Some of you may know that I was invited to deliver the commencement address to the 2014 Graduating Class from my former high school, Largo High School, in Prince Georges County, Maryland. The ceremony took place yesterday, and it was such a HUGE honor. I’m still so humbled that they considered and invited me. Honestly, I really do consider this to be the greatest moment in my life thus far. Over my own graduation, greater than graduating from medical school, more awesome than match…..Okay nothing so far has been greater than matching into a Pediatric Residency program slot lol. But this was a pretty close second lol.
It was really great to be able to shake the hands of each of the graduates, look them each in the eyes and say “Congratulations” from the bottom of my heart. Exactly 4 of them said that they really loved my speech, one said that they loved my dad (he teaches at Largo High School), and one super sweet young man told me I was cute (lol). I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this special occasion and after reading my last blog post about my passion for youth, I’m sure you can understand why that is 🙂
So in today’s pop up post, I just wanted to share the speech with you. I really tried to make it adolescent-friendly and I think I succeeded (lol). I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed sharing it in person 🙂
LHS COMMENCEMENT SPEECH 2014
May 21st, 2014
Faculty and staff, honorable guests, family members, friends, well-wishers, and of course the illustrious Largo High School Graduating Class of 2014: Good Afternoon!
First of all, I have to take a moment to say thank you to the LHS administration, and my dad, Mr. Paul Johnson, whom some of you may have had as your teacher for a few science classes. Thank you so much to all of you for granting me this amazing opportunity to come back home and deliver this speech to the graduating class. It is truly an honor to stand before you all today to share just a few words that I hope will stick with you from this day forward.
And I promise! I won’t take up too much of your time! I know that most of you are itching to walk across the stage and collect the glossy black portfolio that will house your diploma from this day forward. Or….maybe some of you are just anxious for this day to be over so that you can head to Golden Corral and REALLY get the celebration started! Either way, I’ll keep this speech short and sweet.
To be completely honest, I don’t even remember who gave the commencement speech at my high school graduation ceremony 9 years ago (and now I feel old….) much less what was said, and that may have had to do with the fact that I was sitting on the stage, stressing out over my own Valedictorian speech and praying to God that I didn’t mess up or trip on the way to the podium, which…is not going to happen to anyone here today, just so we’re clear. So if after today you don’t remember my name or who I am, I’m okay with that! But hopefully, something that I say here today will stick with you and maybe even come back to your mind sometime in the future when you may need it.
Over the years, I have received really great words of wisdom, and as I thought about what to share with you all today it was pretty hard for me to narrow it all down to be honest. But thinking about my life so far, I think that I have consistently latched on to 5 of them throughout the years. So in true countdown fashion, let’s start with number 5.
5. How many of you have heard of Drake? Raise your hands if you have….okay, I see you! Well, Drake actually popularized what I would consider to be a really valuable piece of advice and that is “YOLO: You Only Live Once.” Now, a lot of times we use that expression when we’re about to do something life threatening or…..really risky, like going sky diving, pulling an all-niter when we know we should have started on the project 2 weeks ago, asking out that girl that you think is too good for you and will PROBABLY shut you down…things like that! But I really do think this could be applied in a broader sense: You only live once, so make it count. Live your best life because you only have one life to live. Don’t waste it on things, habits, or people that will not allow you to grow into the best possible version of yourself. YOLO.
4. Now this next phrase, it’s kind of ironic that Rihanna has this tattooed on her chest and I’m mentioning it right after talking about Drake BUT that’s neither here nor there. As some of you may know, after Rihanna’s very public battle with domestic abuse, she got a tattoo on her chest that reads, “Never a failure. Always a lesson.” And I think that’s something so important to remember. As many of you head off to college or to start new jobs or even to join the military, you have to realize that you will make mistakes. Messing up is a part of life! And if I had to tell you about all the mistakes I’ve made just up until today, we’d be here for a VERY long time. But the reason why I am able to stand here before you all as Doctor Tonasha Johnson…instead of sadly curled up in a corner somewhere, is that I learned from all of those mistakes and used them as what I like to call “character building moments” to make me a better person. When you mess up, and you will, take those mistakes as lessons to make you a better person. Never a failure. Always a lesson.
3. Now all of us want to be successful, that’s a no-brainer, right? But do you know that there’s a formula that leads to success? Well that’s my next piece of advice to you, so listen closely: “Success happens when preparation meets opportunity.” So many of us think that we’re going to get everything that we want handed to us because that’s our “right”. Well, truth is, the real world doesn’t work like that. The most successful individuals of all time had to endure sleepless nights and put in blood, sweat, and tears to achieve their highest goals. You have to work like the opportunity is right around the corner because one day, it just might be! And the only way you’ll be able to successfully take advantage of that opportunity is if you are truly prepared. Success happens when preparation meets opportunity.
2. We’re getting down to the last couple of points here so stick with me. How many of you have parents, grandparents, friends, cousins, brothers and sisters in the audience here to celebrate with you? Pretty much everyone, I hope, and if you don’t have any of these people here, then consider me your one person that’s here to celebrate with you! But, I say all of that to say this: “No man or woman is an island.” As you venture off into brand new territory, never forget that you need and have support, and you cannot make it to the top without that support. Appreciate those individuals that continue to motivate you to keep going even when you feel like quitting. And right now I just want to take the time to acknowledge my support system, that is here in the audience with me even today: My father, Paul Johnson; my mother, Camille Johnson; my little sisters Tanya and Talitha; and my younger brother Jamal who is up at Morgan State preparing to meet his opportunity (aka his last final of the semester) as we speak. Thank you so much for always being there for me no matter what. You constantly remind me that no man or woman is an island.
1. And last but not least, anyone that knows me, knows that I love my family, I love children and teenagers, I love Chipotle, and I love my Jesus. So I couldn’t leave here today without sharing with you one of my favorite passages of scripture and it comes from Matthew Chapter 6 verse 33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” If there’s one that I have learned in my life, it is that success is truly meaningless without a higher calling. You may have all the money and earthly success in the world, but never forget the Source of all those things. Seek Him first.
Largo High School Class of 2014: This is your time. Make it meaningful and make it count.
Love and God Bless,