Thursday, March 19, 2015

National Honor Society Address

Good evening. I am honored to be given the opportunity to speak with you this evening.  First of all, I would like to say congratulations to the returning NHS members and congratulations to the new inductees.

Also, congratulations to the families and friends of the students who are being honored this evening.  Your love and support has helped to form the quality individuals that these young men and women are today.

I started teaching at Helias Catholic with the intention of staying a couple of years so I could save up enough money to move or go back to school.  The couple of years turned into over 30 years because I fell in love with the superior students at Helias Catholic. I also came to realize that I was not alone on my path in life. I believe strongly in God’s guiding force. I am sure that most of you have some goals in mind for the future, and I encourage you to not be afraid to ask for spiritual help to share your path in life. For most of us, there is no doubt that we can use all the help that we can get.

We live in confusing and trying times. There are social, political, and economic problems that surround our daily lives. NHS members and inductees—you are our future—it is your task to create a better place for all and to clear up some of the confusion in our world.  A few contradictions include: you are told that to steal ideas from one person is plagiarism but to steal from many is research. You are told that technology and social media are the way of the future but you cannot use your cell phones during class to correspond with friends. There are more stringent steps to obtaining a driver’s license then to purchasing a firearm. We are told to watch our spending but the United States Government estimates that the national debt is equal to over $154,000 per taxpayer. A professional baseball player gets paid 3.4 million per year or more and a surgeon gets paid $230,000 per year. We are told to conserve energy but the CEO of Ameran makes 5.7 million in salary and compensations, and the list of contradictions that surround life could go on and on. You are a generation who will be the game-changers.

I would give you words of wisdom, but I am not sure I am wise. However, I would like to share some thoughts or points to ponder.

You are being honored this evening for your achievement in character, service, leadership, and scholarship. I believe these four virtues or traits are very closely interrelated and build upon one another.

When I think of character, it reminds me of a Christmas card that I received this year from a former Helias teacher—she said that when she sees Helias people she asks how Mrs. Seifert is doing and they assure her that I am still a character.  Sometimes Sister Jean says, “Seifert stop being such a character.” Sometimes she does not say anything—I just get that look.  Our character defines much of who we are, how we think, how we act, and what we say or do. Our character is shown in what we think even when no one is around. Our character determines how we justify what is right or wrong or when we say yes or no to something. A person of character does not follow the crowd or take a poll to determine the right course of action.

I believe Character is at the core of the other three traits. The second trait is service. In my mind, there are two kinds of service—one type of service is a person who only wants to serve themselves, in other words, they think “what is good for me” and they never think of others. Then there are those who think and seek to primarily serve others. Service to others lies at the foundation of positive change; service to others makes life worthwhile. To me, service does not always have to be something huge. Service can be as simple as visiting or helping an elderly person or giving a few canned food items for a food drive.

The person who has the kind of character that seeks to serve others usually also develops a sense of purpose for life. Those who serve have a natural tendency toward being leaders. To me, leadership is not so much about techniques, methods, or being the president of every organization that I am in, but it is about opening the heart. It is not about the title or position, but rather about being an active participant in society. One can be a good leader by setting a good example, by actively participating in a faith community, or by helping to pick up trash at a local park. John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Good leaders develop through a never-ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience. I urge you to find meaningful experiences.

The last of the four virtues is that of scholarship. You are all scholars. Your scholarship and training must have a purpose to be fulfilling; however, I hope that you will never be finished. I was at the Foundation Hall of Fame Banquet last year and I was introduced to a woman. I generally know almost everyone at the dinner; however, I did not know her. She opened by saying, “So you are Pat Seifert”? I said, “Yes”. Then she accused me of being the reason her husband does not always pay attention to her. Yes, I was stunned and speechless and those of you who know me know that I am rarely speechless. I thought what are you talking about? After a few seconds, she said he reads books because of you and does not always pay attention to me. She went on to say, he started reading when he had you for English. Needless to say, I was relieved and chuckled a bit. I sincerely hope that all of you will be lifelong readers and lifelong learners. I hope that you yearn not so much to be taught, but rather wish to learn. I have found that the more I learn, the more I find out how much I do not know. If you think you know it all, then your learning has ceased. I hope you attempt things that you cannot do, so that you can learn how to do them. Also, please never stop questioning. Believe in your potential and abilities.

 I would like to share a little story about the wise donkey (I love stories):

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well.  The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out a way to get him out.  Finally he decided it was probably impossible and the animal was old and the well was dry anyway, so it just wasn't worth it to try and retrieve the donkey.  So the farmer asked his neighbors to come over and help him cover up the well. They all grabbed shovels and began to shovel dirt into the well.

At first, when the donkey realized what was happening he cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement, he quieted down and let out some happy brays.  A few shovel loads later, the farmer looked down the well to see what was happening and was astonished at what he saw.  With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was shaking it off and taking a step up.

As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he continued to shake it off and take a step up.  Pretty soon, to everyone's amazement, the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off.

The moral of this tale might very well be: Life is going to shovel dirt on you. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off

and take a step up.  Through applying wisdom every adversity can be turned into a stepping stone.  The way to get out of the

deepest well is by never giving up but by shaking yourself off and taking a step up.

What happens to you isn’t nearly as important as how you react to it.

I hope that each of you will find something you love to do and are able to pursue a career related to it. I wish each of you the best in your future endeavors, may you always enjoy life, and may God Bless you each and every day.
I would like to leave you with a few words from a very wise and brilliant man—His name is Dr. Seuss
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own, and you know what you know.
And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.

Have a wonderful evening!