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Bird Brown: Hoping for words of wisdom for the Class of 2019

I’ve been asked to use my speech to the Westminster High School Class of 2019 for their graduation as one of my columns. After much revision and consolidation, here is the summary of my thoughts from earlier this week.

Life Ain’t Fair. Get over it.

Even within this small, rural community we have people who have faced difficult challenges in their home life, work life, and their personal or family member’s health. Sometimes the hand we are dealt isn’t the one that we had wanted. There are some students who you outwork in the classroom but they still get a better grade. Sometimes you outplay your opponent on the field and still lose the game. Other times you can be the best actor or have the sweetest voice but get passed over for someone with not as much talent.

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You will face the same at work. More times than not, the raise that you get won’t be the one you wanted. Sometimes you’ll be more qualified than someone else with more education and experience and still get passed over for the job. You may even get fired for reasons beyond your control. It happens.

Face your individual circumstances head on as you enter the next stage of your lives. Don’t use your lot in life as a crutch, use it as an opportunity to improve, to make yourself better.

You can’t go back and fix your mistakes, but you can start today and change the ending.

I have made so many mistakes in my life I can’t even count them. As a junior at WHS, as a midfielder on a team that was 7-0, I had to be removed from the lacrosse team because I had failed in my “Student” part of “Student-Athlete.”

The team went on to a perfect 12-0 record that year. I couldn’t change what had happened. It was tough watching that season from the bleachers as my teammates took care of business on the field. I certainly didn’t want it to happen in the fourth quarter that year because it would affect my ability to play soccer the following fall so I buckled down and got A’s in both of the classes that I had failed in the third quarter.

As a freshman in college, I set a record that none of you can ever beat. You can tie it, but you will never beat it. You see, I managed to earn a 0.00 GPA for my second semester and was asked very politely to take my academic endeavors elsewhere.

Which I did.

Thank God for me that soccer was a big part of my life because it gave me a second chance at school that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I had to reinvent myself the following year when I transferred to a school in South Carolina, where I made the Dean’s List at Coker College in my first semester and every semester after that but one.

I had to cut back significantly on the “extracurricular activities.” Well, except soccer, because soccer is life.

I had to manage my time better and change my priorities that sometimes went against what I wanted to do. I allowed my professors and my coaches in to my life to help me get through the tough times when I wondered if it was all worth it.

And then, the smartest decision I ever made — I married up. I stand before you having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, an MBA in Finance, a Master of Arts in Collegiate Athletic Administration. Long way from that 0.00.

My last piece of advice that I want to give to you tonight may be the most important piece of advice that I can tell you.

Be Kind.

There is so much evil and meanness in this world today, it doesn’t take much to be kind to others and make the world a better place for all of us to live in. Be kind to others because you have no idea what they may be going through. When you walk past someone, smile and say “good morning;” it may be the nicest thing someone does for that person all day. Be kind to animals. Be kind to the environment. Be kind to all of those people that you love. Be kind to your friends. Be kind to your parents. Even be kind to your brothers and sisters.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself.

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Nobody has a perfect game plan to life. We’re going to make mistakes along the way, some that are small and some that are huge. Some that hurt others and some that only hurt ourselves. Learn from the mistake and make the necessary changes so that it doesn’t happen again, but give yourself a break and don’t be so hard on yourself.

Most of all, just be kind. Life is so much more enjoyable if you can embrace that. Be kind.

President Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”

What will you do with your life?

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