Commencement Speech
Rui Dionisio
Verona High School
June 19, 2015

Members of the Board of Education, parents, staff, and the Class of 2015, it is an honor to be with you this evening.

Graduates, the interesting thing about the next chapter in your life is that it will no longer be dictated by what others want you to do. Learning that will take place from here on out will be up to you. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. What it does mean is that you can elect what you want to take at any given time. Ladies and gentlemen, you have made the grade and you’re on your way.

We are compensated by the grateful looks in people’s eyes, especially when we realize that the key to success is recognizing that what you do is not separate from the rest of your life and who you are but is an extension of yourself. When you figure out what it is, then you would have found your true north.

Graduates, embrace the messy process of life, try to figure out what the lesson is so you learn from each and every experience. Make your life a masterpiece, use the next several years to find yourself, to ask yourself, “what is it that makes me happy? and when you figure it out, go and do it.”

Malcolm Galdwell, author of the New York Times best selling book Outliers, examined a study by Anders Ericsson on the 10,000 hour rule. The take away from this seminal study is simple: greatness requires an enormous amount of time to ones craft. Gladwell applies this principle to success stories such as The Beatles and Bill Gates and how they became their very best self as a result of their commitment and dedication to that which they loved. The lesson here… there is NO substitute for hard work.

I come as one but stand as 10,000. Ben Haggerty, graduates you know him better as Macklemore, shares very powerful and influential words.

No, the profound poetry embedded in the lyrics do not come from his songs such as Thrift Shop or Can’t Hold Us, but they are from his lesser known song entitled Ten Thousand Hours.

“I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
See, I observed Escher
I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring
You see I study art
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great because they paint a lot”

Graduates, you have the power to make a difference, to solve community issues, and to achieve your own personal brilliance. But achieving your goals can only be accomplished by a focus and commitment, with hard work as you search for that which nourishes your soul. Stay faithful, keep your eye on the prize, and continuously follow your true north, that internal moral compass that will guide you successfully through life. And when you do, you will make your family proud, you will make Verona proud, and you will make yourself proud. The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.

Class of 2015, go out and ignite your spark. Congratulations to you and your families on this very special day.