neither underestimate nor over overestimate your abilities.  Give every endeavor your 100%, and do not be afraid to accept both successes and failures.  Do not dwell upon your mistakes, but learn from them.  Although it would be nice, we are not perfect.  We need to understand there are things we just can’t do, and be thankful for those that we can.

To fully appreciate what you have,make the habit of taking one minute vacations from your busy lives.  Take a moment to admire a flower, or the smell of fresh green grass.  Call up a friend you haven’t talked to in a while, or better yet, send them a hand written letter!  Things like these, although they are simple, are the things we remember.

Lastly, living simply should not be confused with living in leisure.  Rather, simplicity seeks moderation of work and relaxation.  It strives towards being satisfied with yourself and the decisions you make.  It is working hard to achieve your goals, appreciating your accomplishments, and spreading peace to everyone you encounter.

So no matter where your lives may lead you, remember that simplicity is key.  It helps limit your stress, keep your priorities in line, and divert your focus to things that really matter.

And now I would like to conclude with some encouraging words from St. Francis of Assisi:

“Remember that when you leave this earth you can take nothing of what you have received, but only what you have a given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.”

Thank you, and God bless.”