Former Harrison County High School principal Jerry Jenkins spoke to the graduating class of 2009 at Ingles Stadium Friday evening durning commencement. Below is the speech he gave to the class and audience.
Editor’s Note: The speech has been edited for length.
Thanks to the 2009 Harrison County High School Class for selecting me as your speaker. This is an honor that has inspired me to do some deep and pro-longed thinking and usually when I do that I get myself in trouble. Hopefully that will not happen tonight.
Now I would like to direct my full attention to this class.
Let me take a moment to explain to you what makes me tick....
First and foremost, I believe and fear God.
Second, I’m not going to tell you anything you have not heard before.
Third... maybe I should not tell you this becuase I’m the one doing the talking. I pay less attention to what a person says; I give more attention to what they do.
After much thought, writing and rewriting, much searching of my heart and most importantly many prayers, I have put together this commencement address.
I want to have a “heart to heart” talk with you. Several of you sitting in the audience have had the pleasurable or not so pleasurable experience of these “heart to hearts” as a student during my tenure as principal. Yes, even some you in this 2009 class have had to listen to some of my “heart to heart” talks.
I’m not going to challenge you, lecture you, warn you or blow smoke at you.
You should be well aware of what you are facing in today’s world by now.
Over the years, I have developed little sayings that are easy to remember. These little reminders don’t need a lot of explanation. They aid by keeping me focused and motivated, keeping me disciplined, giving harmony to my life and helping me get the point across to myself and as a message to others.
I’ll just call them “Focusing Keys” for the purpose of this “heart to heart” talk...
I am going to present to you four “Focusing Keys” that will help you as you move from this night into the world as it unfolds for you.
Here they are:
1. Head-Heart-Hands Key
2. Goal Key
3. Aha! Key
4. The Master Key
All easy to remember - all need little explanation.
Key Number One - Head-Heart-Hands Key...
This is very easy to remember. All start with “H.”
This reminds me of what is up here and it is a lot of “stuff.” I’ll call it knowledge, but I am using the word loosely. When you refer to something as knowledge, you have to be careful. A lot of stuff we think we know, later on in life we actually realize we did not know at all. I’ll address this later, but still there is a lot of stuff in your head.
Yes, I know I skipped ‘Heart’... I’m saving that ‘til last. Hands refers to your skills - what you can do effectively. Some people know a lot about a particuliar subject, but when it comes to applying that “knowing” to doing, their hands can’t do the task. I’m like that when it comes to motors. I know what it takes to make a motor run, but when it comes to fixing one, I’m lost. So, I find someone that has the knowledge to do it. Now, when it comes to carving a bird out of a piece of wood, I’m in my groove. Be careful about staing in the same groove all the time. You will get in a rut. I constantly challenge myself in my carving.
Now let’s put the ‘Heart’ into this key. This refers to the way I feel about what I’m doing. When I put my heart into the task at hand, it becomes a meaningful, enjoyable and satisfying. An example is junior-senior prom. You will remember the prom from your junior year more promenently than your senior year. Why? You worked on the junior prom, you had fun doing it, you got out of class for a week and you have a purpose in mind. In the srping of 1957, my junior year, our prom theme was ‘Hitch Your Wagon to a Star.’ I can’t tell you the theme of my senior prom.
I have been blessed that my careers have been very satisfying. I was employed in jobs that I enjoyed - teaching, coaching, officiating, woodcarving, and yes, being a principal. Search for a vocation you will enjoy. Find out what you love to do and you will go to work most days looking forward to the job.
Key number two - Goal... G-O-A-L not G-O-L-D key...
You probably thought you were through with this setting goals stuff. It may sound old-fashioned and corny, but it works. Set goals.
Set goals that are attainable. Once the goal is met, set another one or two. You have been provided with the basic tools. These tools have been given to you by the people sitting around you, yes, even your classmates. You have learned from each other.
What are the tools? Surely by now you can read, write, add, subtract, multiply, divide and communicate. In fact, your communication skills are probably the best of any graduating class that has ever passed through these high school doors. I see you with one of these things pressesd to your ear constantly (holds up cell phone). You are good at talking. Develop the other part... listening.
I still set goals even though I’m retired. You will find that long-range goals keep you from being frustrated with short-range failures.
Key number three - the Aha! Key...
Remember when I gave you the Head-Heart-Hands Key? I said there was a lot of “stuff” in your head that you think you know, but later on, you would find out you really didn’t know.
This is the key that will open up all those things. This is the stuff that the people sitting around you have been trying to prepare you for as the future unfolds.
How many times have you heard the following?
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times.”
“You’ll learn someday that money does not grow on trees.”
“I hope you have a ‘little one’ just like you.”
“Boy, you’ll just have to learn the hard way.”
“Do you understand me?”
“You better get your priorities in order.”
And many more...
Now, how do you react?
You will use this key gradually, but you will use ut ‘til the end of your days on this earth.
You will be doing something, it may be a small task or it could be a monumental job and all of a sudden, it will hit you!
A light will come on in your head.
A funny feeling will touch your heart.
You may smile to yourself.
But, Aha! That’s what they were talking about! Now I understand what they were trying to tell me. Welcome to the world of knowledge and wisdom. I hope you have many Aha! experiences during your lifetime.
Key number four... the Master Key...
Remember I said many prayers had gone into the preparation of this “heart to heart” talk. Prayers by me and others. This key is the most important one. It helps open many facets of life.
This Master Key is your relationship with God.
God is always there. God is all powerful. God will listen. God is ever loving, forgiving and understanding. God can and will help you. God closes doors no man can open and God opens doors no man can close.
Thank you from the depths of my heart for allowing me to share in this occasion in your life. I feel honored.
The Master Key...
Now show the world who you are. Go get ‘em class of 2009!