Graduation Speech: The Opportunity to Make a Difference

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Over the past year or so some dreadful events have occurred at high schools, alarming the American public while they have talked about increased security, clinging to images of guns, blood and typical-looking teenagers committing unthinkable crimes. The media has focused on these incidents without giving attention to all of the potential and talent that is flourishing throughout our high schools. I invite them to recognize the inspired pupils who are propelling themselves beyond standard and motivating others around them. That is what I want the American public to be talking about. As young adults we have the opportunity to make a difference. Not only for ourselves, but for our kids and future generations. I would like to tell everybody about someone who has made the most of his opportunity. Many of you guys know him, and he's actually a very close friend of mine. He's my dad, Mark Reiman. My father was blessed with the disease ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. For those of you who don't know what this disease is about, it weakens your muscles until you are unable to function. It can affect your voice, your mobility, and it can even affect how well you chew your food. Seventy five percent of people afflicted with this disease only live 2 to 5 years after their diagnosis. My father has now lived with it for almost eight years. Many of you are probably wondering why I used the word blessed. My dad, and my family also, have come to the belief that he contracted this illness for a reason. That reason is he has been given the opportunity to change peoples' lives. He's given people hope when they thought there was nothing left to hope for. He's loved people when they thought they were unlovable, that because they no longer had the physical abilities they once had, they were a nuisance. Believe me, you can accomplish so much with your mind and touch so many people with your heart. He's also taught people that every day we have is a blessing. We need to make every second count, because life is great. I mean life is awesome, you guys. If I have learned anything through my dad's affliction or from our years at Tates Creek, it's that I love life -- and want to experience as much of it as possible. Now my dad is just one guy, and look what he's done. We are individuals.

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