Here is a copy of the remarks I made at the Northfield High School graduation ceremony today:
What a gorgeous day we have to celebrate this special moment in your lives. Graduation day is always special, but it is even more special for my wife, Mary, and me because our daughter is part of this graduating class. We are so proud of the wonderful young woman you’ve become, Grace.
Your class is one of the largest in Northfield history and you’ve been a gift to this community. You’ve had a tremendous senior year. We have already heard about your impressive accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom, so I’ll dispense with reviewing those again. In short, you’re awesome!
I have a couple of thoughts to share with you as you leave good ol’ Northfield High School. Focusing on the greater good is imperative to sustain our democratic system of self-governance. I am asking you, today, to think about choosing a life of public service. Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said it well: “There’s no greater challenge and there is no greater honor than to be in public service.” The bottom line is that our country needs you and your talents to help create a more perfect union.
Eight of you are already pledged to serve in the military. I am pretty sure that at least a few of you will run for public office in the future. Some will become first responders. I hope dozens of you will become teachers. My goal is to inspire you to embrace an altruistic life, a life of service to others. A renowned public servant who worked less than two miles from where we are standing — the late senator and Carleton College professor Paul Wellstone — said: “we all do better when we all do better.” That is what public service is about: lifting others up so they can realize their version of the American Dream.
Finally, service, and life, is always about relationships. Be a good listener. Seek opinions different from your own and do your best to be understanding. Be kind. Be respectful. Think about how your actions impact others. Do good things for other people without any expectation of return. These things will bring what everyone here today wants most for you: happiness.
Congratulations. It has been a privilege to play a role in your education. Best wishes as you move onto what’s next.