Lessons in Reality: Commencement address 2022

 Good Morning Kennedy Family. It is with joy that I address you, the graduating class of 2022.

Many of you know that I am a sucker for reality TV, and if you didn’t know, I suppose this is my confession. I’ve watched all the Bachelor and bachelor adjacent seasons, including being the commissioner of a Bachelor Fantasy League for a few years. I watch the reality dating-on-an-island shows and listen to the corresponding podcasts. I love The Real Housewives of all the cities and I may be the only person who watched and loved the 2-season series premiering in 2004, The Real Gilligan’s Island. (But, seriously, moms out there, if you watched it- I am available to discuss following commencement).

Now, while some of you are really questioning how I spend my precious free time, I promise you there are some actual lessons to be learned from reality tv that I will impart on you now as you leave the safe nest of Kennedy and soar into “reality.”

#1- First Impressions count. Even if there isn’t a dedicated rose on the line, make your best first impression always. Introduce yourself to your professor BEFORE you need that extension on an assignment. Pray to God BEFORE you need to ask Him for something. Be prepared when you have a meeting. Every day is an interview for the next thing in life, so act like it.

#2- Money Can’t Buy Everything (including Class). Having money certainly makes a lot of things easier but if money was the most important thing in life, I guarantee you the people on this stage would be making more in a much easier job. Find your people and love them truly. Serve those that have less than you. Treat everyone with respect. Follow your passion, not a paycheck. 

#3- Dance like no one is watching, but also assume that someone is, in fact, watching. Just like at Kennedy, assume you are always on camera that could be pulled up by Coach K at any given time; that your text or snap is a screenshot being sent to someone else, that your escapades will result in a newspaper headline. Be joyful and spontaneous but also, safe and legal.

#4- Be confident. When a real housewife starts each show with her tagline “I’m an acquired taste–you don’t like me? Acquire some taste” you have to admire her self-confidence even if it’s mostly delusional. The people in the seats behind you and the ones in front of you believe in you; Do not doubt your abilities but be willing to continue to learn as well. And, as some people practice their Oscar acceptance speech, I have practiced my tagline if they ever decide to make a Real Housewives of Trumbull County edition. “Don’t underestimate a woman who deals with 300 teenagers a day. I’ll take you to school too.”

#5- You are unique! (Just like everyone else.) While casting 30 beautiful singles for a dating show 22 years in a row seems crazy, remember this: wherever you go, there will be another valedictorian, another homecoming queen, another all-state baseball player, another star of the show. (Which also is part of the premise of The Real Gilligan’s Island, but again, I have very few people to share this common experience with). Your accomplishments and identity at Kennedy are just the start of something wonderful. There is more hard work ahead to set you apart from the crowd, to be at the top of your field, to get to the next finish line. What is the difference between you and the next person? How are you committing yourself to excellence? 

In closing, just like the end of each season of every great reality show, I’ll be patiently waiting for the reunion episode of John F. Kennedy Catholic School Class of 2022 to see how the story turns out. You have provided me countless hours of entertainment with surprisingly low levels of drama and filled my heart with joy and pride. I am your biggest superfan and I cannot wait to see you thrive in “reality.”  

At this time, it is my pleasure to introduce the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Mrs. Mary Fiala.


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