I have always enjoyed giving speeches. I do not really get nervous, and the nerves I have I feed off of. I have enjoyed it since public speaking in high school. I and am that guy who volunteers to head up the talking section of the Power Point (not the making of the slides…I am by no means artistic). I took a class at called Public Presenting with one of the best professors I have ever had at BU and it was one of those classes that you look forward to going to every week. I gave speeches on everything from music promotion to a eulogy for Tupac to a commencement address. The catch was that I never wrote speeches, I wrote notes that would structure conversations I was going to have with the audience. That is because I hate delivering speeches, I talk with who ever I am speaking to. Last semester I heard about the student speaker competition for Boston University and it sounded perfect! I would get to have a conversation with 20,000 people?? AWESOME! There was a catch, I had to write an actual speech. I had never written a real speech before and this was going to prove to be the most fun challenge I have ever faced.
It took me a day to draft up a speech and then editing took longer, a lot longer. I spent a long time poring over the text of the speech and figuring out exactly how I want to say what I will say. I sent it to multiple speech professors, my mom, my girlfriend, and a friend of mine who is a state-wide public speaking champion. This process made me realize that I want to be a speech writer one day. It is my goal to be a speech a writer because I want to be the voice for something larger than myself. I want to be the voice for people who have no voice. My dream is to be the voice for the country, the speech writer for the President…but lets not get ahead of ourselves. Finally, the speech was ready (it is at the bottom of the post if you want to read the copy itself).
I submitted the speech to the committee. How it works, is everyone submits their speech to be read, then the best five speeches are auditioned before “the committee”… it is as ominous as it sounds. When I got the call that I was a finalist I was in Washington DC having coffee with my mom before AIPAC Policy Conference…We were excited to say the least!
Long story short I went into give the speech, fumbled twice and did not deliver it up to what I could have. Unfortunately I believe this led the judges to choose someone else, and more power to him. I am sure that the student who speaks at commencement will be fantastic. However, I felt that because I worked so hard on my speech, it is important to share it.
Therefore, I am submitting my speech to you, dear reader. Bellow is a video of me delivering my speech. I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings about it. If I have to deliver it somewhere, I figured this is the place to do it. Let me know what you think. Special thank you to Tyler Peraino for coming to the rescue with his smart phone (I have a flip phone…those don’t record video), you are a good man Tyler, thank you. Ok, here is the video and the speech, enjoy:
One Moment in Time – The Flip of a Coin
Thank you President Brown. Honored guests, professors, faculty, staff, friends, family, and the class of 2013, before anything I want to say congratulations. It took us four years, but we made it! These four years have been filled with moments and memories that have been both wonderful and dreadful. We have learned that every moment has the potential for happiness to excite us, sadness to shock us, and for the world to change. These moments…these experiences, have affected us as a community and shaped us as individuals.
As a community we mourned the destruction in Haiti and in Japan, we watched as our own homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. We have seen humans commit unspeakable acts around the world and here at home, in Newtown, Aurora, and countless other places. We have wept together on campus when tragedy has struck within our own community. We lost lives on these streets of Boston and abroad around the world. We have been touched by those we lost and we will never forget them. While some moments at BU have brought tears to our eyes, others have brought us excitement and joy.
As a community we have witnessed history and rejoiced together. We watched Obama get inaugurated twice, we cheered as Michael Phelps represented our country. Some of us cried at the Royal wedding, and the song Friday…happened. On campus we have experienced the freak no-snow winter of 2011 which left us all telling the freshman “no, I swear it does get cold.” We have seen great structures erected on campus as our school continues to build towards an even brighter future. We have experienced the city of Boston together, seen Aerosmith concerts on the streets, and have a nationally ranked Quiditch team! All these moments have shaped who we, graduating seniors, are today. Each moment holds within it the ambiguous power of making us feel scared, happy, or hopeful, sometimes, all three at the same time. We cannot know what the next moment will hold.
I would like share a story when a moment helped define my life back in 2008, before I had decided I would attend BU. It is a story about how it only takes a moment to change your thoughts, feelings, and outlook. For me, that moment was during the flip of a coin.
When I was deciding where to go to college my cousin Richard thought it would be a good idea to demonstrate the power that one moment can hold in anyone’s life. He sat me down and said “Jack, do you want to figure out where you are going to go to college?” I responded, “sure.” He took out a shiny United States quarter, assigned the two schools that I was deciding between heads and tails, and, though I protested, he said that he was sure this was the best way. He flipped the quarter, keeping his eyes locked on me the entire time, even when he caught the quarter in his hand. With his eyes still locked on me and his hand firmly grasped around the quarter he asked, “when it was in the air, which did you hope for?”
I answered without thinking “Boston University.” He looked at me, smiled, and said “well that’s it then isn’t it?” Then he opened his fist and showed me that it had landed on Boston University, so either way I guess I was destined to go here.
This story is about more than just having a clever cousin, and I by no means am advocating for the use of this method in making all major life decisions. However, this experience taught me that all it took was one moment, when that coin was in the air, to make me feel an emotion that would help shape the next four years and the rest my life. And so for me this crazy college experience all started, with the flip of that coin. However, that moment was simply the foundation, the blossoming of my hope, that this university helped me to develop.
This university has supplied me with classes I have loved and professors that I have always been able to approach. Our professors have provided us the tools to make a difference in this world. However, we, together, have supplied a community like no other. People at campus schools think that their community is aided by the physical boundaries of their school. I would argue that our community here at Boston University is stronger than any other. What people do not understand is that while we are in a “city school,” if you stroll down Commonwealth Ave, or Comm Ave as we say, at 3 or 4 p.m. and look in front and behind you, to your left and to your right, I ask you to identify anyone who is not a part of our community. You could be walking side by side with the next PSY, Gangam Style, for those who do not know, he went to BU. Being engulfed by the community of students, faculty, and staff, breeds a unique atmosphere. Not one of a forced community, nor a community with lines drawn to bind it within itself. It is a diverse community of free flowing ideas, a community of shared values in education and self-discovery. This community shares something even when we are not beating BC in hockey or even when Dean Elmore is not walking down Comm Ave giving his million dollar smile. It is an atmosphere that fosters hope, development and relationships.
And so class of 2013, I ask you, do you need a coin to flip? We are a community, a community of leaders, shaped by our mentors, encouraged by our friends, guided by our hopes, and driven by our desires. That is what my education meant to me. It meant that we have everything we need to go forth, to take every moment that arrives, and make a difference in this world; a community of friends to motivate us, a long list of mentors to guide us, and the tools to understand what we must do. These are not empty words, many people from our now Alma Mater have gone on to do incredible yet daunting things. We have the tools we need and I bet we no longer need that coin to point us in the direction of our hopes, dreams, and opportunities to make an impact. We cannot ask for more than one moment. But in that moment we can make decisions. In that one moment we can fall in love. In that one moment we can feel hope. And in that one moment we can change the world. To all the “adults” in the audience we appreciate your help and guidance, now it is time for us to say “we got this.”
Thank you, God bless you and God bless America.
In honor of the madness that is in March, I wanted to post this. More importantly this post is in memory of Coach Jim Valvano and the NC State upset of 1983.
Coach Jim Valvano is one of the most celebrated figures in college sports history for many reasons. It could be because of his incredible Cinderella story of the 1983 NC State team (a 6 seed) becoming national champions (recently featured on an incredible ESPN 30 for 30 “Survive and Advance,” check out the synopsis here…then watch it.). It could have been his unorthodox tactics, spending an entire practice cutting down the net so his players could visualize winning. It could have been his inventive coaching, using the trap and the triangle and two (basketball jargon). Jimmy V taught me something beyond basketball, he taught me how to be passionate and speak from the heart.
There are many great orators in the history of the world: MLK, JFK, my personal favorite Winston Churchill, and many, many more. However, while Coach V was not the greatest speaker or the most technically gifted he made up for it with his passion and heart. Before we get to his speech, lets talk about his story.
Jim Valvano, a New York native had a 19 year career as a basketball coach with stints at Rutgers, Johns Hopkins (I know…they have teams?), Bucknell, and NC State. He was the center of controversy where he may or may not have cheated (I don’t think he did) and was an overall inspirational human being. While he was coaching at NC State he was diagnosed with cancer changing not only his routine but his outlook on life it seems. It was after his diagnosis and winning the national championship that he gave his famous ESPY (ESPN awards) speech. This was the first speech we watched in my oral presentation class, and was one that taught me almost everything I need to know.
In the speech itself Coach V uses every rhetorical device to create, what, in this amateur speech writer’s opinion, one of the greatest speeches ever given. He starts with a joke, uses the rule of 3 (listing three things in a speech to help the audience remember), makes fun of the facts surrounding his speech (the cue card comment and the “30 second guy”), he uses lines that are memorable and moving (“time is very precious to me”), he acknowledges the elephant in the room (cancer), and uses a narrative with humor to help the audience feel engaged (one of the best narratives I have ever heard in a speech… your family, your religion, and the Green Bay Packers). He uses his motions perfectly and facial expressions match everything he says and does. There are no words that I can write to describe how the speech affects me, suffice to say you must watch it. Whether you have watched it a million times or never before, it is a speech that will get you every single time.
So we will always be grateful for the NC State Wolf Pack who, 20 years ago, where the Cinderella team that made us believe. More importantly, we will always be grateful for, 20 years ago, Jimmy V stood tall, smiled, and gave us a piece of himself in that speech. A piece of himself that made us more than believe, it made us think, it made us smile, and it made us cry. I can only speak for myself but I will always be indebted to this man.
Click the picture to watch the speech and share your thoughts.