Post Note: Last night I was honored to give the opening remarks for Centura’s National Honor Society Induction Ceremony. The following was my outline, my speech added some lines, forgot others, but the main idea is presented.
I am honored to speak at this year’s National Honor Society service.
Tonight I would like to talk about dictionaries. I know, I’m in English teacher; give me a little leeway.
I actually want to talk about a metaphorical dictionary. (A metaphor is a direct comparison, usually indicated with the word is… a simile uses like or as)
This metaphor comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Speech “The American Scholar.” His speech covers a number of different topics regarding learning, but one of his most powerful moments is when he expresses that “Life is our dictionary.” He continues later in the speech with this insight, “I learn immediately from any speaker how much he has already lived, through the poverty or the splendor of his speech.”
Emerson is stating that we fill our lives, our dictionary, with the vocabulary we experience. I want to expand on his idea for a few moments. To investigate what words you already have in your dictionary and discuss the power of the words you have yet to write.
First, you already have a number of great words in your dictionary.
Your family is the base of many of these words. Love, joy, sister, brother, mother and father. They have developed the word family for you. Your family has helped in understanding words like Christmas, vacation, pride. They have helped define you… by giving you your name, and reinforcing the power of your middle name when you were in trouble.
Your teachers and coaches have also helped you write in words like education, learning, hard work, goals, and tardy.
But moments like this night reveal a truth, a change in the dictionary. You are in the process of rewriting the definitions, of adventuring out to live your life, to write your own entries.
In the future you will enhance the entry for family. You will be the mother or father, an aunt or uncle.
You will take the entries of education from school and build the entry for wisdom.
But to be honest, a dictionary is not, and should not be simply filled with positive words. Life is not that simple. Do not be afraid to write in words like heartache, fear, or anger. These are compliments to a life that risked loving someone with all your heart. Fear shows you strived to do something out of your comfort zone. Anger means you cared.
You will have words like regret, but that means you have dreams or goals.
You will feel overwhelmed, stressed, confused, and even lost. But those words are part of life. They give weight to your life. They give meaning to our moments.
This moment allows us the time to reflect on our dictionaries, to enter new words and tweak the entries that we have written. Understand, that your life, your dictionary is always a work in progress. And that you take a metaphorical pencil with you and strive to fill your dictionary with new words every day. Tonight you should work on the entries of Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Character but also happiness, family and friends, education and most of all honor. Congratulations.