?I encourage you to take initiative,? teacher tells grads

Editor?s note: Following is the commencement address Jim Robb delivered Saturday to the graduating class of Hillsboro High School. We present it here in part to salute Robb for his 37 years in education?17 years at HHS?and to give more of us the opportunity to be stimulated by the wisdom and insights that have made him one of the most appreciated teachers among students.

As I contemplated what I wanted to share with you this evening, my heart and my mind filled with emotion and snippets of the things I wish to share with you as you commence the life that awaits you beyond high school.

I decided to sleep on the direction I wanted this talk to take?and I experienced a dream. In this dream were some of my historical friends. Mark Twain was there, as was Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Shakespeare and Jesus.

As I conversed with them in my dream, I asked them what I should share with this graduating class and this community. Roosevelt, in his gregarious style, said I should tell you to not sit on the sideline of life, but to be involved.

Jefferson, in his quiet way, talked of responsibility and courage. Jesus encouraged me to express love to you, and both Shakespeare and Twain told me I should do what I?m used to doing: tell them a story.

So, bear with me. One last story, one last time.

When I was about in the fifth grade I started to read the book, ?Treasure Island.? It was an adventure story full of pirates, intrigue, traveling to faraway places, searching for treasure?and the hero of the story was named Jim.

It was the first book I can recall that captivated me and grabbed my attention so that I thought about the last chapter I had read, even as I desired to go on to the next chapter. It was an involved story in which each chapter was new but grew out of the past chapter.

As I thought about the story, and even after I had read the book a total of nine times, the themes of this rollicking adventure story set on the high seas became more evident. The story is about loyalty, self-sacrifice. It is about friendship. It is about taking initiative.

In the book, the young hero takes risks and reaches out to others, he learns by experience. He acts boldly on the information he receives, and in the end he gains a treasure.

I love that story for I see lessons for all of us in this adventure, for we all are setting out on a new adventure?our future. As you cross this stage today and set out following your treasure map, I wish these things for you:

I wish for you a sense of loyalty?to your family, to the values you have been raised with, loyalty to your dreams, and loyalty to your faith. It is important to belong to things that are bigger and more important than you.

I wish for you true friendship?friends that will stick by you through thick and thin, friends that will be honest with you, friends that will share with you, friends that will stay with you and communicate with you no matter where you go

I hope you will learn by experience and by effort. The world is a place of change, schools are changing, the way we communicate has changed and will continue to change, the types of occupations needed in the future have not yet been developed, but they will be. You will run across unexpected difficulties and challenges as you head off into your great life adventure. Challenge life and don?t allow it to defeat you. Adapt to the world around you and seek to understand as many things as you can.

I encourage you to take initiative. Follow your dreams, be a leader, don?t wait for others but solve problems yourself, ask questions and seek answers, reach out to others, and be helpful. Don?t be a spectator of life, but be an active participant.

In ?Treasure Island? young Jim grows up, by understanding the importance of loyalty, by staying true to his friends and by making new ones. He takes initiative to save his friends, to re- capture the ship they traveled the ocean on and to overcome some mistakes he had made. And he learned from experience and by constant effort to know more about where he was, who he was with, and what the true outcome of the journey would be. And for him and his friends it was treasure.

In the book, I traveled with them in my imagination chapter by chapter. Each chapter brought new information, new opportunities and a new perspective on the story and on life.

You will be leaving this place tonight and you will turn the page to a new chapter, one that will take you away from the comfortable, present you with new challenges, and will offer you new opportunities.

As you mature, you will face decisions that will allow you to turn the page to new chapters, and to travel and meet people, and have the opportunity to follow your own map to your own treasure.

Seventeen years ago last fall, I turned a page to a new chapter, the chapter in my life known as Hillsboro. This chapter has been one of loyalty?to education, to ideals, to the school system and to the many students that have gone through my classroom, and they returned that loyalty to me.

It has been one of friendship?with students, with administrators, parents, townspeople and especially other faculty.

It has been one of initiative for I was always encouraged to try new things to reach the students and to better myself.

And it has been a time of learning by experience and working hard to improve myself so the students would succeed.

Within this chapter of life there have been many sections, but at the end of this chapter I have accumulated treasure. Not the gold of pirate raids past, but the treasure of friendships, experiences, memories and relationships. For this treasure I thank you, the students, as representatives of the 17 senior classes I have had the pleasure of working with and seeing move to their next chapter as teachers, ministers, lawyers, doctors, laborers, farmers, moms and dads, community members.

I hope and I pray that you will follow your dreams, that you will work hard to better yourself and move forward. I hope and pray for your continued success and that you too will find your treasure?the wealth of a life lived well and the relationships that are so much a part of everything we do.

It is now time for me to say farewell, to you as graduates and to the community. My thanks and my love will go with you always.

I would like to close with a poem:

Congratulations and best wishes

On this your day of life anew

Some men may wish you gold and silver

I wish only treasures for you.

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