This weekend, I had the joy of attending the graduation ceremonies for my son's high school. Adam is only a Junior this year, but we were on hand to celebrate with several of his senior friends. Perhaps since my own son wasn't graduating, I did a better job of listening to each of the five individuals who spoke. I found that I took away a lesson from each of their speeches. This week, I will be highlighting one of those lessons each day.
Lesson 1: Average is No Longer Good Enough
The first speaker at graduation was Dr. John D. Welty, President of California State University, Fresno. Since University High is a charter school founded by faculty of Fresno State and situated on the University's campus, Dr. Welty's presence is an annual tradition at graduation.
The first thing that struck me about his remarks were that they were addressed directly to the graduates. This meant that Dr. Welty took to the podium, but delivered his address squarely pointed at the young men and women for whom his remarks were intended, offering his side profile to the rest of the audience. "How wonderful," I thought to myself. "This is their day."
Dr. Welty's remarks were brief, but delivered with the passion of a man who has dedicated his life to education. He referenced Thomas Freidman's recent New York Times article, Average is Over. In it, Mr. Friedman makes a strong case for the absolute necessity of an advanced degree in today's world. Citing the rise of technology, but also an increase in the efficacy of foreign production, Friedman concludes:
There will always be change — new jobs, new products, new services. But the one thing we know for sure is that with each advance in globalization and the I.T. revolution, the best jobs will require workers to have more and better education to make themselves above average.
Dr. Welty's reiteration of the message that "Average is no longer good enough," was likely not lost on a group of graduates who will almost entirely be pursuing a college education. Nor was it missed by this mom -- I found myself nodding in agreement, but also asking myself, "In what ways have I allowed myself to think that average is sufficient?"
If I'm being honest, perhaps I use the busyness of my life to make excuses for occasional corners cut or work done less with less than the best of my abilities. I'm fortunate that the advance education called for by Thomas Friedman is already a part of my credentials. But the attitude both he and Dr. Welty called for -- that sense of "Average isn't good enough" -- is always something that should hold a place at the top of my "to do" list every day.