Meadville Tribune

July 2, 2013

At society’s ‘tipping point,’ your actions decide our future

By Richard Curry
Special to the Tribune

Editor’s note: Meadville educator Jan Hyatt asked that we share this speech with our readers. It was authored and delivered by Crawford Central School Board member and former Meadville Area Senior High School teacher Richard Curry at this year’s Meadville Area Senior High School graduation ceremony.

And now, since this will be the last opportunity that I have to address a Meadville high school graduating class, I have a few words.

I’m sure all of you have heard the term “the tipping point.” It is a term that attempts to define our changing physical environment, particularly earth’s warming. And it seems to be apt. We are losing our glaciers and ice caps at an alarming rate. However, I want to use the term to indicate something else, to indicate the social changes that are occurring in our world.

There was a time when politicians were ethical and honorable — we see that rarely these days. In your grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ times, people were courteous and kind and neighborhoods were safe. Now, we must teach our children to beware of strangers. We are not surprised when we hear of killings or of meth labs in our neighborhoods. We are at the tipping point of societal decay.

In the next several years, I urge you to be conscious of this: You are in the process of creating whom you will be for the rest of your life. You are in the process of creating a persona — your persona, and that person that you create will govern you. Those of you who are going to college, those going into the military and you who are going into the work-a-day world, you will be creating a self that will be you for the rest of your days.

How do you want to be judged in later years?

Do you want people to see you as honorable? Then you must display honor. Do you want people to see you as ethical? Then you must have good values. Do you want people to see you as honest? Then you must display honesty. Do you want people to see you as moral? Then you must demonstrate good morality. As you create this persona, this self, remember that it is created by your actions and by your choices.

I said that we are at a tipping point. Create a self that helps us, society, tip the other way, to tip to something more solid than the way we are presently moving; to tip away from guns and drive-by shootings, away from meth labs and drug pushers, away from military sex scandals, away from child abuse, away from political dishonor.

You are no longer children. I’m sorry to break that to you. You are now decision makers and this is your world. In a few years you will be in a position to help control this world. As you create your persona over the next several years, create a person who can restore honor to your world.

Think of all that you have accomplished over the past 13 years that has brought you to this graduation. What an accomplishment! Think of how you have changed since kindergarten and what great things you have learned during that time. With such greatness behind you, I have faith that you can continue building on that greatness and help to tip us back to secure neighborhoods, to a secure state and to a secure nation.

Go forth and do that. I have faith in your greatness.