Preschool graduation speakers aren’t typically known for espousing wisdom. As a former speechwriter, I never Googled “commencement address to Ms. Cynthia’s Lion Class” in hopes of inspiration.
And yet. On a recent Friday afternoon, I went to cheer on my favorite 5-year-old as she crossed the stage. My greatest hope had been to witness that one kid who sings much louder than the rest (I was indeed rewarded), but dare I say I was also inspired. When the preschool director approached the podium, I presumed she would wrangle children so their parents could get the perfect smile for Instagram. She did some wrangling, but first, gave the kids a little advice.
Follow your passion. Love your friends. Be yourself.
Admittedly, the Lion Class scholars may have been too busy pulling one another’s tassels to put these recommendations into immediate practice, but I can’t help wondering what it would be like if the adults in the room took the words to heart.
As we pivot from childhood to adulthood, there seems to be a tacit transition from possibility to practicality. Dreams of being an astronaut turn to the daily life of an accountant. Requisite kindness to all friends shifts to a select distribution of compassion. Embracing individuality is muddled with external forces of opposing opinions. The necessity of this transition seems to hold so much weight that potential inspiration washes over adults like platitudes.
What would our lives be like if we embraced the world we suggest for our kids?
Would we summon the courage to change course and pursue a new career? Would we engage in discussion around dissenting opinions instead of drawing lines of friendship that align exclusively with our own beliefs? Would we speak truth to power because we’re finally ready to be seen and heard?
As I pondered this speech, I wondered if its value was lost on children eagerly anticipating celebratory cupcakes. Then again, maybe the preschool director had a different inspiration in mind, and the graduation speech wasn’t for the graduates at all.