A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at Lincoln High School’s National Honor Society banquet, and as fate would have it, I came down with the flu and was unable to attend. Fortunately, I have the coolest and most supportive mother on the planet who happily took my speech to the banquet and read it to the guests that evening while my father selflessly took care of me. Below are the words I had written down for her to recite, so I thought I’d share it with you.
Hi everyone. I want to start this speech off by saying how incredibly sorry I am for not being here tonight. I was both honored and humbled when Makayla asked me to give a speech at your National Honor Society dinner and was very much looking forward to being a part of your special evening. I’d like to express my utmost thanks to Michelle King and Makayla Lourenco for this opportunity, and thank you for still allowing me to share a few words with you.
I remember being in the very same position you’re in tonight eight years ago. Receiving this award is quite the accomplishment. You’ve worked incredibly hard throughout your high school career, and no one deserves this award more than each and every one of you in this room tonight. You did your homework. You studied. You worked through some challenging times. You kept your eye on the prize. You literally, without even knowing, dreamt up this day.
I believe that the mind is the most powerful tool we have. In fact, it is so powerful, that we have the ability to achieve great things if at first we choose to dream them. When I was a little girl, I had a picture of Thomas the tank engine in my room and it read: I think I can I think I can I think I can. If I were sick and feeling weak, my parents would point to the sign. If I were in the hospital fighting for my life, they’d whisper that little reminder on my wall. Although I didn’t realize it then, my dreams of achieving and breaking through the barriers that my unfortunate circumstances presented at the time were allowing for great things to take place in my life. The more I thought about what the little train had to say, the more I thought I could. And eventually I did.
As I got older, I slowly began to understand the idea that our dreams can manifest into reality. At ten years old, I decided I wanted to raise money for my disease spinal muscular atrophy. I thought of a name for my new project- Working On Walking- and I dreamt of someday donating one hundred dollars to find a cure. Yes, it doesn’t seem like much now, but that was my dream and I was going to chase it. In order to do so, I hand drew cards and calendars and sold them at local stores in the area. I did television interviews, newspaper interviews, and even had a spot in the Rosie O’Donnell magazine. Yes that’s correct. Rosie O’Donnell. I’m totally out dating myself here! Most of my days after school were spent drawing, coloring, and perfecting, and before I knew it, those $100 that I dreamt of raising, quickly doubled, tripled, and quadrupled right alongside of my dream to continue to raise even more money. Today, I have raised over $165,000.
The best part about all of this? I didn’t stop there. I continued to follow my dreams, set even bigger ones, and allowed myself to navigate through life knowing that I have the potential to achieve absolutely anything I set my mind to because I have the power to create and manifest my dreams.
It’s been fifteen years since I was that little girl with a set of colored pencils in her hand- and quite a lot has happened since then! I’ve graduated from Bryant University, began a part time job, work tirelessly in raising awareness for my disease, and even turned Working On Walking into an official nonprofit organization all because I made sure my dreams were far beyond any kind of limitation this disease was going to try to impose on me. Yes, I have experienced struggle throughout my 25 years of life. In fact, even as I’m writing this I’m battling a virus that is trying to rob me of every ounce of energy my fragile body has. Despite all the pain and suffering I am enduring right now, I remain focused on the dreams and goals I have set for myself this year. Life is always going to throw obstacles in your path to following your dreams, but it is how you choose to overcome them that is going to make all the difference.
As you begin to close this incredible chapter of your life, remember to never lose sight of those dreams that lie before you- regardless of how big or small they may seem. All the greatness in this world comes from those who choose to believe in their dreams and go after them. So, dream big Lincoln High School, and I hope you always remember to dare to be remarkable.