Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm Kelsey and I will be your boring speaker today

I was the guest speaker at my old high school yesterday during their National Honor Society induction ceremony. The Mississinawa Valley NHS now – after the ceremony – consists of an entire 5 people. All girls.

I remember sitting through these things as a student. I wasn’t in the NHS, but the entire high school is forced to sit through the ceremony. The speakers I remember always seemed to be local business professionals – “Please help me in welcoming Jim from The Old Farmer’s Bank.” Staying awake was difficult.

When I was asked to talk, I told myself that I would not be that boring old guy at the podium droning on about the importance of something that no one would find important. I thought that I had worked up a fun talk and for some reason I pictured the kids rolling in laughter and hanging on every word. But once the talk started it didn’t take long to realize that in fact, I was that old guy and there was going to be no rolling or hanging. Well maybe some hanging, but in the “out to dry” sense.

Let’s just say that when you lead with a story about being de-pantsed and then follow it up with a memory of your gym teacher taking a wiffle ball to the groin, you hope for some laughs. When you get none, it’s a little unexpected and a bit uncomfortable.

I even talked about my encounter with a deadly poisonous snake and I only saw one person scoot to the edge of their seat, but he flicked somebody in the ear and then nestled back into lifeless mode.

I think I delivered my prepared talk well and I like to blame the silence of the 300 teens on the fact that they are lifeless, heartless, half-developed people who are too cool to laugh. But you know, maybe I wasn’t any good.

Believe it or not I did enjoy giving the speech. Some laughs would have been good, but I had some stuff to say and I said it, which is always kind of nice.

I’ll record the speech as a podcast in the near future so you can judge for yourself on its quality or lack thereof. Until then I’ve posted the outline below:
NHS Speech

A) It’s great to be here. I’ve got a lot of memories in this gym. There I…
…helped install this gym floor
…broke my foot
…I won some spelling bees. 3 in a row I know; it’s impressive. I peaked early. It’s all been down hill from there.
…playing wiffle ball I watched with interest as Mr. Griffis take a line drive to the…well, you get the idea.

B) What I do…travel & write

I’ve been a lot of places and people think I must know things. I expect that’s why I was asked here today. Well, the truth is there are a lot of things I don’t know. For instance…

3. What I don’t know & What I think I might know
- Fractions
o I have a confession…I can’t do fractions multiply, divide, add, subtract. What to do? Cross multiply, common denominator. I can’t remember. I have to think of pizza. Now if I have 4/59ths of a pizza and I want to add 8/73rds of a pizza to it. I’m sure all of you (stands) know how to do ‘em. And you all here on the floor better know how to do ‘em. Can we get some fraction tests down here.
- Burritos
o I don’t even know how to eat. I thought I did, but I don’t. Tell the Guatemalan Burrito Story.

4. I guess I’m supposed to talk about things I know, which actually isn’t a whole lot. But there are a few things…

Things I think I might know:
A. Snakes are scary. Snakes like puppy dogs. Especially poisonous ones sitting beside you in a canoe.
Read Midnight in the Jungle

B. The next think I know. Is never ever ever pee on flowing lava. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Just don’t do it.

C. Don’t be too practical. We, who go to school in a middle of a cornfield (or was it beans this year?), we are often too practical.
When I was in school there were only about 5 occupations that could work towards: Lawyer, teacher, Dr., Nurse, business. That’s it. There’s nothing wrong with any of these professions; they’re just not for me.

Guidance counselor didn’t tell me I could be a vagabonding travel bum
If you want to design video games or clothes do it. Nothing is out of the realm of the impossible just be practical about it. Find out what it takes to reach that goal – what classes, what experience - and start working towards it. Don’t let it be something that you will look back on and wish you would have pursued.
I met Ted Kooser, the National Poet Laureate, at a Conference a few months ago. For those who don’t know what a Poet Laureate is or does don’t feel bad I didn’t know either until I was sitting beside him and asked “What do you do?”
Fewer things less practical than writing, especially poetry.
Ted is a practical guy and has worked as a insurance salesman in Nebraska for 30 years. Is he an insurance salesman? No he’s a poet.
- Ted was practical, he had a real paying job, but not too practical.

Don’t be too practical
Be grateful for education: I know it’s a lot to ask, being grateful that you are in school today, but you should be.
We avg. 12 years of schooling. The world avg. is 6 yrs.

ii. 781 Million Illiterate people in the world
1. 2x’s the pop of the USA

Poor countries best bang for buck
Win over children
Ex. Of children not able to answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up.” It’s a question they’ve never been asked before. They don’t have an answer for it. If you can’t see beyond food and shelter, clothing and poverity
We all want to be something
i. At first I wanted to be an astronaut that did construction on the moon. Which actually, I’m still holding out for. It is. I even had this silver space man suit. There is too much heavy lifting in construction here on Earth, but on the moon, lumber and even steel is really light, “Oh, what’s that you need a 2X4, here you go…”
ii. Then NBA b-ball player
1. 5’11”. Slow. Can’t jump. Wasn’t meant to be.
iii. Now an author
iv. If I walked around here and asked you want you want to be when you grow up

These people (the members of the NHS) up here are taking advantage of their education and I’m sure many of you out there are too.

Take advantage of your education and never stop learning. There are a lot of things I’m sure you don’t know. We all have our own “fraction” and “burrito” issues. This is what I love about what I do. I get to learn about places, peoples, and ways of life. I can’t get enough of it. Once you find whatever it inspires you won’t be able to get enough of it either.

Conclusion: To recap: Snakes are scary, never you-know-what on flowing lava, don’t be too practical, don’t take your education for granted, take advantage of it.



Kyle said...

Looks pretty funny to me. Chalk it up to being too cool for school.

Kelsey said...

Well, aren't you just a nice fella. Some of the teachers and adults told me that they enjoyed it and found it interesting. But I didn't here them laughing either.

Next time I'm takin "applause" and "laugther" signs.