Good evening to you all and thanks for the invitation to speak to you today!
I consider this a Tikkun, a repair in the language of the Kabala, because I did not get to participate in my son’s graduation from ISA in 1997. Son #1 as I call him, David Coster, went to the international school from age 3 to 16. He too was one of Utanah Barros’ kids. Then at age 16 he decided he needed to spread his wings, that this place was too small and too provincial, and that he was destined to bigger and better things and blackmailed us, his loving parents, into sending him to school in the US. We did, as most parents do when they are under pressure from their children. I am glad to report it was a positive move overall. David finished an excellent high-school in Jacksonville, then went on to Florida International University, and this I believe today, is my first ISA graduation, I might have been a guest at one or two before, but I have never been a commencement speaker, and I find it a most exciting occasion.
And by the way I have no clue why I was invited to speak to you today, but I am honored nevertheless. My claim to fame today is being the mother of a graduate, and as far as I am concerned YOUR school did supremely well, and gave me my money worth, because son #1 is today a food and beverage manager at the Ritz Carlton, an accomplished and high-functioning member of this community, married to a most adorable chica, for the past five years.
His class mates did equally well. So you can stop worrying about your future right here and now. I am going to tell you a bit about your school alumni, and then I am going to reveal to you the secret to success. Yes, once you leave this room, you will know all you need to know in order to be successful in life. So listen up, and pay attention, because I usually charge for advice and in this case, it’s free!!
The other graduates in my son’s class, or graduating before and after went on to become hoteliers, I can name at least three, working diligently for some of the world’s best hospitality chains, I know of a few teachers in various educational fields, an Air Traffic Controller, an Event Planner, a wedding coordinator, a Fashion Designer, a world class Photographer, Sales & Business development executives, some of the past graduates are self employed entrepreneurs, some of them provide leadership in their own family businesses, I found a Speech Language Pathologist, an Analyst at a Health System, and a Systems Engineer for a defense contractor, restaurateurs and bankers, you gotta be impressed.
As I understand ISA students spread out to live in many places around the globe, including the US and Europe, taking their charming island experience to go, spreading the message of Aruba in food, music and a good times, in wherever the river of life took them.
They all left ISA nicely equipped to handle anything that came their way, and if history teaches us anything, chances are that you too will dance out of this room tonight to lead a very fulfilling and busy life.
I looked at your list and was impressed with the range of professions you picked resulting in a stellar representation in the fields of Technology, Communications, Hospitality, Business, Medicine, Diplomacy and Psychology, and I was happy to see that the humanities did not get lost in the shuffle. From the list of graduates I can tell that we’ll have a famous stage and movie star among us one day, as well as a world renown artist.
And now that we are properly introduced I am going to tell you what you came here to hear. I am going to give you the key to happiness, today and tomorrow, and parents forgive me, if you already know what I am about to say.
What I am about to say is Stay in the Moment. Yes, stay in the moment is the key to happiness. In preparing to speak to you today I read some very entertaining and educational commencement speeches and I was especially impressed with the one titled Must use Sunscreen, it was even put to music. Because it is true, what it all boils down to is wearing sunscreen, to ward against the sun’s evil radiation. Consequently, I decided I would pick just one thing to tell you, which perhaps you would find helpful in the future, and that according to me is Stay in the Moment. Because if you train yourself to stay in the here and now, you never worry about the future and you certainly don’t have any regrets about the past, because you are Here & Now body and soul and you never let your mind wander, you stay put and you never disconnect.
In order to exercise that happy state of here & now look around you, take in all the details of his much-anticipated graduation, how you feel, what you see, note the expression on your parents’ face, how proud they are of you, take mental pictures, look at your friends and store these virtual snapshots in your memory banks, because by doing so you guarantee your presence here, and mostly you’re not obsessing about the way you look, or thinking about tonight’s party at Gusto. Staying in the moment also implies that you have to put down your phone, and that you must trade texting in favor of a real conversation. Staying in the moment also means that you show up and give it your best shot, give it 100% of your energy and resources.
And we know what happens when you show up and give it your best shot and 100% of your energy and your resources.
If in five minutes you forget what I said up to now, about the key to happiness, maybe it was too simple or esoteric, then I want you to remember another truism, which is the key to success. Anybody here in this room interested in the key to success?? According to me the key to success is simple: Stand up Straight. And that is my gift to you, the advise to Stand up Straight. In my time, when I was graduating high-school the advise was: Make sure you are always tanned, because tanned people look successful. That was what we believed at the time. A couple of years ago the advise was: Work out your arms and upper body, because toned and exercised arms make you look successful. Today I say, stand straight, pull your shoulders back, and you instantly look more successful, feel more confident, in command of your environment, in charge, check yourself now, comfortably slouched in your chair, perk up everybody. I only have two more hours to talk to you, and then I am done . . .
One of my friends forwarded to me an internet start up offer, looking for financing. It is a discreet upright sensor that is attached by adhesive to our lower back, and it vibrates when our spine begins to bend to remind us to stay straight. Most of you are bent all day and all night, sitting in a classroom, working your phones and computers, perhaps ashamed of how incredibly visible your boobs recently got. Your mom would say, your posture is very important, otherwise your internal organs are all squashed, but I say, the liver and the pancreas do not motivate me, success does, and if I have to stand up straight in order to look successful, then I will maintain a straight back and square shoulders, although it can be a tough habit to form.
I was making mental lists all of last week, what I wanted to tell you on your graduation day, and one of the things that refused to go away was: “Always under promise and over deliver.” Don’t ever tell a women, baby, I will rock your world, you haven’t seen nothing yet … that breeds impossible expectations, and the great burden of having to fulfill them. But if you slightly undersell yourself and always over deliver, that is a sure way to retain all your customers, AND acquire new ones!
One before last: Opt for Joy. Joy is not a given. Joy is an attitude, something you seek, it’s an intangible that’s always an option, yet you must choose for it. You must make joy an important part of your life. Family members, friends, sport activities, dance, cooking, are all areas where joy may be found and you must make time to experience what makes you truly happy.
Say YES to opportunity is another one of those mantras that circulated in my head all week. I said yes to opportunity and I became the publisher of Island Temptations magazine. I said yes to opportunity and found myself visiting China, Egypt, the Canadian Rockies and Morocco. The list is long. I never say NO, I am never too busy. There is no such thing as too busy, I am available, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour, travel, and of course I am available to work.
Finally, if you kids need a publicist in the future, to help tell the world how wonderful you are, I am hereby presenting my candidacy as your PR and communications adviser. I say YES, yes, to work, yes, to fun, I am never too old, too busy, too preoccupied, too lazy or too bored. You should know that only boring people are bored.
So here we are, and you should repeat after me:
Stay in the moment, go ahead: …..
Stand up straight, go ahead: …..
Under-promise and over deliver, go ahead: …..
Opt for Joy, go ahead: …..
Say YES to opportunity, go ahead: ….
I wish you a wonderful life!
The graduates of the class of 2014 include:
Brandon Arends – University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, Canada – (major undecided)
Andrew Buckley – Holland (school tba) – Communications
Simi Chigani – Unibe, Dominican Republic – International Business
Timothy de Meza – E.P.I., Aruba – Hospitality
Rosdely Dijkhoff – El Bosque University, Colombia – Dentistry
Dominique Eman – University of Aruba – Business
Thalia Guest – Syracuse University, N.Y., USA – International Relations
Joshua Lacle – Eugene Lang, The New School, N.Y., USA – Drama
Imani Martis – University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada – Psychology
Kathrin Samingoen – Riet Veld Academie, Aruba – Art
Kevin Tromp – Holland (school tba) – Video Game Programming
Celena van der Linden – Holland (school tba) – Pre-Med