I am both honored and flattered to have been asked to speak for this wonderful occasion.
I congratulate each of you and your parents.
Your achievements in the realms of Scholarship, Leadership, Community Service, and Character are being honored here tonight by your induction into this prestigious society.
But I believe that what should make you and your parents the most proud is not the actual honor itself, but what you had to do to get it. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The reward of a thing well done is to have done it." Any recognition is just the icing on the cake, not to be expected but definitely to be enjoyed.
However, I challenge you not to rest on your laurels but to continue to strive towards even loftier goals.
The four requirements for membership in which you have excelled: scholarship, leadership, community service, and character were not chosen at random. They are the core of a fulfilled and fulfilling life.
The most important thing to remember is that each of these characteristics are the sum of many individual decisions. They embody a positive attitude backed by purpose. The only way to achieve your purpose is to take small actions everyday. In the end, they all add up. My hope for you is that you will cultivate this attitude backed by purpose in your own life.
Scholarship is much more than just getting straight A's. It is a life-long love of learning. In the end it is a sum of small choices. Each time you decide you WANT to learn something, the experience will be so rewarding that the next time becomes easier.
Soon learning becomes a habit. At that point, your desire to learn makes getting A's easier while taking the focus off of grades. The knowledge can still be hard to gain, but knowing you've mastered a difficult subject is an awesome reward. Suddenly the world around you becomes richer, full of learning opportunities.
Leadership is not about being elected or appointed to an office. The office does not teach someone how to be a leader. Leadership is an attitude cultivated over time.
Are you one to stand up for what you believe in and 'face the music' even when that music happens to be unpleasant? Do you have a purpose and follow that purpose to get the ends you desire? Do you have a vision? These are all questions that true leaders answer in the affirmative.
But how do you become a leader?
Each small decision you make takes you one step closer. Remember the goal is not to get power, but to get your vision and your purpose across. Leaders without visions can be likened to driving in a strange town without a road map: you are going to wind up somewhere, it just might not be in the best part of town.
Many see community service as a means to an end. Some might see it as a way to get service points while socializing, while others may view it as an unfortunate (and often inconvenient) necessity of high school life. But is that true community service?
Once again true community service is an attitude. Are you doing it for the right reasons? I'm not saying there won't be Saturday mornings when you would rather sleep your heart out than paint your heart out.
What I'm talking about is that in the end, when it is all done, and you are once again well-rested, you can look back and realize that you did something worthwhile. That you helped your fellow man in some way. Remember as John Donne said, "No man is an island entire of himself."
If there is any one thing that is evidenced by your daily choices it is your character.
I truly believe what Thomas Macaulay said, "The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out."
What do you do when no one's around? The teacher steps out of the room for a moment while you are taking a test after school. You know exactly where in your notes the answer to question 23 is. Do you look? Minimal chance of being caught!
The answer to this question is the key to your true character.
For while being honest and honorable when others are watching is important, being true to yourself is tantamount.
And in the end, these private day-to-day decisions will eventually reveal your true character to the world.
All in all, are making the tough choices worth it?
While it would be easier to slide through life without a purpose, without a code, it would not be fulfilling. Only by setting difficult goals and achieving them can we find true self-worth.
One final thing, each person's goals are different, and what comes easy to one may be difficult for another. Therefore, do not squash others' dreams. This is a surefire way to know that you aren't working towards fulfilling your own.
In conclusion, I congratulate you for this honor. You are truly the best of the best. Enjoy yourself, and remember as Mother Teresa said, "Life is a promise; fulfill it."