Carrie E. Tompkins Fifth Grade Moving Up Ceremony, June 2005
by Tomas Szoboszlai, pictured right, with Croton-Harmon Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Marjorie E. Castro.
Welcome. At every ceremony like this one when I finished a grade, graduated from school or received a degree, someone older would make a speech that said basically, "The Future is ahead of you." Those speeches would go on for 30 minutes or more. In a room like this one, on a warm summer day, 30 minutes would seem like an eternity. So, Ill spare you (and me) that speech and I am certain none of you will be disappointed if I tell you that my speech will be short.
What I want to talk about is growing up, becoming one of the big kids at PVC and maturing to become young adults. That is not about finding and opening your lockers at PVC. And, since yesterday seemed as though the Fifth grade went to Yankee Stadium on deodorant day, I am also NOT going to talk about personal hygiene.
Growing up doesnt just happen; it is something you work at every day. Some days it can be a very difficult job. It means making decisions and being able to get them right. Growing up is serious business. It is so difficult that no one here expects you to do it by yourselves.
Today, for you, growing up means moving-up to PVC. You will be with the older students and soon you will become one of them. You may be worried about the fact that the kids at PVC are older than you; that they know more than you do. And, it is true, they are older and more knowledgeable about many things, but at other times you will see that the bigger kids are not so very different from you, that they are not really any smarter than you are, and that they dont always act as if they know what is right. And, right matters. Sometimes it matters just a little, but there are other times when it is really very important. I think you will know when those times are.
That is one way that real life is different from television shows, movies or songs. The main characters on popular television shows and movies almost always figure out what is right by the end of the show and, even if they dont, things work out for them. It doesnt matter how silly Bart Simpson is during the show, what horrible, dangerous or silly things he and his friends do in his town, his school or to each other. No matter how dangerous destructive or rude Bart is, none of the characters get hurt feelings or suffer permanent injuries. But Bart is not real and the writers can always just fix everything in the last five minutes; a couple of wise cracks and everything is back to normal. Life is very simple for Bart Simpson, but as far as I can tell Bart is not growing up. You are.
The things you see on television and hear in songs on the radio, the things you see sports figures and movie stars do, thats just entertainment. It is fun to watch and hear about because the people that make movies, TV and sports events make sure that by the end of the story all the problems are resolved. You just pay the admission fee and let them do all the thinking for you.
But, in life, thinking and trying to make good decisions is the price of admission. One of the things you will need to figure out at PVC is how to tell when the older students really are smarter and when they are only acting that way. But, how will you decide? Well, you have to think for yourselves. The right course of action for you is not always going to be that which someone else follows, or even that which almost everyone else follows. Sometimes the choice will not be easy and you may have to think long and hard and even seek advice from adults you trust. Thats not only OK, it is absolutely necessary. When you have to make difficult decisions, thinking about them and asking for advice are smart things to do.
There will be times when you may know what the right thing to do is, but that may be inconvenient to you or your friends. At other times it may be more than just inconvenient, it may be very difficult to stand up for what is right.
But, when you make those decisions you must not just follow others, especially if the choices they are making do not seem right to you. Remember that people can get carried away. People make mistakes. It is even possible that an entire group of your closest friends may get carried away and makes a mistake unless you do something. So, there will be times for each of you when you will have to lead, when being a friend, when being a grown up will mean helping others understand something like that, something important.
I think all of you will know when it is such a time. The question is whether you will be grown up enough and courageous enough to think for yourself and, if necessary, to speak up to help you and your friends avoid making a mistake.
Growing up you will have to deal with questions so difficult that those of us who have been growing up much longer than you do not expect you to do it alone. Neither should you. The adults around you are here for that reason.
Finally, I know many of you through my son. I know his friends and classmates, their teachers and parents. So I want to end by telling you that the other parents and the teachers are all very proud of each of you, that we have every confidence that you will remain friends and that you will help each other succeed as you grow up together. As parents we hope that you will also let us help you become fine young adults.
Editor's note: Tomas Szoboszlai served on the Croton Harmon Board of Education from 2003 to 2005. Mr. Szoboszlai's son was among the 5th grade graduating class from CET, where this speech was delivered to a full house.
Crotonblog thought it to be very endearing, genuine, and well worth reading before heading back to school. We hope you'll pass it on to your friends and family.
PHOTO CREDIT: Olivia Joy