It is graduation time, which means that for the next few weeks we'll see footage from commencement speeches from around the country, most often ones starring famous faces or members of the first family or other keynoters. In a few instances we'll hear from actual students, as we did when identical twin valedictorians Kirstie and Kristie Bronner graduated from Spelman College These instances, the student-based stories, are often compelling and certainly make for excellent feel good news, but frequently they're forgotten by the time graduation rolls around again next year. Don't let Mitch Anderson's be one of them.
A teenager from the small Texas town of Belton, Anderson's high school graduation speech is getting attention for the fact that he used it as a vehicle for his own coming out. "So now, I can say, I’m gay," he said for the first time. He went on, "It is both a significant portion of who I am and an inconsequential aspect. It’s as natural and effortless to me as breathing. I couldn’t change myself even if I wanted, and believe me, I have." Coming out in such a way -- publicly, in a small Texas town -- is notable enough, but that's just a kernel of this remarkable speech.
Anderson, who will study medicine at the University of Texas, takes his own experience with self-doubt and bullies to offer a universal call-to-action about self-love and acceptance.
"For the longest time, I was forced to live fractured, refusing to look at who I thought I was and then refusing to accept who I thought I might be. The journey into the soul is not for the faint of heart. Fear will naturally creep in, but those who use the fear to force themselves onward will succeed. After much dread and countless hours devoted to soul searching, for the first time, you will be able to love who you are.
There were moments when I believed I was next to nothing. But I learned that what others think of you is not nearly as meaningful as what you think of yourself. You cannot owe the quality of your existence to other people. You must evaluate your life and give it purpose. You must recognize that you a re an expression of the divine, a being made perfect through celebration of your perceived imperfections.
Once you love yourself, you can be the best version of yourself. You will find success and happiness. You will find that being different is a wholly wonderful and joyous thing, because it will mark you for greatness. Wish not to be one of the million, but one in a million. Find your idiosyncrasies, find what will make you unique, and run with it. You will make far fewer mistakes if you allow your inner and truer feelings to guide you. And when you feel like you will be abandoned, alienated, and cast out, ignore the sources of such toxicity."
It's such an insightful and effective and useful speech that you can look past the fact that he ends it by saying he wants to pal around with Lady Gaga and Beyonce, and you should definitely read it in its entirety.