Why My Commencement Speech Bombed

I wish I could have a “do-over”.

In light of tonight’s graduation ceremony in our sleepy, little lake community, I was reminded of perhaps the worst talk I have ever given. (believe me…I just read it, again, and should immediately send an apology to each of my classmates and the 2000 people that were in that sweaty gymnasium)

While I certainly had lofty goals, hopes and dreams to share, I was afraid it would come off as irresponsible and “out there”. Thus, I elected to play it safe.

I used big words and predictable advice. There was no heart, just platitudes such as:

“Life’s goals must be realistic and achievable. Otherwise, you will become frustrated.” (huh? yaawwwn)

“Set goals that advance your personal agenda. It’s your life.” (so, screw everyone else?)

Instead of inspiring my friends, I chose to impress and pander to the adults in the room. Ugh.

Fast forward to today (and, due to the inspiration of YOU and others): I don’t play it safe, I’m fairly irresponsible, often unpredictable…and, dream like crazy.

Keep inspiring me! (139 words)


  1. renaej.peterson@gmail.com says:

    Hey, those curls are inspiring!
    (still don’t know how to post to facebook!)

  2. Haha! Those are LOOOONG gone. 🙁 Just click on the Facebook icon and it will post to your timeline, or specific people if you’d like. Thanks for reading, you’re really nice. 🙂

  3. Angie Harvala says:

    Ahhhh Brent..I think we are at the age of…”I don’t remember the words…” just remember how special those days were…and the friendship we had, and still do!! Specific days blend…we just remember the love!!! Have a great weekend!! Love when these emails show up in my mailbox!!!!

  4. Michelle Mock says:

    My oldest daughter Maddy is valedictorian this year so she gets to give a speech. Graduation is one week from today, and she hasn’t even started writing it! (We ordered her prom dress just eight days before prom, so we like to live on the edge! HaHa! (It was the perfect dress for her, though.)

    Maddy follows you on Instagram and gets a kick out of your posts. 🙂 I love sharing laughs with her over your clever hashtags! Any advice for her on how to approach writing a commencement speech knowing what you know now? I think she wants a nice blend of classmate memories that includes a little humor plus inspiration.

    Happy Graduation & Congratulations to those Seniors in your sleepy, little lake community!

  5. You are SPOT on, Angie! That is such a good reminder…thank you. 🙂 So appreciate you stopping by and sharing, I love that. Blessings on you and yours, and have a wonderful weekend.

  6. Whoa! I wasn’t even CLOSE to class valedictorian…still not sure why I gave the speech, haha! Maddy will be fabulous as long as she speaks from her heart, which I’m sure she’ll do. Make sure you take some pics (and, video?), would love to see/hear her in action. 🙂 Praying for her already that she feels inspired and confident going into her time of sharing. I love people that live on the edge…it’s the only way to see the other side, right?! If I have any good ideas, I’ll DM on IG fo sho. Have a terrific Friday night and weekend, Michelle…thank you for stopping by!

  7. Sara Bright says:

    Brent, you always find a good way to express your thoughts in a humorous and touching way. Yes, many of us had what I call ‘full-of-yourself’ years early on. It’s okay, that’s what years of experience teaches us, and why our elders have so much wisdom. (Notice, I didn’t say that we had any wisdom). Love you cuz!

  8. I love you for saying that…you are good medicine for my (and many other’s) soul. 🙂 Thanks for steering clear of the “elders” bit…but, my body says “Geezerville, USA…here we come!” Nooo! Haha. Love you lots, Sara.

  9. Ahhh hindsight! …that cap and gown pic tho! 🙂 Love to you & Becky!

  10. Sue Treu says:

    If you let your hair grow out today, would it still be so curly??? 😉 If you did that, would that be ‘unpredictable’ or more like ‘dream like crazy?!?’ Come on, Brent – don’t play it safe! Let’s see those curls again!

  11. I remember your speech give to the students at middle school……it was awesome. So, experience that comes with age…
    inspires. Forgive yourself and know that you are right where you are suppose to be!

  12. Yup…it’s 20/20, right? And, do you need ANY other reason to wonder why I didn’t have a girlfriend? Long-haired hippie freak. 🙂 Thanks for swooping in, friend!

  13. Hahaha! Hey, gurrlfrend, you got me thinkin’, now…how can I pull that off sans wig? There’s gotta be some pill I can take, right? Here’s to my next adventure! (see how inspiration moves me, you did it, again!) Love you!

  14. This might be THE nicest note I’ve ever gotten…would it be weird if I hung it on my fridge? 🙂 Your words just gave exactly what I needed to move throughout the day, thank you! Sure appreciate you reading and writing and encouraging…and remembering!

  15. Gerry Scully says:

    Brent – I’m biased. The best speech I think you ever gave was a handwritten note you penned to me while you were in college and I was a middle schooler looking for some advice. (How to throw a curveball and probably some girl stuff too I think). You’ve always been someone we can count on to deliver both wit and wisdom – thank you for that!

    (that hair, just wow)

  16. Brent, I will always remember your “speeches” at EBC! You almost always used the relationships that you had with Robbie and Brady to show the relationships between God and us, as God the Father and us as his children! It always made a lot more sense to me to hear how much God loved and cared for me as my “Dad”! Can’t change the past Brent, so just forge ahead! Do the best that you know how today and you will live with no regrets! Love you and miss you guys! Lady Di

  17. Renee Fasteen says:

    I agree with Angie…the best thing is how no matter how far apart or how long, those memories and friendships remain. And of course pictures…pictures remain to chronicle our sometimes questionable tastes in style. I’ve hidden the pictures……ugh!

  18. Al Schuck says:

    Dude, you are being way too hard on yourself. Your speech change my life! Every New Year’s eve I watch Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” and read over the notes I took from your speech. #Strommemyhomie

  19. robert evans says:

    I am still mad about that speech! Seriously? A great friend at a great time in our lives. Only you remember just how questionable it really was.

  20. Gerry! Thanks for your kind words, you’re a rock star. Can’t imagine I had too much helpful information to pass along regarding the opposite sex, though. 🙁 I’m thinking of getting a wig. Thinking. Blessing, man!

  21. This choked me up, Diane…how sweet of you to say. Sure love you and your family, and miss “doing life” with you on a regular basis. Great advice, hand is on the plow and moving forward! You’re the best. Love, Brent

  22. You are spot on, Renee…I like the way you think. The memories are wonderful and the friendships even more so. Come on, gurrrlfrend, let’s see some #ThrowbackThursday posts of you back then…it’s only fair! Love you! Brent

  23. LOL, Al! Your wife deserves WAY more fun on New Year’s Eve, seriously! Mine was title, “I have a nightmare…and I’ve now brought you into it” 🙁 You’re a great encourager, Al, love ya for it.

  24. You are my hero, perfect words for me to hear from you, Bob…thank you! You’ve always been wise…wish we lived closer so that it could continually rub off on me. 🙂 Love ya, friend!

  25. Bridget Mathiowetz says:

    I’ve been waiting for a recent blog post Brent LOVE IT. and you are pretty inspirational and unpredictable, keep it coming!

  26. Awww…thank you so much, Bridget! You are the sweetest thaaang, sure love ya. That unpredictableness (just made up that word) might give Becky a gray hair or two…but, I like that color on her. 🙂 Let’s hook up this summer lots!

  27. Bridget Mathiowetz says:

    Duhhh! I’ll be in the area and need to learn how to kayak! See you SOON

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