Ten years of advice at the speed of light

June 17, 2014

By Greg Farrar

In keeping with the tradition of previous years, this is the condensed, edited commencement speech I heard from a student or adult at graduation that, in my opinion, stood out from the rest. Enjoy!

— Greg Farrar


Tom Haff, Faculty Speaker

Physics teacher

Issaquah High School


Hey, gang. This is going to be really hard for me, because they only gave me six minutes.

Let’s say that you stepped outside of Key Arena and you traveled close to the speed of light, like 99.99999 percent the speed of light, for those six minutes, and you came back still wearing your cap and gown. But the earth’s clock will have gone by for 10 years. I calculated those.

Gang, for the next 10 years, things are really going to change, and you’re going to have many different experiences. But keep in mind a couple of things.

I’ve noticed this year at Issaquah High School that you have been very, very busy with your time. You went to school, activities, football team, baseball team, ukulele club and you have joined the Rat Race of life.

And I would just suggest that you spend more time relaxing. Go down to Lake Sammamish State Park. Do nothing. Leave your cellphone in your car. Watch the waveforms, the boats or the flowers.

Because remember, gang, when you’re in the Rat Race, whether you win the race or you lose the race, at the end of the race, you’re still a rat! You don’t want to be a rat! Be you! Be you.

Take time to treat your body well. Exercise. Be careful what you put in it. By the way, you all looked great at the prom. You had the tuxes, the gowns, the light show. That was a real disco. Disco didn’t die, gang!

But replacing a body part, if you screw it up, isn’t like renting your tux or gown. It’s not “I screwed up my heart, I think I’m going to go down to Bell Square and try on a new one.” It is not like that, gang. Treat it well.

When you were in kindergarten you learned some valuable lessons. Play nice in the sandbox and share your toys. As seniors, you did some great things. You stuffed the bus with toys, and you filled vans with food. You made a difference. And I noticed about two or three months ago during a basketball game for Special Olympics athletes, you gave them a standing ovation. Magnificent.

Do not make chasing money your life’s pursuit. Don’t measure your success by how fat your wallet is — it will never, ever be fat enough. I’m not talking about we shouldn’t go out and make a buck. But imagine 40 or 50 years from now. Would you rather make millions and have it in the bank? Or would you rather have made a difference?

I’ll tell you how I measure my success. Sitting in front of me right now, there’s about 450 successes. That’s MY success.

This one’s a little trickier. Find someone to share time with, a kindred spirit. Someone you can share your joys with, and your sorrows.

Gang, if you find somebody that you really and truly care about, you can watch grass grow and paint dry, and it’s the greatest afternoon you ever had in your life.

Finally, it’s not my business or anybody else’s business, I do not care if you’re Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, atheist, agnostic, Daoist, whatever. But never ever lose sight of your moral compass. Do not trade your moral compass for fame, power, prestige or money. It is not worth it.

Now, I want you to do me a favor. I want to make this a memorable moment. I’m not going to take a selfie and post it on Facebook. We are going to live in the moment.

(Haff brings from behind the podium a purple helmet with gold antlers, a school talisman, to a huge roar from the students.)

I don’t think that your parents know what this is. And I don’t think your grandma and grandpa sitting up in the stands know the magic in this helmet. We all gotta stand up, one more time. Are you ready, gang? This is for a memory for the rest of your lives and I want it good!

How is the attitude? How is the attitude? I want you to tell all these people, how is the attitude of the graduating class of 2014?

(The seniors let loose another long and loud roar.)

Thanks, guys! Thank you.


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