Commencement Speech
Dr. Rui Dionisio
Verona High School
June 19, 2018

Members of the Board of Education, parents, staff, and the Class of 2018, it is an honor to be with you this evening. There exist some simple truths in life that most of us in the room will not dispute. Students who study for a test tend to do better on the exam. The athlete who physically and mentally prepares in the off season will be more likely to achieve success. A musician who practices over and over again will hit the right notes when it counts.

Preparing for life in the real world is no different. As your parents and grandparents here with you will attest, life experience will provide you with wisdom. Tonight I would like to share with you some insight before you embark on your journey.

Happiness: Shawn Achor is an author, researcher, and public speaker on the topic of happiness. He shares that, “Intelligence counts for only 25 percent of our success. The other 75 percent of our success in life is not about our intelligence and technical skills. It’s how we process the world. It’s our optimism. Like the belief that our behavior really matters.”

Challenges in life are inevitable. None of us will escape unscathed. I have always believed that regardless of what challenges come our way, how we view and respond to adversity, can provide meaning and purpose. Each obstacle serves as a lesson, an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to decide what our perspective of the world will become.

While you are out there in your travels, I hope you remember that happiness is not a destiny but rather a choice. There are only two types of people in this world. Those who bring energy and those who drain it away. I leave you with two questions to consider:

1. Which type of person will you decide to be? and
2. What type of people will you let into your life?

Change is Inevitable: Two things most people complain about: number one is change and the other is the way things currently are. Those who embrace change, rather than shy away from it, will be more adaptable, more resilient, more prepared for what comes their way. Others will sit idly by complaining about it. You can suffer the pain of change or suffer remaining the way you are.

Expect to Fail: Thomas Edison failed over 1,000 times before the invention of the light bulb. J.K. Rowling was a single mother, broke and depressed, yet overcame incredible odds to build one of the most successful literary empires. Abraham Lincoln failed as a businessman and was defeated in numerous elections before finally becoming our 16th President. Failure is not only inevitable, but necessary. Life is not perfect. Accept that. Failure is important and part of the process. Failing the right way is being open to it, looking for an opportunity for growth. Live life as an iterative process, learning from your experiences. Take feedback. Reflect. Improve a little bit each day. Failure opens us up to the possibility of change and brings opportunity for growth.

The Truth Matters: Make no mistake about it. We live in a world where everyone has an opinion, and many people act like they are experts on topics they know little about. It’s up to you to discern facts in life whether it’s information you receive from a friend, the media, or someone in your own community. You have an obligation, not only to yourself but to others around you who are impacted by your decisions, to be responsible, and ask the right questions. You can choose to go through life blithely unaware of the truth or you can decide to chart your own course. I hope you choose the latter.

Last, but certainly not least, always do the right thing, especially when no one is looking.

The measure of a man or woman is how he or she responds in the midst of adversity. To be a person of high moral character, what you say and what you do is not only a reflection of who you are but who your family has raised you to be.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have the propensity to be a vehicle for positive change in the world. Lean into failure. Speak truth. And always do the right thing. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than you are capable of living.” Class of 2018, we wish each of you a life that is filled with passion and purpose. Congratulations to you and your families on this very special day.