Landrum High School valedictorian speech from Brendan Taylor

Published 9:25 pm Thursday, June 13, 2013

There’s an old German proverb that says, “What I spent, I had; what I saved, I lost; what I gave, I have.”

It is through doing good in the lives of others that our own lives become worthwhile. Over the past four years, we have accomplished so much together, whether in sports, clubs, art, music or academics. Among all of those things, perhaps the most important is too often overlooked –kindness. Surely all of us can think of at least one time when, out of the goodness of our hearts, we did something for someone just because we wanted to.

Nearly everything that happens in our lives happens not because of what we do for ourselves, but because of what others do for us. But often we become so fixated on and impressed by what we think we have done on our own that we do not realize how little we actually did by ourselves.  We could not be here tonight without the encouragement, counseling and love of some very important people here.

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Our families, teachers, coaches and friends have helped us in more ways than we realize. Over the past four, 12 or 18 years, these people have been there to love, teach and simply be there for us.

And as such, we are left with a great debt to pay. For all the things others have done for us, we are given opportunities to return their kindness to world.

As you can probably tell, I decided not to speak to you about dreams or success. Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” I love that quote. And while quotes like that are very inspiring and full of meaning, we have heard them before, and now it is up to us to have faith and believe in our dreams.

But I want to speak about something else. No matter what you don’t have, there is always something you have to give. Kindness is a gift that is universal and forever replenishable.

Forget about money, jobs and titles and other accolades – because they don’t matter. If you were to travel to the far edge of our solar system, earth would appear as nothing more than an insignificant blue dot. Looking at things this way helps us to remember how silly it is for us to worry about things as trivial as fame and fortune. In the grand scheme of things, none of those things has any real value.

That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t follow our dreams. Find what you love, what you’re good at, and do that until the day you die. But along the way, look for the people that need something you can give them. Very often, you won’t have to look too far. Through doing good no matter what happens tomorrow, you can look back at all the things you’ve done and know that at least one of those things was something that was worth doing.

Even if you don’t become a famous artist, writer, actor, or politician – if you never do anything to get your name in a history book – you can still live with the satisfaction of knowing that you have, in some way, made a difference.

And when you think about it, we are remembered for the good we did. Maybe not by name, but certainly in the sense that we inspired others to do good. Through an endless chain of selflessness, one act of kindness can live long after you are gone.

So I encourage you all to do something. Do something, anything, to leave the world a better place than you found it. Whether that means giving away millions of dollars or smiling at someone as you walk down the street, do something.

Don’t waste your life chasing things that don’t matter or holding things against the people you love. It’s not where you’ve been it’s where you’re going; it’s not where you start, it’s where you end.

Thank you, congratulations, good luck and goodbye, Class of 2013.