June 21, 2013 – Validus Prep Academy Keynote Address

22 Jun


Good afternoon faculty, guests, friends and family. Class of 2013, congratulations! It’s an honor and my pleasure to be able to share this wonderful occasion with you.

Since I was a young child, sports has been my metaphor for life. I loved everything about it.  The idea that you devise a plan, put in the work, and see results is in its simplest and purest form the story of human success.  If you think about it, success in the athletic field is a result of many parts working together in harmony.  You can be in the best shape of your life, and still fail if you’re not mentally strong.  And conversely, it doesn’t matter how determined you are to succeed it means nothing if you do not put in the work.  Much of my advice to you was reinforced by my experiences in sports. 

Be kind to the people that share your past, stay connected with the people who  force you to be better. One thing I loved about sports is that unifying element, how it can bring people together. Whether it’s cheering for a team or against the Miami Heat, it can bring people together. When I was injured and side-lined, I had to seek medical back-up.  I couldn’t possibly get better by continuing to do what I was doing. A trainer or doctor was my support.  You have that here. Sitting next to you and around you, are your support system – your family, friends, teachers, and administrators.  Statistics show that there’s a great likelihood that someone in this room could be a future supreme court justice like Bronx native Sonia Sotomayor. Or a Senator, like life long Bronx native Jose Serrano.   Odds are that there are a few of you in this room that will be millionaires in a few years. Now if that’s not you, wouldn’t you at least want to be the friend of that millionaire?

 In 2007, I was recovering from an injury. There were several important international competitions that year, including the World Championships. I was under a lot of pressure to compete. In my heart, I knew I wasn’t ready, and I wouldn’t be in time. But I did anyways, and ended up making a bad injury worse. That negatively affected my morale, and hurt my spirit.  You’re all smart, trust your intuition. As you go on to take on the world as young adults, do not let the things you see, or read, or hear convince you that what you know in your heart to be the truth, is anything else. As you go off to college, work or life in general, your responsibility is not just to learn as much as you can, but to teach others as well.  Make sure that your reality, your history, thoughts and opinions are factored as part of this country’s solution.

In closing, I’d like to say to you that the only reason I’m standing before you here today is because I failed.  More than half of my life was dedicated to reaching one goal – to win just one race, in just one Olympics.  I never did. I tried four times, and fell short each time.  I failed, but I achieved something else.  I am a four time Olympian – and someone pointed out to me that there are fewer four-time Olympians than there are Olympic champions! It’s just not realistic that you will succeed at everything you attempt.  But that doesn’t mean you give up, it doesn’t mean that you become less diligent. You will never know the outcome until after it’s all done.  Be confident. You’ve been properly prepared to succeed by Validus Prep Academy.  Your struggles will make you resilient, hardship builds character and creates leaders.  And wherever life’s journeys take you, come back home to your community, and contribute in a way that leaves a meaningful legacy. 

Thank you, and best of luck in all your endeavors!


7 Responses to “June 21, 2013 – Validus Prep Academy Keynote Address”

  1. joe ryan June 22, 2013 at 5:11 PM #

    Absolutely loved the speech. Concise, to the point, and full of wisdom for a young person.

  2. Robert Hill June 23, 2013 at 10:24 PM #

    Loved it, very appropriate for High School Students. Very real.

  3. Joel June 23, 2013 at 10:29 PM #

    Love the post/speech. Those graduates got some great words there.

  4. Andre Marcano June 23, 2013 at 10:32 PM #

    Great speech….thank you for your words of wisdom….it definitely spoke volumes to me

  5. Sylvester Potter June 23, 2013 at 11:44 PM #

    Very very well said. Few people are able to get such great advice from such an accomplished yet humble human being. Not only is she super gifted, intellectual and eclectic… But also an extremely warm person that anyone should be so proud to call their friend if they are only so lucky. When she speaks I listen, and you should do the same.

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