Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Keynote to Graduating Seniors at the United Nations International School

I just returned from giving a 1-hour talk to the high school graduating class at the United Nations International School.  This is the fifth year in a row that I have delivered the keynote address during graduation week at the school, and I am always blown away by the quality of the students.  These are young people who see themselves as global citizens and take seriously the vision of making the world a better place.  Nearly every one elects to do the work to receive an International Baccalaureate Diploma, arguably the most academically rigorous high school education available.  All the students have studied at least two foreign languages, and many are fluent in multiple languages.  They have spent many hours volunteering in community service and outdoor environmental education programs.  Spending time with them was like receiving a boost of positive energy and optimism.

The title of my talk was "What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?"  I examined this simple, but momentous, question, and encouraged the students to dig deeper, asking, How can you improve the world, and What is the story you want to tell with your life?  I shared lessons learned from cycling thousands of miles with my young children across Japan, Iceland, Europe and the U.S.  I described the awe and respect I have for blind athletes I've guided in marathons and Ironman triathlons -- people who have an excellent excuse not to push themselves so hard, and yet choose to do it anyway.  I challenged the students to go out into the world with this same courageous mindset.

After my talk, a number of students approached to tell me about their hopes and goals.  A recurring theme that came up was how to pay for the meaningful life you want to create.  There's no easy answer, but I know this:  Money comes and goes.  We need it to survive, but not to thrive.

Here are some pics:

The talk was held in the UNIS theater

From the crowd's point of view

Talking with students afterwards - best part of the experience

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