For those people who have never heard of high school speech competition, its a sort of competative acting and public speaking activity where students perform and are ranked directly against one another. I'm one of the coaches for this activity at Buffalo Grove High School in northwest suburban Chicago.
By tradition, I say a little something to the competitors when we start the final elimination series on the way to the State tournament. Here's what I said this year:
BGHS Regional Tournament Address
A couple years ago, at the start of this tournament I paraphrased the story of King Henry V of
This Prince, soon to become the greatest soldier-king of
Well, on his knees before the throne, Hal took up his Princely mantle, and accepted the responsibility of his noble person. And when he rode out to lead his armies against the enemy, for the first time in his life, he rode in glory.
This story is about growth, something that we have all learned about this year. And when you think about growth, the first thing you realize is that growth is a bitch. There’s a lot we give up for the experience of growing. We give up the ability to say what we want, or go where we want, or do what we want.
We give up behaviors that come naturally to us: stubbornness, procrastination, laziness, ambivalence; qualities in which we all indulge from time to time. So therefore, we must be here for something better than those things we sacrifice.
But what is that? If we get a trophy, it’ll go in a box. If we get a reputation, it will be replaced by someone else’s the moment we leave. So why do we come here?
I can’t say for sure what growth these sacrifices will give you, because it’s not merely the sacrifice that causes us to grow. Prince Hal could have fought that battle out of sheer submission to his father and still not learned anything. This team could compete today simply because it was told to, and nothing great would be achieved.
I’ve learned this year that growth is not a realization, or a new attitude, or a single moment of any kind. Growth is daily holding your own feet to the fire. It’s a constant and unending hand-over-hand climb to a higher life. And each of us are trying to reach different aspects of that fulfillment: some of us may be here for achievement, others for pride, others to better cope with life, others to make friends, others to forge some sense of identity, or to better understand themselves. These are a few of the reasons why we are here now, together.
I look at you and I know that this is the team I want here. The coaches and I can see how much you’ve grown this year together, and through that growth you’ve earned a place of honor here today. But that is just the beginning.
I ask you now to take up your Princely mantle and hold it scorching hot to your soul until it leaves a brand of permanent growth. Life doesn’t give us many honorable battles anymore. We don’t have many opportunities to say, “This is all we are, this is everything we can do, and we now lay that down, naked to be judged against anything that you can bring against us.” If you squander this opportunity, if you waste this time by giving anything less than your last full measure of devotion, then none of us gain anything from our sacrifices.
Some of us will not be here again. For those people, this is the end of a multi-year trial of hard work and diligence.
For Prince Hal, this moment would have been like the morning after a night of battle, when he realized that he was still alive and his nobility was redeemed. There came a sublime calm, and a question of, “Did we do all that we could? Did we truly meet this moment? Did we grow enough?” Because our moment of truth has now passed into history, and won’t be coming back. As the poet said, “there’s so much left to learn, and no one left to fight.” Life doesn’t give us many honorable battles anymore.
I am as heart-breakingly proud of you now as I would be for my own child, and I will continue to be proud no matter what you achieve. I will push you and prod you and cajole you toward the pinnacle of your ability because I know the vastness of your capability better than you yourselves do. And for the times I’m not with you, I will keep on pushing you in spirit until every last fraction of your potential has been explored. I believe in you so much that I would demand nothing less.
Will you honor your team and yourselves with your performance here today? Say yes!
Will you bring a fight worthy of remembering years later? Say yes!
Will you share glories and burdens with the rest of your teammates? Say yes!
Will you take up your Princely mantle, and become the very icons of great competition? Say yes!
Go forth, and show your sail of greatness. Swear this dedication with me now, and then no matter how we rank, we will win.
Tags: speech, high school, motivation, growth, Prince Hal