Your Action Figure (Commencement Address 2021)

 It is with great joy that I address you, the graduating class of 2021.

As you leave the safe nest of John F. Kennedy Catholic School and start the next phase of life, I have an important question for you: What does your action figure come with? 

Think about it. You all have had Barbies or action figures and they all come in a signature outfit and a few accessories. If they sold an action figure of you, what would you be wearing and what would you come with? I’ll go first. I am definitely wearing a cardigan and flats, I have a travel coffee mug and a Chromebook. Mr. Kenneally’s has a Kennedy polo and string on the back when you pull it, he yells real loud. Father Lavelle’s has a cheese puff and Mrs. Schlosser’s comes with tardy slips. 

So, your High School doll: what are you wearing? The classic polo and khakis, belt optional? The senior hoodie that you haven’t taken off since January? A sports or cheer uniform? This outfit choice for your doll is defining. No one wants to buy the extra outfits, they just end up all over the floor. What accessories are in the box, besides of course, your phone? A trophy from a championship game? A crown? A book? A Dunkin Donuts cup that is regularly confiscated by my doll? How would your action figure look different if your classmates or teachers designed it instead of you?

Here’s the best part of this. Your high school doll is actually finished, whether you designed it or not . Tomorrow, you get to start designing action figure you, 2.0. What kind of person are you going to be in the next 5 years? In the next 10?

It just so happens I have a few suggestions for your future action figure outfit and accessories. 

Steve Jobs said,  “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” 

If you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. So when you dress your action figure 2.0 in scrubs, a military uniform, or maybe a cardigan and flats?, it’s because it represents that you are pursuing your passion, not a pension.

You’ll probably have something like a phone in the accessory pack, but in 10 years, it will be like a cool holograph machine and some app even worse than TikTok will have been invented. But, in the words of Pope Francis, “Find new ways to spread the word of God to every corner of the world.” So remember, use that new machine to do good, be kind, and represent yourself with respect. 

Lastly, make one of those accessories a stone. Now, hear me out on this one. The goal of JFK is to produce leaders of courage, integrity, and dedication. We have given you a rigorous academic program, the opportunity to be a servant leader, and ways to practice your faith. However you alone cannot change the world.

As Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” Let your words inspire, your actions motivate, and your motives influence others to change the world to be a better place. Because after 5 or 10 years, you are going to need to design your action figure 3.0. 

Ladies, I bet 3.0 has flats instead of heels.


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