Hey guys. This piece started as me sitting here and deciding that I was going to write a speech. Just like back in the day at school when you were told to put together 3 minutes of words that made you want to vomit and pee your pants when it was time to get up in front of the class. So, I sat here today and put together about 3 minutes, just like in the 6th grade. The only difference is that I’ve had a little bit more training and practise, even though I haven’t used it in a long time now.
Also, keep in mind that the written content doesn’t guarantee a good speech or a poor speech. So, I’ll ask that you take my word for it when I tell you that I’m a dynamic speaker full of charm and charisma. It’s mostly the truth. And I don’t feel like I’m going to vomit or pee my pants in front of crowds anymore either.
Now, without further ado, here is the first speech I’ve written since the early spring of 2003.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for being here today. I understand that you all lead busy lives and I appreciate your setting aside a few minutes for me today.
I would like to talk to you today about something that I used to avoid as if it were the plague. That something is the responsibility and idea of being a role model. I know it may seem a little presumptuous for a man with little to no influence to be talking about this subject, but it is an idea that has been in my life for a long time now and I’ve come to a point when I think that I’m finally ready to embrace it.
The idea of being a positive role model outside of my home was first introduced to me in grade 11. It scared and confused me. You see, in Ontario high schools at that time there were 5 years of study. That meant that there were students 2 or even 3 years older than me in the halls, on the student government and providing leadership and examples for the younger students. And still, a phys ed. teacher that I never had a good relationship with called me out for having a sandwich in the gymnasium and told me that I needed to be setting a better example as a role model for the younger students. I was blindsided. Me, a role model? I didn’t want to be a role model. Just because I was involved in school activities and the community didn’t mean I wanted people to follow my lead. But the words stuck with me.
Over the next 2 years I became more of a leader. I was involved in student government, athletics and local activities, but I still didn’t see myself as a role model. I smoked, drank and was a terrible student. I had a rocky home life and some growing personal issues. I certainly didn’t want other young people following those examples. I can clearly remember telling 2 separate students that they didn’t want to be like me when they expressed their admiration and a desire to follow in my foot steps.
I did my best to hide my smoking from my peers because I knew it was a bad influence. I was part of a support group for students that were having trouble at home because I was asked by the guidance staff to be there. But I wasn’t dealing with my issues or acting any better as a person or a student. All I was doing was excusing my behaviour and diving into other people’s problems. At the end of the day I would still have given you a list of at least 10 other students I saw as better role models.
Now, looking back I am able and willing to acknowledge that I did my best to show compassion, caring and inclusion to everyone I came into contact with and I would like to think that those efforts helped form some positive behaviours in my peers.
Through the years that have passed since high school I haven’t found myself to be in much of a position to influence people. I try to lead a respectful and responsible life. But I’m not perfect. I have made mistakes. However, I would hope that those mistakes don’t define me as a person.
I have reached a point in my life where I would be honoured to be seen as a role model. I find myself wishing that I had focused more in high school and maybe taken my mother’s advice and become an elementary school teacher. However, I know that there are other, more accessible opportunities available to me. My writing is one of them. I can tell some of the stories of my youth. I can impress the importance of dealing with personal issues before they become detrimental to one’s day to day life. I can try to encourage the importance of sharing ideas and feelings to young men who are often discouraged from these actions by society and their peers. And I can try to live my life the right way so that I may lead by example. Quitting cigarettes helps to make that a reality as does trying to acknowledge my flaws and continuing to work on the ones that I can fix and accept the things that make me who I am.
In the end I know that most of my opportunities to act as a role model are ahead of me. And for that I am thankful. I would be sad to think that I had missed my chance because of fear.
So bring it on world. I’m ready when you see fit for me to be in that role again.
I sat here today and put together about 3 minutes, just like in the 6th grade. The only difference is that I’ve had a little bit more training and practise. And I don’t feel like I’m going to vomit or pee my pants in front of crowds anymore either.