Monday, October 18, 2010
In front of me at my desk are three books: Outcasts United, Africa United, and How Soccer Explains the World. These books tell stories of what it means to be an athlete, an African man, and a citizen of the globe. As some of you know, I have ZERO talent kicking a ball and I’ve never once played soccer. Running has been my sport of choice, and that is why I wish to shout out to you during your SENIOR NIGHT of playing for the Nottingham Bulldogs. I hope to be in the stands again. You deserve the recognition.
Whether you know it or not, each of you are a testimony to history and world civilization. You are seniors in high school, athletes on a varsity team, and students who have accomplished a lot to get this far. You will reflect one day on your experiences at Nottingham as being the easiest days of your life. I want you to work hard, reflect, and enjoy every last second that you have at this school. More importantly, I hope that you are able to channel the support and love of your relatives who aren’t able to see you play tonight, the loved ones you’ve lost overseas, and the ancestry that has poured a thousand traditions, customs, and beliefs into you.
The ways stories weave in and out one’s life are rather miraculous and the very fact that you’ve introduced me to your worlds, ideas, thinking, writing, and really bad jokes (some of them are good, I guess) have changed my life forever. Although I don’t have kids of my own (just the 600 students I taught in Kentucky), working with you has made me a better man, teacher, and human being. Through you, I've gained strength.
About the game. Kick some $%#@!#$ #@!. I’ve seen you play awesome and I’ve seen you lose it. Tonight is the night for you to represent the class of 2011 and to pull out the most competitive Bulldog within you. I also want to warn you, there’s a lot of hard work ahead if you want to graduate this year. Crossing the stage is the first of many milestones in your life and I hope you will make smart choices. Be tough. Be proud. Be you. Continue to be strong.
Congratulations for being senior athletes and for leading the underclassmen through your actions, respect, and perseverance. Some people say soccer's a matter of life or death, but it isn't. It's much more important than that, especially when you realize how many people lost their lives in order for you and I to be here today in this miracle called the United States.
Be important from this day on. Make a difference through trusting who you’re meant to be. Accept this karma.