I'm giving this speech at the graduation ceremony for a school I used to work for tomorrow. They call it "Moving Up."
As some of you know, while I was in college I used to work here (Academy Schools), tutoring and helping in the classroom. I then moved to California to study for my PhD in math, planing on becoming a Professor. But at the end of the first quarter I was diagnosed with brain cancer. I didn't get to take finals because I had to have brain surgery. After surgery I could not speak, write, or move my right side. I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to teach again. The doctors didn't expect me to get better but I did.
When the next school year was approaching I said, “I'm going back to school.” People thought I was crazy. I didn't expect to do well, or even make it though the first quarter, but I had to try. I made it though almost a full school year with decent grades before my health got worse. Reach for the stars, and I bet you'll get farther than you thought. I learned a lot and learned to redefine my definition of teaching. So that's why I'm speaking today. This award recognizes students who, like me, have overcome obstacles in their education.
Neither these students, nor I, could have done it without a great deal of support. There's plenty of people who don't have that, and so I ask you to go out and actively support education. Here are a few ways you can do that: One is by visiting vittana.org. It lets you give micro-loans to students in countries where scholarships and student loans aren't available. Another is giving to schools or libraries, even just a little bit helps. Academy Schools has a scholarship fund to help low income students get a quality education. Sometimes the company you work for will make a matching donation. Microsoft and other local companies look at how much people give the UW in deciding how much to donate themselves. I'm sure that is true of many other universities. And write letters to your representatives asking them to support education.
Students--yes you--when you grow up and have kids of your own, teach them to love learning by reading to them and encouraging their curiosity and imagination. I once had a student who came up with fantastical stories. In retrospect I wish I had encouraged him to write them down or dictate them to me. Even now you are able to help by learning all you can, or writing letters to representatives. It's hard to say no when a kid asks for help in their education.
Support education both within your home and without. I won't be here as long as most of you, and I would like this message to be my legacy. So I ask that you remember this and pass it along now and after I'm gone.
I ask you to give links to organizations that readers can visit to support education in the comments. I sincerely believe that lack of education is the number one threat to any society.