Opinion – 5/19/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2006

The Panolian: OPINIONS – Billy Davis

From the 5/19/06 issue of The Panolian :                 

Congratulations, good luck, graduates of 2006

A commencement day speech to the Class of 2006 from a Class of 1993 graduate:
Well, you made it.

If you’re a member of the 2006 graduating class, the first order of business is to congratulate you and tell you "good luck."

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So, "congratulations" and "good luck."

You deserve a "congratulations" because you’ve survived more than high school classes -?you survived being a teenager, or at least you’re close.

To prepare this speech I Googled "national teen statistics" to better understand the teenage world you’re living in. Here’s what I found: four references to "teen" sex, one reference to "teen" substance abuse and one reference to "teen" suicide. There were also two references to bad "teen" driving.

If you combine all those problems, the teenager today is a drunk suicidal sex maniac with a bad driving record.

Hopefully you’re none of those, but some of you may be struggling.

Once, several years ago, I released 50 bass fingerlings into a pond. Before half of those little-bitty fish had left the plastic bag, two big bass and a catfish had already shown up to take advantage of the easy meal.

In many ways you are those young fish, and life has tried to gobble you up even before you reached high school.

But you’re still alive. Now, if you can survive a little longer while growing a little bit bigger and becoming a little wiser, then you’ll have a chance.

That’s where the "good luck" comes in.

As you move deeper into the pond, here are are few pointers to help you survive and thrive so you can return in 2016 for your class reunion.

The first advice I can give you is to seek joy in life, not happiness.

Happiness is very often a selfish emotion because it’s what you do for yourself – new clothes, another beer, more money – to create within your soul a temporary feeling of satisfaction.

Joy is found in experiences that usually have nothing to do with you: a home crowded with family at Christmas, sunsets and pretty clouds.

People seek happiness – a new vehicle or a new lover – but joy seems to find its way to us.

A second tip, which is related to the first, is this: save your money and keep your debts low by being content.

You will never have enough money, and you will probably always have debt, but you will have more money and less debt if you can separate your wants from your needs.

If your four-wheeler costs more than your vehicle, then you might be a redneck – and a broke one, too.

The third tip is this: never give up.

Some of you are struggling with family problems, depression, thoughts of suicide, and alcohol and drugs that you can’t put down. Others of you don’t have those struggles, but you’re on a righteous narrow path that keeps getting narrower.

My only advice is don’t give up.

Our ups and downs don’t measure up to the story of the Apostle Paul – we won’t endure beatings and swim away from shipwrecks – but sometimes life seems like it’s beating us down. And there’s a reason for that: it is.

Life can be tough, but you and I are tougher. When you receive that diploma, squeeze it tight in your hand and tell yourself, Today I start my future and I will succeed, and I will not give up.

A few years ago I called the White House and bugged a phone operator until I found Matthew Scully, one of President Bush’s speech writers. I peppered that man for 20 minutes with questions – how he got that job and what he had to do to keep it.

I’ve never told many people that story before – whoever heard of a South Panola graduate writing speeches for the President?

So why did I tell you? Because Matthew Scully once graduated from high school, too, and he had dreams.

Decide in the coming days and weeks where you want to be in 2016 and then get to work on the plan.

There is a bright future out there if you follow that narrow path marked with hard work and discipline.

Some of you are already on it.

Some of you need to join them.

All of you can make it.

Congratulations, Class of 2006, and good luck.


(Billy Davis can be reached billyd@panolian.com or by writing to P. O. Box 1616, Batesville, MS 38696.) 


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