Addressing 5th Graders at End of Year Ceremony

I had the honor of being the guest speaker today at the 5th grade ceremony for Maryvale Elementary School. This is the speech I gave:

Over the last couple of months, I have had the chance to work with many of you to help you with your video projects for science class. This project was a fun way to help you learn more about making healthy choices.

But something else that this project did, and I know several of you have already been thinking about this, is it introduced you to the basic skills you need to make a movie. In other words, you could use the steps you just learned to make the science video and make any kind of video you wanted to make. And since you’ve been through the process you know that what it’s really all about is telling a story. In fact, a good bit of the time spent making a movie is deciding how exactly to tell the story.

I want you to imagine something with me. Imagine that you decide to make a movie that tells your story. The big day arrives for the premiere of your movie and you invite me to come. So there I am sitting in the theater about to watch a movie about you.What am I going to see? Remember this is your story, so what is your story going to be?

There are lots of stories out there. Some of them are great, and some of them are not so great. So what makes a story great? It turns out there are a few things most great stories have in common.

The first is there is a main character. And it really helps if that main character is someone who is likable. The fancy name for the main character is the protagonist. So in your story guess who the protagonist is? Right, you are. And since you are a likeable person, you already have the first ingredient for a great story.

The second ingredient is the protagonist has to be presented with a challenge. This can be a physical challenge, a mental challenge, an emotional challenge. Whatever it is, this challenge requires the protagonist to make an important decision.

Let’s say you’re a good athlete. You’ve worked hard since you were little to be really good at your sport. People are starting to take notice and the future is looking bright. But then something happens. Maybe you get injured during a game, or you’re in some kind of accident and now you can’t play.

The challenge you face is that it is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication to get better so you can play again. In this story, the important decision is what you will do. Do you work hard and get better so you can play again? Or do you give up and walk away from the challenge?The decision that you make will determine whether this is a great story, or a story that’s not so great.

Maybe in your story you’ve started middle school and some of your friends are starting to make bad choices. You know that what they are doing is wrong because the people who love you, the people who are raising you, your family, they’ve taught you right from wrong.But your friends are pressuring you to follow along and do what they are doing. This would be the challenge in your story. And the decision you make, whether it’s to follow your friends or to do what you know is right, that decision helps determine whether your story is a great story or a story that’s not so great.

When we watch a movie, or hear or read a story, we want the protagonist to win. We want that person to rise to the challenge, to do the right thing, to make the hard choices that in the end make it a great story.

So as you move on from Maryvale Elementary and into middle school and then high school, I want you to think about all of us, your family, your teachers, your friends, think about all of us sitting in the movie theater, waiting to watch your movie. Are you going to rise to the challenge? Are you going to do the right thing? Are you going to make the hard choices that make your story a great story? The choice is up to you. After all, it’s your movie. It’s your life. So do me a favor and make it a great story. 

-JPG