Saklan Graduation Address, June 2008
I LOVE Indiana Jones! How many of you have seen the new film? I realize that for some of you the movies are a bit too old or scary—but you can still play Lego Indiana Jones, and I know you will enjoy that!
There are a lot of great things about “Indy” as they call him—he is a scientist, a researcher, a scholar; he loves history; he reads lots of books, (he wears glasses), and knows lots of languages—all of which make him very cool. He is also always trying to save the artifacts from being stolen by the bad guys who want to use them for evil—instead, Indiana Jones wants to preserve them for science.
But what I like most about Indiana Jones is that no matter how many times he seems defeated, no matter how many times it seems he is going to lose a fight, no matter how many times he gets pushed off a train or a bus or a truck or a plane, or locked up in a cell or a dungeon, no matter how bad it seems it has gotten for him, he never, ever gives up. We call this spirit resilience.
There is a growing recognition that resilience is one of the MOST important qualities for a successful life. One recent book calls is one of the “Other Three R’s” which all children should learn; to quote, “resilience provides individuals with skills to surmount life’s challenges competently, to persevere, and even to capitalize on setbacks”—that is, if you have resiliency, when something bad happens to you, you can actually use it to help yourself get to an even better place than you were before. This is a great thing to be able to do, and it is something Indiana Jones does all the time.
Now, we all know that to be successful in this new era, we will have to be creative, to come up with new or interesting ways of doing things and solving problems. Sometimes we think that it takes some flash of genius to be creative, some bolt of lightning—but scientists are saying maybe not—it might be that to be creative, you just have to be REALLY resilient. You have to be able and willing to keep trying things even when they don’t work the first time, or the second time, or the hundredth time. Just don’t give up, just keep learning, just keep trying, and you too can be a creative genius!
There are many ways to become more resilient: When you have a challenge, say: “challenges are normal, we all have them.” If something doesn’t work the first time, say “If at first I don’t succeed, I will try again”—and if the first strategy doesn’t work, try a different strategy.
In Senator John McCain’s book, Character is Destiny, his role model of resilience is Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln had a very hard life, losing many of the people he loved, losing more elections than he won, and often struggling to succeed. He was often sad, but he never gave up, and after becoming President, he persevered against all odds to keep our country together. What helped President Lincoln be so resilient? Senator McCain, who is an awfully good example of resilience himself, says Lincoln had three qualities— a sense of humor—he could always laugh about his problems, no matter how bad they were; hisconstant hard work: he just kept plugging away, day and night, never giving up; and, finally, his dedication to his idealistic goals, that he just had to help America become more free and just. (And, when you think about it, Indiana Jones has the same three qualities as President Lincoln—he is always making jokes; he works incredibly hard all the time; and he does what he does because of his idealism about saving the past for good)
Saklan Valley School graduates and students, you too can be like Indiana Jones and President Lincoln—you can be resilient! Keep on laughing, keep working hard, and work for something you believe in, something that inspires you. When you do, you will be more resilient, and you will be most successful.