2016 Bender Leadership Graduation Speech

Good morning everyone. My name is Joshua and I am a senior at New Brighton Area High School. I would like to thank Mr. Dearth the CEO of Calgon Carbon for his contributions, Mrs. Kohan for providing support and transportation, and Mrs. Bender for this tremendous opportunity. I was voted by my peers to be the keynote speaker for this graduation ceremony at the Bender Leadership Academy. I am truly honored to do this. So without further ado, here it is.

From a young age I’m sure many of us can recall an adult telling us “When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.” For some reason this never made sense to me. How many glasses of lemonade can we make before we have had enough? At the Bender Leadership Academy, I’ve learned many things in topics ranging from bullying to how to maintain a job. I had a variety of assignments related to topics discussed at each class; one of which I didn’t complete, resulting in me being thoroughly chastised by Mrs. Bender which taught me the importance of taking initiative in every task that I am given.

Under the guidance of Mrs. Joyce Bender, I’ve learned a great deal about what it means to have a disability, and that having a disability doesn’t necessarily “disable” me. The most important thing I realized as I sat in a room with my peers and we engaged in conversation is that having a disability by no means a bad thing. These kids know what their disability is, they accept it, they embrace it, and most importantly they are NOT ashamed of it.

In life we are handed many “lemons”. Whether it is stress at work, bullying at school, or that rude customer that you have to endure even though you would much rather eat a shovel full of gravel and chipped glass. No matter what we do, they are there. People with disabilities sometimes get a little more “lemons” than someone without one -- Whether we are being bullied, shunned, stereotyped, or judged by someone before they take the time to get to know us and see that we are no different.

One of the biggest things that I tell my friends, or anyone who is seeking help from me is this: You have got to surround yourself with things that make you feel good. People that lift you up, not tear you down. And as long as you stay safe, don’t be discouraged by the small hiccups that you may encounter. Everyone is important. Everyone has a purpose. Sometimes we just need people like Mrs. Bender to help us find that purpose. So in my opinion the saying shouldn’t be “when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade” but “when life hands you lemons, plant the seeds, and watch them grow.” Soon you will have a whole orchard and you can use it to make lemonade not just for yourself, but for others struggling too.

« Back to the Bender Consulting Blog