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A message to high school graduates ...

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I graduated from high school in 1992. Microsoft had just released Works -- not Word -- and the first nicotine patch was introduced to help stop smoking.

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Popular television programs that year included "Law & Order" and "The Simpsons." I guess some things don't change. Other things have changed: Back then, a gallon of gas was only $1.05.

It's been a while, but I remember two things from my graduation day: I sat next to Mark Murdock, the star football player who I doubt knew my name. And my friend Meghan gave a speech on the Dr. Seuss book "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

I've learned a lot since my high school graduation 20 years ago, and I'd like to share some of those lessons with the high school graduates of today. I gave this speech to graduates two years ago, but it still applies:

Looking back to my high school graduation, I know some things now that I didn't know then. I thought I knew a lot at 18, but I was wrong. I thought that my dreams and my successes were the most important things in life. I wanted a lot of things, and I thought that it was all about making my dreams come true.

Today's graduates have a lot of hopes and dreams as well. They want to go to college; they want cars, homes, financial stability, jobs that they love. Graduates, you think you know a lot. And you do. But if you think that you are the only key to your own success, you are wrong.

What I've learned in the last 18 years is that the key to success is not in what you know but in who you know and how you treat them. My friends and family have cheered me on in everything I have set out to accomplish. Without them, I would not be here today as the person that I am. My friends and family have taught me that the keys to success are kindness, patience and self-control.

If you want to be successful, be kind to others. Treat them not as yourself but better than yourself. You need your friends, your family and even the person at the Holiday station who takes your money. Smile more; complain less. Life from a perspective of kindness always looks better. Surround yourself with others who believe in you, who give you good advice and who cheer you on in kindness.

The people in my life over the past 18 years have been the kind of people that I want to be like, and I hope that I have made them proud because of the influence that they have had on me. When I look back on the past 18 years, I see growth in who I am, and I feel successful today because of where I've come from.

Have patience as well as self-control. Success comes in small packages. Remember that our small decisions determine our long-term path. The success that you want comes only after you have made a series of good decisions, which takes patience. This is hard in our instantaneous society, where you can cook Ramen noodles in less than three minutes and text your friends in seconds.

But success requires us to wait. Buying that iPod today puts us that much farther from the car that we want tomorrow. Instant gratification is what we expect now, but success requires patience and self-control. Set goals and work toward them.

As you look forward in your life -- in the next five years, 10 years, 18 years ... what dream will do for you? When you are 36 years old, what will you have to share with the graduating class that year? What dreams will have been accomplished? And what perspective will you have to share with them? When you wake up the morning after graduation, what dream will you pursue?

In closing, dream those dreams. And remember that there are many people who are here to continue to dream with you, to support you as you move forward and who hope to hear about those dreams that have been accomplished. Congratulations to each of you!

Stacy Bender originally gave this speech at the 2010 Wolf Creek Online High School graduation in Chisago City (wolfcreek.

chisagolakes.k12.mn.us). Bender currently works at the Minneapolis-based Minnesota Virtual High School. She blogs about her life

at slowingtheracingmind.

areavoices.com.

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