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You Are Here: Home - Albert Einstein , California , CBS , Education , Franklin High School , Harvard University , High school , New Hampshire , New Jersey - So Cool, So True: Today's Graduates

May 16, 2010

Written by:  Jeff Kirby

(This is the text of a little speech I made Wednesday night at the Franklin High School senior awards ceremony. As I spoke, I could only imagine my former Geometry teacher, Mr. McCabe, walking in and wondering, "What is HE doing up there?" Let's just say Mr. McCabe will never confuse me with Albert Einstein).

My life is better because of some very successful Franklin High School graduates I know.

From my own class alone (1978), Jamie Wines is a doctor who's been on staff at Harvard University. Dave Baker is known throughout the South as a sportscaster for CBS and the southeastern Conference. Kevin Hollon is a teacher and coach, Danny Griffith is a pastor and Joe Byrne is a chief financial officer living in New Jersey and working for a huge nationwide company.

There are many others. And from the other classes I know people who are now bank officers, school board members, judges, accountants, nurses and therapists who work with disabled children. They are the kind of people who have become good parents, skilled workers and solid citizens.

The world is a better place because of what some Franklin graduates are doing in this world. I mean that.

There are two things all of them share.

First, they share a sentiment that I think is really cool. No matter where they've ended up, and no matter what they're doing with their lives, many of them live with the proud mantra that they were "Once A Wildcat." They are proud of their days here at this school, proud of the teams or groups they were part of, and proud of the accomplishments they all made.

And they still remember those feelings, even today, many years later. Whether they woke up this morning in California, Texas, Colorado or New Hampshire, they aren't bashful saying they are "Always A Wildcat."

It's just so true in life. The memories of your high school years stay with you forever. If you work for three years at a company from the time you're 30 until you're 33, it's not likely you'll remember 15 years later the names of everyone you worked with, or where you went to lunch with them. But those three or four years of high school stay with you forever. The friendships remain, even if time and distance get in the way.

It's something we all have in common.

But there is a second thing all those past successful Franklin graduates have in common. They can all point to a moment when they were a high school senior when someone gave them a word of encouragement, or some sort of nudge in a positive direction, which they can now say helped them become the person they are today. Maybe that was something said by a teacher, or a real commitment shown by a coach. Maybe it was a classmate, or a neighbor. Most likely it was the influence of their parents. But there was something.

That's something that's important to note on a night like this, when so many of you Franklin High seniors receive awards and scholarships for what you have done here these past few years. You've worked hard and you stand at the top of your class. Thirty years from now, someone is going to list the accomplishments each of you has gone on to achieve.

I stand here tonight on behalf of my father, Thomas Kirby, who graduated from Franklin in 1953. If he stood for anything, he stood for the reality that you can achieve anything in life if you work hard enough and if you take advantage of those moments when someone gives you a word of encouragement or a nudge in the right direction.

He would never brag of what he had accomplished in life, but it's considered quite an achievement to some to become a lawyer who can help people through some of the most difficult times in their lives. My dad started in a very humble upbringing, with no money and no status, and through hard work and a few breaks here and there went onto to become a very successful lawyer.

He didn't personally own the kind of money that can give away scholarships, but one day he became very close with a successful businessman who did have that kind of money and wasn't sure where to leave it once he died. So he appointed my dad to be the trustee over his trust. That's the Norman A Schlicklin Foundation Trust that has given over $200,000 to Franklin schools over the past few years. My dad could have given that money to any number of causes, but he chose to help out Franklin High School students who, like himself, strive to make tomorrow a better day and need a little help in order to achieve that.

So twenty of you tonight are getting some financial assistance towards college.

Consider this assistance as a word of encouragement, for a job well done, and also consider it a further nudge in the right direction.

You are the future. Though you can't possible imagine how your lives are going to change in the next few ye
ars, the reality is that you represent tomorrow's leaders. Some of you will be teachers someday. Others will be doctors, city councilpersons, accountants and research experts who might someday find a cure for cancer.

All of you will likely become parents, and you'll pass on to your children the very foundation you've been given during your days here at Franklin.

I'm excited to hear the stories of where each of you end up and what contribution you're making to the world.

But, as I close, let me say one more thing I'm excited to hear. I hope that no matter where life takes you, and no matter what you end up doing with your life, I hope you'll always give credit to the school that carried you through some of the most critical days of your lives. You've had some incredible teachers, and some devoted school administrators and coaches, and they've all worked very hard to help you get to where you are in life right now.

Remember that as you go forward in the world.

I hope you will always be proud to say these words:

"I was Once A Wildcat."

"And I'll Always Be A Wildcat."

Congratulations. Good luck. And may God bless you.

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