Editor’s note: First-year Rangely School District Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams addressed the class of 2010 at Sunday’s high school graduation ceremony. Here are his remarks:
RANGELY I I want to start by congratulating the class of 2010 on your great success.
It’s an honor for me to be here. I know that many of you, both graduates and parents, have been waiting for this day for many years.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel a less-traditional path. But I’ve managed to cover a fair amount of territory. There may be some lessons that I’ve learned that could help you on your road ahead.
I graduated high school, attended college, quit college, gained employment with the Norfolk Southern Railway and always wondered if I would go back to college. My parents, college professors and friends offered advice to return to school and graduate. The choice was up to me and it all started with that first decision to embark.
As you sit here this evening, you are at the starting point of a wonderful journey.
And now you’ve accomplished something great and honorable and important here at Rangely, and it’s time for you to move on to what’s next. But you must not let anything deter you from taking those first steps. You have an abundance of opportunities before you — but don’t spend so much time trying to choose the perfect opportunity, that you miss the right opportunity. Recognize that there will be failures, and acknowledge that there will be obstacles. But you will learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, for there is very little learning in success.
With the understanding that you will face tough times and amazing experiences, you must also commit to the adventure. Just have faith in the skills and the knowledge you’ve been blessed with and go, because regrets are born of paths never taken.
Then, as you start your journey, the first thing you should do is to draw your own road map.
You too have an advantage that you’re not encumbered by years of conventional thinking. You have a new and fresh perspective with which to view the world. Your time at Rangely has helped sharpen your sense of discovery, and there is no better catalyst for success than curiosity.
It’s through curiosity and looking at opportunities in new ways that I developed my road map. Just work to understand the world around you. Read books. Read websites. Read other people. Circle the pitfalls and highlight the opportunities. Then build a vision of how it could all be better and work really hard to make it happen.
Remember — there’s no such thing as a self-made success.
Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people — or find a different room. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships.
And even as you keep traveling the road ahead, you must always remember where you came from. Each of us carries the dust and dreams of the places that helped shape us, and all of us can count our blessings that our path has taken us through Rangely.
Finally, many times along the way you’re going to ask why. Why am I on this path? What is it all about? You’ll ask yourself those questions in 10 years and in 20 years as often as you’re asking them now. Well, I have an answer for you. It’s all about winning. That’s right, winning.
But I’m not talking about the most points, or toys, or athletics. I’m talking about winning in a contest with your own potential. I’m talking about believing in yourself enough to become the best accountant, engineer, or teacher you can possibly be. I’m talking about never measuring your success based on the success of others — because you just might set the bar too low.
I was fortunate to find my passion in teaching, coaching, mentoring and, most importantly, learning. Just like me, many people find their passion later in life, and others never find it at all. And for some, their greatest passion is the search itself and passion should be the fire that drives your life’s work.
The key is to listen to your heart and let it carry you in the direction of your dreams. I’ve learned that it’s possible to set your sights high and achieve your dreams and do it with integrity, character and love. And each day that you’re moving toward your dreams without compromising who you are, you’re winning. Look around you. You are all winners.
I’ve talked today about a journey, one that each of us travels. Often we travel together, as all of you have during your time at Rangely. But in the end, it’s your journey, your path to travel and your responsibilities along the way. You are free to choose, and you are free to succeed. It just takes hard work and a dream. Many of you will never imagine that you’re going to change the world. Yet every one of you will. How you change the world, is all up to you.
— Dr. Barry Williams,