To the point week of 5/31/07

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IT WAS 54 YEARS ago when a man from New Zealand named Sir Edmund Hillary achieved what many people thought was impossible – he reached the summit of Mount Everest.

Today, climbers travel to the mountain and reach the summit with little thought to the man who dared to try what many thought would be sure suicide.

In May of 1954, a Brit named Roger Bannister did something that even scientists thought would result in death – he ran a mile in less than four minutes. At that time, many thought that running that far that fast would result in the person’s lungs exploding.

It was thought to be impossible.

The current world record is 3:43.13, set by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco in 1999. It is the only race left in the sport of track that is still measured in something other than meters.

In December of 1903, two bicycle-building brothers from Dayton, Ohio, saw an airplane that they had built take flight in North Carolina. For Orville and Wilbur Wright, it was the culmination of a dream that many others had shared – and died trying to achieve.

In August of 1875, Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim the English Channel, a 150-mile stretch of water that separates England from France.

In 1972, 15-year old Lynne Cox became the youngest person to swim the English Channel. As of 2005, 665 different people had successfully crossed the English Channel by swimming, and they had done it 982 times.

In 1974, Evel Knievel tried to jump the Snake River Canyon in Idaho on a souped up motorcycle.

He barely got off of the ramp before he and his ride fell into the river at the bottom of the canyon.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because this Sunday in the Switzerland County High School gym, the 2007 graduating class will file out of the gym and into the rest of their lives.

Some will go to college. Most will go to work. Others will serve our country, while others will serve our food.

No matter what each of them does following Sunday’s graduation, all of them has a dream of some sort. Some dreams may be big; while others may be more reachable.

But they all have them.

We all did, too.

I remember wanting to be the President of the United States, until my father told me that I should apply to West Point if I had political aspirations that high. The thought of working that hard derailed any thoughts of the White House.

It was a dream that I didn’t achieve, but out there, somewhere – right now – is a kid who is dreaming of being this country’s President some day – and he or she will achieve that dream.

After all, someone has to be the President – why not dream that dream?

In our society today, many of us, young or old, shy away from sharing our dreams with others because some of our family and friends feel that it is their duty to “keep us grounded”.

“Keep your dreams realistic,” others will tell us. “Keep your feet on the ground and get your head out of the clouds.”

But that’s no fun.

This Sunday many young men and women will leave the protection of our school system and their family homes and they will begin to chase their dream.

My wish for them is to do just that – chase your dream.

There are all sorts of analogies about “reaching for the stars”, but I don’t want to share those. I simply want to make sure that each and every graduate understands that the great sorrow of life is not in falling short of your dream – but rather in not trying to reach your dream at all.

My boss, Don Wallis, once told me that “growing old is no excuse for growing up”, and I try (and fail) to follow that advise most of the time.

You see, I’ve allowed “the world” to lead me to believe that I’m too old to do silly things – but maybe the whole point is to define your dream and then chase it with all you’re worth.

Graduates, good luck and God Bless each of you. My wish for you is that you find your calling in life and that you live happy and healthy and useful lives. There is more to life than how much money you make; so find what you love because you’ll be doing it for the next 50 years.

So grab that diploma, hug your parents and friends, and get ready to go and grab the world by the tail.

Your Mount Everest awaits you. Now go and conquer it.