Coed, independent, PK-12th grade school in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Class of 2015 Matriculation List
Amherst College Auburn University Babson College Brown University Clemson University College of William & Mary Elon University Florida Atlantic University Florida Gulf Coast University Florida Southern University Florida State University (FSU) George Mason University George Washington University (GW) Indiana University Ithaca College Macalester College Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Mercer University New College New York University (NYU) Northeastern University Nova Southeastern University Oregon University Point Park University Pratt Institute Rollins College Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Smith College St. Andrews - Scotland St. Pete College Stanford University Tallahassee Community College Tulane University University of Alabama
University of California, Berkeley University of California, Davis University of Central Florida (UCF) University of Florida (UF) University of North Florida (UNF) University of Notre Dame University of South Florida (USF) University of Southern California (USC) University of Tampa Vanderbilt University Vassar College Villanova University Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) Wake Forest University West Virginia University Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Yale University
At the Baccalaureate Ceremony for the Class of 2015, student-voted speaker Erich Schneider addressed the graduates, their families and friends. He gave the 84 members of the grade the Worst Graduation Advice Ever! (Full transcription below video)
On our recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, Mr. Murphy and I were so pleased to host a group of young men who displayed such great humor, positivity and enthusiasm despite wet and chilly conditions. One dark and misty night, I ventured up to the tent occupied by Cole Smith, Nic Baird and Jackson Willis. Having named all of our tents, we referred to this one as the Willis Lecture Tent. Just as I approached, the drizzly clouds parted and a starry sky opened up above us. The constellation Orion was prominent. This prompted Jackson to tell us of the tale of Orion, a mighty hunter, born to Euryale and Poseidon, who enraged Gaia, who in turn sent a scorpion to kill him. Nic turned the conversation to physics, noting that some of the stars that we were viewing may no longer exist, though their light, having travelled for eons still makes its way to Earth. Cole brought up the topic of flipping magnetic fields and explained that the color of light given off by galaxies tells us whether they are travelling towards us or away from us.
Sensing it was my turn to speak, I pointed up towards the sky and said, “That’s the Big Dipper. It’s a pot for water.”
Well seniors, that’s the guy you picked to be your baccalaureate speaker. 97727 grams of pure intellectualism and I can do metric conversions, too!
This isn’t my first time at this podium doing a Baccalaureate address. In 2011, I gave an address where I challenged the perceptions of seniors by reminding them that the incredible opportunities they have already had in their young lives did not originate because they deserved it, but rather, it was their fortune to be born to parents who could provide. I said, “You’re not special, you’re just lucky.”
One year later, I watched a CNN report on an English teacher by the name of David McCullough, who made quite a stir with his commencement speech to Wellesley High School when he told the graduating class, “You’re not special”. Every news outlet carried the story. He then went on to write a book entitled “You’re Not Special: and Other Encouragements” and went on a frantic talk show tour.
Coincidence? I don’t think so. So I’m not going to give you some profound speech just so some English teacher in the audience can steal my idea, fix the grammar, add a few refined words and make a whole lot of money selling books. In fact, my plan today is to give you the anti-Baccalaureate speech. In other words, I’m going to give the worst advice I can possibly give you.
As I’m offering these terrible words of advice, I want you to listen to that little voice that is inside of you. Your little voice is going to agree with some, if not all, of my bad advice. Take a second to connect with your inner voice and take mental notes on how often it agrees with me. Are you ready?
Here goes the bad advice:
1. You’re 18 years old. What are you going to do with your life? You should know that by now. You have grown up in a world of academic, artistic and athletic opportunities that strategically targeted you with the promise and intensity to make you a professional whatever before you even turned ten years old. Heck, even your play dates were organized and negotiated with the corporate efficiency of a high-level merger talk. These experiences have steered you in a specific direction thus eliminating the need for experimentation. By now you should have a mandate, so stick to that plan. There is no need for academic exploration or soul-searching in college. History is full of explorers that get lost, or at least we assume that they got lost because they never returned to the beaten path.
2. While we’re on the topic of your future career, don’t surprise people. Choose the career that others have expected you to follow. Right now one of you is thinking: Mom and Dad sent me to science camp in sixth grade and that’s when I decided to become a doctor and I can’t let them down. I don’t like science, but that’s OK, maybe the courses get more fun and easier in medical school. Or maybe one of you is thinking, Grandpa and Dad were so very successful in business; it must be in my blood, too. AP Econ just had too many damn graphs, but I won’t have to analyze many graphs in business school. If you ultimately make the wrong career choice, it’s no big deal. Your career will only be one facet of your life. Let me put it to you this way: Choosing the wrong career would be like sitting through an 8-10 hour version of your least favorite high school class everyday for next forty of fifty years, but you get paid and as the saying goes: Money is root of all happiness. So do what others expect you to do. Don’t let them down.
3. There’s nothing more important that getting an A.Take shortcuts. Technology has made that so easy. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and everybody is doing it. And when you have children of your own, enable them to take shortcuts, too. Show them how to do it. You will be so proud of what you produce. With any luck, it will your generation that will spare our country from the burden of being a world leader by exporting every last need for hard, honest work and solid ethical values.
4. Surround yourself with people just like you. Imagine an entire lifetime full of friends who look the same, act alike, eat the same foods, share the same humor, wear the same clothes, like the same shows, believe in exactly the same values, vote in perfect lockstep, and have the same apathies and interests. These friends won’t challenge you or inspire you to do anything that would make you question your greatness. Your life will be free from the threat of having do things or think about things differently. That is a life of pure, predictable bliss-like the best single scoop of standard vanilla ice cream served in a paper cup you have ever had. Enjoy.
5. You are the only thing that matters. Take what is yours and don’t worry how you play the game. The end justifies the means. The world is full of marks waiting to be fleeced. Critics say that you will reap what you sow, but the chances are slim that you will ever need anyone’s good will or compassion. And once you become blinded by your ambition, take to the next level. If you have a personal belief, force it on others even if you have to resort to some threatening tactics. History is full of ambitious leaders that through own insecurities; self-righteousness and quest for power were able to create their own worlds of right and wrong. That is until some haters brought them down. Perhaps if you just surround yourself with even more people just like you, you could be unstoppable.
6. Don’t come back to St. Petersburg. Never mind that today’s technology means you don’t have to live in New York City to be a financial advisor or that this region offers a wide diversity of career choices beyond picking oranges. Who needs a culturally diverse city, a relatively reasonable cost of living, great restaurants, shops, art museums, professional sports teams, great schools, beautiful beaches, warm temperatures and an average of 246 days of sun per year? You could live in Boston and fight with your neighbors over where to put snow, and spend one hour in gridlock traffic just to do an everyday errand only to cornered in the “packy” by an old man that wants to tell you about every storm that’s come through the area in the last forty years. Or you could move to San Francisco and sit in your overly-priced, earthquake-retrofitted home sipping expensive wine made from free-range grapes while you console your clinically-diagnosed depressed cat that just won’t accept her new vegan cat food as you declare, “I’m so glad I’ve decided to become part of the solution, not part of the problem.” So don’t come back. There’s no benefit to living and working in an awesome community that the rest of the nation refers to as a vacation destination.
So let’s sum it up the bad advice:
1. You should already have a plan for what you’re going to do with your life.
2. Do what others expect you to do.
3. Take shortcuts.
4. Surround yourself with people just like you.
5. Remember that you are the only thing that matters.
6. Don’t come home.
Did you listen to that little voice inside you? That little voice prefers that you live your life in a protective cocoon; that you always take the easy path; that you let others make decisions for you, that you never even consider changing course; that you steer clear of challenges, and above all, avoid the potential to fail. Recognize that voice inside you and gauge how much power it has over you. The truth is that this voice plays an essential role. It’s your “fight or flight” response that has served our species well by protecting us from extinction. It’s the voice that tells you not to get in that car or to not take that shortcut through the dark alley. It reminds you that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. It weighs in to your decision making process by laying out what is at risk. But it is a primitive voice that we share with even the simplest of animals. It’s a reflex to stimuli, not a sophisticated voice of judgment and reasonable risk taking. You need to listen to that voice in the face of danger, but don’t let it bully you into an unhappy, uninspiring, unfulfilled, unethical vanilla ice cream life.
I have one last task for you. Four years ago, when I was at this podium giving the Baccalaureate address, I thanked my parents for all the sacrifices that they made for me. What I didn’t know at the time was that in one short year, on Mother’s Day in 2012, my mom would pass away. I thank God that my father, brother, sister and I were there with her when she took her last breath. Even as a forty-five year old man, I can still feel her warm, secure embrace. I can vividly recall our legendary arguments when I was in high school. I can hear her voice when Annie sings. And I love the fact that all three of her children have her sense of humor coursing through our veins. I am so glad she knew how much we loved her and how appreciative we were for the sacrifices she made.
I don’t know if you guys are aware of this, but you have been very self-centered in recent weeks. Seniors are the “Bridezillas” of teenagers. It’s all about you. My mother was very good at calling me out on things like that, so in her spirit, I am going to give you one last assignment: Sometime before tomorrow’s Commencement, I want you to seek out the individuals in your life who made this weekend’s events possible for you. I want you to tell them that you love them and I want you to thank them for all that they have done for you.
And finally, I want to give a quick shout-out to my Detroit family by leaving you with an inspiring quote from a Detroit rock and roller. I was going to go with something from Bob Seger, but most of his lyrics revolve around various activities in the backseat of a Chevy and I didn’t think that those were appropriate parting words, so I decided to go with Kid Rock:
Roll on Roll on Roller Coaster
We're one day older and one step closer
Roll on there's mountains to climb
Roll on we're on borrowed time
Class of 2015: Go climb your mountains, brace yourself for the scary twists and turns and be sure to enjoy the ride!