Best Graduation Speech of 2015

As May ends and June begins, as we recover from the hoopla and hurray (or more like hurry) of the end of a school year, I think it is appropriate to share my favorite graduation speech of 2015. It did not take much looking on my part to find it. My son, Jack Robinson, class of 2015 at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, gave this speech on May 31, 2015 to his classmates and a full auditorium at Clowes Hall in Indianapolis.

Read it and enjoy. Although you may not know the individuals who Jack references within his speech, you certainly know the kind of fearless authenticity that he saw in his classmates and that inspired him to both write and speak the words below.

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Fearless Authenticity – by Jack Robinson

Brebeuf Jesuit students, teachers, coaches, friends, and family, my name is Jack Robinson and it is my great honor to speak on behalf this very special Senior Class.

My fellow members of the Class of 2015, we are all dressed up and gathered in this auditorium to celebrate an achievement that, quite frankly, was an absolute expectation of each and every one of us. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for that diploma. IU said that part was non-negotiable. But I will tell you that today, I am celebrating something a bit different. I am celebrating what I believe is the true gift of my Brebeuf Jesuit education: For four wonderful years, I was able to fearlessly be myself. And oh how I took advantage of that.

  • I thought I would start things off my freshman year by growing a nice long mullet –  and my classmates let me do that.
  • I took ridiculous positions in class just to see if I could argue my way out –  and my teachers let me do that.
  • I wanted to bring my own style to the role of Presidential Ambassador,- and Father Jack let me do that.
  • In football, I suggested exotic new defensive schemes we should try, and Coach Hampton told me to sit down and shut up.

The mission of Brebeuf is to prepare independent thinkers for a lifetime of leadership in service to others. This class took seriously the challenge to be intellectually competent, open to growth, loving, religious, and committed to promoting justice. The best way to inspire openness to growth is to foster an environment where we are valued for the individuals that we are – an environment where we can fearlessly be ourselves.

In my case, this fearlessness was often annoying. But in the case of my classmates . . . it was inspiring. The reason I felt such comfort in being myself is that I immediately saw everyone else fearlessly being themselves. And this happens the first day you walk in this school.

Jasmine Adams – I have no idea how you harness what is necessary to create what you create, and I could never do that, but I so admire your passion behind your photography and I can sense you felt the same freedom I did.

Nick Nagy, you are a Valentine ’s Day legend. Your annual distribution of a rose to every girl in the school was not only social brilliance, but also so completely out there in a way that was so you.

Mark Pecar, for four years I have watched in awe as you have developed a dance talent that will always elude me. It was quite apparent to all of us that your pursuit of this art, while impressive, was really just you being you.

There are more examples of this than I can possibly point out. Watching all of you was inspiring and made me appreciate the safety of being myself. So . . . if you’re looking for the source of my annoying humor – or what my father calls “irrational confidence” – you will find it next to me on this stage.

It wasn’t always pretty. In my case, it usually wasn’t pretty. But with this very special class, it was always authentic. Brebeuf was always a place where we could fail . . . and see what that felt like . . . and see how we responded.

The importance of this, of course, is that this fearless individuality will be so necessary to our continued greatness as a class.

if we are able to find great reward in our careers and develop truly meaningful relationships in our personal lives;

if we are able to lift others as we climb the countless ladders of life;

if we are able to live the lives to which God calls us,

it will be because Brebeuf allowed us, during some pretty critical years, to be our authentic selves . . without apprehension . . without second-guessing . . without fear.

So as we now take this ceremonial step out of Brebeuf, I have one challenge for my classmates: let’s find some new arenas to step into. Let’s agree to put ourselves out there: to try, to fail, and to walk with swagger through it all. Let’s not let ourselves be content with sitting on the sidelines of life, or becoming people who Teddy Roosevelt famously described as those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. Armed with the power of authenticity and independent thinking, let’s be fearless in our attack of new challenges.

And after we’ve attacked – after we’ve tried and failed and succeeded and grown, let’s come back here in 25 years to celebrate who we have become, and what we have built. Think about that day, 25 years from right now:

  • Father Jack will still be here, but he may look 34 rather than 32.
  • We will all be begging Father Michael Christiana to turn down countless opportunities from universities across the nation to remain the face of you leadership at Brebeuf.
  • Ann Keele will be in her office, until way too late with a smile on her face, patiently answering every question any student has for her.
  • We’ll all be taking selfies with Zack Snyder’s and Reilly Martin’s Olympic medals.
  • And young Jack Robinson, Jr. will be an incoming freshman. His mullet will be phenomenal, and his confidence will be irrational. And I hope this school lifts him like it lifted me.

May God continue to bless Brebeuf Jesuit and it leaders. May God bless the great state of Indiana. May God bless the United States of America. And may God bless the Brebeuf Jesuit Class of 2015.

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