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A Message to the Class of 2020

It has become a tradition to end the year with my seniors by writing speeches. Each student writes a commencement speech to deliver to the rest of the class, and I write one as well. Here is my message to this year's graduating class, who are headed out into a world that desperately needs their intellect, creativity, empathy, and passion.  This year, for the first time, I also made a recorded version posted to YouTube. You watch that  here  or read the transcript below. Feel free to share.  Fourth marking period is normally my favorite marking period with seniors. I can jettison diction, and due dates, and debate skills and just chat about where you are going next year, what you hope to become. I lean on my desk after class, the smell of fresh cut grass wafting through windows on waves of heat, and hear about your dreams taking shape. Your excitement reverberates off the cinderblock. Your energy hums louder than the fluorescent lights. In the minutes between classes we tal
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Commencement 2019

Like any job, there are days as a teacher when I wonder if I am just wasting my time. Then there are days like today, when I say goodbye to a class of seniors who remind me through their character, intelligence, and grace why I keep coming back.  In the tradition I started several years ago, my seniors ended their year by delivering ten minute long commencement speeches. Every year, I write one as well. Here is this year's.  This is the last time I will see you before you walk out onto that field Monday evening for a ceremony that recognizes not just your completion of four years of school, but the completion of the first phase of your life. While I am sure there is some sadness and maybe some anxiety, I hope there is also powerful mix of pride, expectation, and joy as you walk together out to that field. I hope you see in that ceremony the promise a future entirely of your own making. Others have run your life up to this point. Not anymore. Based on average life spans, you wil

It Has Been a While

I haven't written anything on this site for some time. I have found a few editors willing to pay me to write, so I have been putting a lot of my efforts into those opportunities. One of my favorite publications is a relatively new magazine based out of Vermont called State14. I was fortunate enough to be featured in their most recent print magazine with a story I wrote called "In Search of Dragons: Tales of a Middle-Aged Mountain Biker." I hope you will take a minute to check it out. The link is below. In Search of Dragons

The Rules, as They Apply to Serena

“ Well, she DID break the rules ,” some people are saying. This past Saturday, Serena Williams was penalized in ways that were unprecedented for a Grand Slam final. Some want to spin the narrative that technically Serena deserved what she got. That is an oversimplification that needs more careful thought. Her first warning for coaching was justified, technically , by the fact that her coach was indeed gesturing for her to go to the net. Set aside for now the fact that men are rarely, if ever, called for similar behavior. Her second infraction, resulting in a point deduction, was for smashing her racket. She did. The Grand Slam rulebook defines “verbal abuse” as any statement about an official that “implies dishonesty or is derogatory, insulting or otherwise abusive.” So for her third infraction -- calling Ramos a “liar” and a “thief” -- she technically broke that rule resulting in a game deduction late in the second set. What people need to acknowledge is how sexism and racis

Action is Worry's Worst Enemy

Each year my seniors conclude by presenting ten-minute long commencement speeches. It has become a tradition for me to write one as well, my final message as they head out into the world that awaits. Here is this year's speech.  Some morning near the end of high school, I stood on the beach in Ocean City and watched the sunrise. I remember seeing that sunrise as the perfect symbol of my own new beginnings. I was only weeks away from graduation, and I was ready for the next step in my life. That year Nelson Mandela had been elected the first black president of South Africa, and I was positive that was proof of the world leaving racism behind. That year the Irish Republican Army agreed to a ceasefire, ending years of bombings and shootings, and I was certain that was evidence of the world turning its back on terrorism. That year the United States and Russia agreed to stop pointing nuclear weapons at each other, and I was sure that signaled end of governments threatening

This Memorial Day, I Would Still Take a Knee

When Colin Kaepernick first decided to take a knee in protest of the unlawful use of excessive force by white police officers against unarmed black men, I wrote that I would take a knee.  If I were fortunate enough to be an athlete whose natural talents and hard work had placed me on a national stage, I would still take a knee. I would walk out of the invisible world of the locker room and onto the televised field of play, and I would kneel. I would do this because peaceful protest is just as much a part of our collective history as are slavery, segregation, and suppression of black Americans. A couple days ago NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made an announcement. “This season,” he said, “all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.” Right there, he misses a fundamental truth: kneeling is a respectful gesture; a gesture meant to draw attention to a gross social injustice is not synonymous with disrespecting the flag, the anthem, or the coun

The Case for Arming Teachers

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.”  That is what Atticus Finch says to his children in To Kill a Mockingbird . His words have always pretty much summed up my beliefs about guns: one can live a life of courage without ever touching a gun. His brand of courage - fighting with words and ideals - could do all that was necessary in the face of malevolence. I was certain of it.  Still, when an angry mob comes to lynch Tom Robinson, Harper Lee places another character up in a nearby window. He leans out watching the scene unfold, his double-barreled shotgun trained on the angry mob - just in case Atticus’ brand of courage is not enough of a deterrent. Little kids and their lawyer father appealing to human decency might stop some crimes, she seems to hint, but there are others that need something more lethal. Despite Atticus’ crusade for justice, it is a gun that slaughters Tom Robinson. Courage c