Note: Speech Prepared by Athlete Outreach Project founder Jeremy Holm
To the Class of 2012, good morning. 2012, that makes me feel old; when I graduated I was excited just to have a pager. You all have so many iPhones, iPods and iPads we might as well call you Generation “I”.
Before I begin, let me answer your questions about bobsled: Yes, it’s fun, cold and fast. Yes, the chicks dig it and no, I’m not Jamaican. Let’s move on.
It’s not every day I find myself addressing a group like this one. In the words of Katie Perry “You are fireworks”. Rascal Flatts say “You’re Unstoppable.” Pink states, “You are Perfect.” We’ll skip Justin Beiber so no one gets nauseous and paraphrase LMFAO’s classic, “You’re sexy and you know it.”
Light the Fire WithinMost of you are dying show the world what you’re made of (after celebrating). Don’t lose that feeling. Like a personal Olympic torch, let the fire of hope and determination always burn within you.
Life is a lot like a run down the bobsled track; it’s exhilarating. It will challenge and leave you breathless while bringing rushes you can’t imagine. Never forget that life is the adventure. Every person in this room will have tough days, but champions know that what we do in life’s difficult moments is what really matters.
The Olympic Games remind us that the human spirit shines brightest when the winds of adversity blow and storm clouds gather. When the troubles of life heat up, keep in mind it takes over 1,300 degrees to purify the gold found in Olympic medals. And if you feel weighed you down, remember it took 1,900 tons of pressure to mold the medals used during the 2010 Olympics.
Regardless of what high school was like, the future is now wide open. You can become anything you want to if you’re willing to work, believe, and never give up. Like the Olympics, the way to a success is not without obstacles, but the journey and the destination are worth it.
The fact is you’ve already done what 1/3 of all high school students in America don’t; you’re graduating. You should feel proud and deserve to be congratulated.
It Takes Pressure and Heat to Make TheseMaybe it took parental coaching or the help of an honored teacher or mentor, but you stayed in school and like champions you now get to cross the finish line we call commencement. I hope you treat your diploma like a gold medal because it represents accomplishment.
And that accomplishment is the foundation you build the rest of your life upon, so today I would like to share a couple bobsled-related lessons that can help you on your journey.
The Bronze: Get Off the Sidelines
Every bobsled track, indeed, every race in the world has a START of some sort. The only way to win is to begin the race; no one ever triumphs by sitting on the sidelines.
Every one of our dreams has a starting line. The problem is while we all know success requires effort, far too often we let fear, doubt or laziness get in the way. I don’t know what your secret goals are, but don’t let anything stop you from going after them. It’s not that champions are never afraid; they just face their fears and get on with the task at hand.
Champions cannot afford to sit on the bench and neither can you. Make great things happen in your lives. If opportunities don’t come, go out and find them. Whatever dreams you have now or in the future, get off the sidelines and into the game. If you find you need to change your gameplans a little, that’s ok, too. A lot of life is made up on the spot anyway.
Choose the High LineNow winning takes a lot of work; I learned that my sophomore year when I started bobsled. I discovered that if wanted to have a fast time on the track I needed to learn the course and study the turns so I would know where to pilot the sled. Driving to win in bobsled often requires taking a higher line in the turns so the pressure accelerates the sled you when you exit.
In bobsled you win by choosing the high-line and that applies to everyday life.
Champions succeed because they choose to live at higher levels. They sacrifice, work hard and do what is right, even when it is difficult or unpopular. Be careful whose opinions or voices you listen to on your journey; some will lead you to greater happiness, while others seek only to hurt. Never be afraid to march to the beat of your own drummer or move at your own pace.
We all have equal opportunity to become something great, but it won’t happen unless we choose to make it happen. Not following your dreams is a choice I hope you never make.
I encourage you to always choose the high line because it will make all the difference in your jobs, your relationships and your overall happiness.
The Silver: Let Go of Mistakes
Good Start...That isn’t to say all our choices are perfect. That’s ok; neither are we.
Champions constantly work to improve themselves and they make plenty of mistakes along the way. I’ve done it. Let me tell you about this picture right here…
The team looks great doesn’t it? We were forerunning, or hill testing for a World Cup event here in Park City. We had a fast push, the ice was fast and I was driving fast. Until Turn Eleven on our track where I stayed on the turn just a second too long. The result?
...Not So Good FinishA mistake led to a crash. It happens. We repaired the sled and were back on the ice a few days later. In bobsled you’ll notice there are no rear-view mirrors. Perhaps a reason for that is if you spend too much time looking back at your mistakes, you fail to see what lies ahead which can be a problem at eighty-five miles an hour. Be careful how much time you spend looking back negatively on your life because you have great things ahead of you.
Learning, even if it’s the hard way, is a part of sport, and a big part of life. Don’t be afraid to fall down. Get back up when you do, brush yourself off, and keep moving forward. After all, falling on your face is at least moving in the right direction.
The Gold: Represent Your Country With Honor
It is a privilege to wear a USA uniform, but with it comes with a responsibility to serve and live with honor.
You share a similar accountability. Your country can be your family, friends, teammates, job, neighbors, coaches and so on. We honor them, and ourselves, by making the most of our lives, learning from our mistakes and choosing to live at higher levels.
We also have a responsibility to watch out for one another. We are all teammates in this world and fellow competitors in the game of life, except in this game we can all win.
We Are All ConnectedThe Olympic rings are linked to represent the connecting friendship and peace that the spirit of the Games is meant to bring to the world. I encourage you to use your minds, your talents and your abilities to better the lives of those around you. Find ways to serve and lift your fellowman. Don’t waste your time with feelings of hatred and prejudice. The peace the Olympics seek to effect between nations is the same spirit of peace we all desire in our lives and relationships with others.
Live as champions. Learn from your mistakes. Choose the high line. Be a true teammate to those around you. Embrace the adversities of life. And above all, have fun.
Congratulations, Class of 2012. Good luck in the game.