2022 Northfield High School Commencement Remarks | Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.

Good afternoon, graduates. Today is a special day. It is especially significant for my wife, Mary, and me because our youngest son is graduating. Peter — your mother and I are so proud of the young man you have become. We look forward to your next adventure.

I’d also like to recognize my friend Dr. Joel Leer, who is presiding over his 16th and final graduation ceremony. Like many of you, he’s going off to college. I wish him well in his new role as a professor of educational leadership at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Thank you, Dr. Leer, for your contributions to our school community.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

I ask you to consider public service as part of your journey in the years ahead. I believe that public service is about lifting others, so everyone has a genuinely fair opportunity to realize their version of the American Dream. Our democracy depends on people willing to be altruistic, to step forward, and serve the community for the greater good. Public service can take many forms: health care, law enforcement, social work, emergency management, Americorps, the military, or even — gasp — becoming an educator. Public service is noble work. As we emerge from an immensely challenging time in human history, it will be more critical than ever. We need you. I promise that you will not regret spending time making a difference for others.

As you go forth today, remember that life is all about relationships. I’ve learned a few things about relationships in my 50 years on this planet that I think are worth sharing.

  • Be a good listener.
  • Seek opinions different from your own and do your best to be understanding.
  • Be kind.
  • Be respectful even when you don’t want to be.
  • Forgive easily,  even when the other person doesn’t deserve it.
  • Accept others for who they are and not who you think they should be.
  • Do good things for others without an expectation of anything in return.

Along with service to others, these things will bring you what everyone here wants most for you: a life filled with happiness.

It has been my honor to watch you grow into the fine young adults you are today. You are ready to take on the world. I am proud of you and cannot wait to see the difference you make for others. Congratulations, Class of 2022.