Category Archives: Reads

Graduation Speech 2018

Thank you, Clay Center Community High School Class of 2018 for the opportunity to be the guest speaker at your graduation ceremony. Here is the transcript of the speech if you or your people are interested. Hopefully, you can look back on it years from now and ask your classmates, “Do you remember that fool who gave our graduation speech? I wonder what he’s doing nowadays.”

I dedicate this speech to all the athletes I’ve had the honor of coaching, especially the ones who’ve struggled to find their place in the world.

Graduation Speech 2018
Otto Unruh Stadium
5-13-18
Mike Hays

Congratulations, Class of 2018! Thank you for this honor to speak today.
Congratulations to the parents and families! Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Today is special. This all around us is special.
This is a special place. It‘s a community where people have supported you through your games, performances, academics, and employment opportunities.

This place is part of who you are. It is part of what you will become.
No matter how far you travel or where your dreams take you, you will take a piece of Clay County with you.
And wherever you go after leaving these seats as graduates, Clay County will always be here for you.

Graduation Advice

Be yourself.
Be the best you that you can be.

Toy Story 2 illustrates a great example of staying true to who you are. Woody has been taken to Big Al’s and is waiting to be sold to a collector. He looks at the faded name of “ANDY” written on the bottom of his boot.
ANDY.
The name that represents belonging to and being a part of.
ANDY.
The name that gives Woody purpose.
What happens to Woody when the Cleaner shows up and wipes those four letters off his boot?
He loses himself. He gives up trying to get back to Andy and the others. Gives up and floats away from all that is important to him. He’s tempted by the TV star life after discovering Jessie, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete.
When the name disappears, so does the very core of who he is.
In the end, it takes a monumental effort by Buzz and all Woody’s friends to bring him back to himself.

What name is written on your foot?
Who or what do you choose to belong to?
What name gives you purpose?
Is it a name that’s written in permanent ink or in pencil?
Is it a name that provides solid footing or is it one that causes you to slip and slide away from who you really are?

Find out who you are and stand behind it.
Let your faith be your compass.
Let your conscience be your map.
Never forget the name you’ve written on your foot.

Graduation Challenge

My challenge to you is something you probably won’t find on any of your graduation cards.
Go out and fail.
Dream big, take calculated risks and fail.
Regroup, and get better. Then try again & again & again until you succeed.

I wish you a lifetime of successes forged in the fire of failures.
I want you to dream big and go make it happen.

As we dive headfirst into the digital age, I challenge you to do great things. And great things take effort.
Do not fail by lack of effort or by not daring to dream.
Believe in yourself.
Believe in your power.

I want you to discover new ways of farming and ranching.
I want you to discover new ways to teach kids.
I want you to bring new products to our everyday lives and new ways of creating art and stories.
I want you to teach us old folks how to use technology without allowing technology to use us.
We need you and we need your talents.

Every Graduation Needs a Mascot

My proposal for your graduation mascot is Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
Do you remember what Tigger is known for?
Bouncing.
As you turn the tassels today, take a lesson from Tigger and be bouncy!

You were bounced on someone’s knee as a baby.
You bounced off almost everything when you learned to walk and run.
You bounced around on the playground during recess.
You’ve been bounced on your rear end by schoolwork, sports, jobs, relationships, and personal trials.
But, you kept bouncing back and here you sit. Graduates.

Your bouncing days are not over. They’re just beginning.
Life will knock you for a loop over and over again.
Every time you get knocked down, bounce back up.
Sometimes our biggest victories in life are simply getting back up after a fall.
Keep bouncing!
Just like Tigger.

A Graduate Game Plan

Hard work is the magic.
It’s a simple truth.
Everything worth having is worth working for.
Family, career, hobbies—even that truck you can’t peel your eyes away from on the dealership lot—are all worth working for.
Put your signature on your every action.
Show up each and every day ready to do the work.
Attack life with purpose, pride, passion, and persistence.
Hard work is the magic.

Congratulations, Class of 2018!
Take advantage of “today” every day.
Live life to its fullest.
It’s the only one you’re given.

While bouncing along the Hundred Acre Wood, Tigger’s been known to sing,
“The wonderful thing about tiggers is tiggers are wonderful things.”
I say,
“The wonderful thing about Clay Center Tigers is Clay Center Tigers are wonderful things.”

Remember who you are.
Remember where you come from.
Remember where you’re going.
Never forget,
The most wonderful thing about YOU is that YOU are a wonderful thing.

Thank you and good luck!

Bonus! Every good story has a good story. This is what happened (well mostly what happened) the night I told my family at dinner about the invitation to be CCCHS’ graduation speaker.

Me: Mr. Young called today and said the senior class invited me to be their graduation speaker.
(Long dramatic pause while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)
Kid 1: What would you wear?
Me: What?
Kid 2: You know you can’t yell, right?
Me: I don’t yell. I get excited.
(Long dramatic pause #2 while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)
Kid 3: You can’t cuss, either.
Me: @#$%! I know that.
Wife: Are you going to do it?
Me: (Long dramatic pause while I roll on the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter.)
Whole Family: You mean to tell us you can look in those seniors’ eyes and tell them “no”.
Me: But there will be SO MANY people there. And it will be hot. And… And… And…
Wife: Well, are you going to do it?
Me: I told Mr. Young I’d think about it.
(Long dramatic pause #3 while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)

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Courage to Create

There are so many things one wants to tell young people. The well of advice from us older folks overflows and sometimes floods uncontrollably through and past the minds of our advice-targeted youth. I believe in the power of youth. I believe we can help them achieve great things if we have the discipline to allow them to grow into their potential.

I ran across this quote from Teddy Roosevelt this week in the Brain Pickings post, Theodore Roosevelt on the Cowardice of Cynicism and the Courage to Create Rather Than Criticize. 

The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat…

The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder.

This piece from President Roosevelt’s 1910 speech is timeless. It’s an important piece for both the young and the old. We need to strive to be the best we can be. We need to strive for greatness instead of limiting achievement with the ceiling of cynicism and status quo.

There is no glory in being the best by trouncing on heads of others.

TR may have said it best, “The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer.”

Stand out by standing up. Be a positive force. Dare to be great and then go be great!

Hard work is the magic.

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Generation S.O.B.

It’s the 2018 graduation season. Millions of people will be turning the tassels, walking across stages, admiring their diplomas, and then moving to the next stage in their lives. Congratulations! And good luck.

After the last card is opened and the final “Thank You” note is stamped for delivery, I have a challenge for you. Well, I have a challenge for more than just you graduates; I have a challenge for everyone from the college graduate down to the high school freshman.

You know how people love to put labels on generations of young people? There are the Baby Boomers,  The “Me” Generation, Generation X, Generation Y, and The Millenials, to name a few. While these labels tend to be used by the adults in power to identify, they also carry with them a negative connotation. The labels are often used to discount the power of a younger generation and brand them as just naive kids.

But there is power in youth. There is potential and energy and new ideas. What youth lacks is experience. That’s what we adults can provide. Check that, experience is what we adults must be there to provide. We adults have used our ideas and our energy to solve the problems of our time. Maybe we were successful on some fronts; maybe we weren’t so successful on others. A given in life, besides death and taxes, is that problems will always exist. Solve one and more pop up.

Look around at the state of things for the past decade. Are we adults solving problems? Or are we avoiding them? Do we have the ideas and the tools to solve the problems we face? Or are we throwing up our hands and walking away when our old ideas and tools fail?

That’s why I’m challenging the young people to step it up and face our problems head-on. The big problems can’t be solved through bickering and fighting and pointing fingers. The big problems are solved through multi-faceted solutions. Solutions built on discoveries. Discoveries that you are going to bring to the table.

I’m challenging you young people in college and high school to become Generation S.O.B. Generation Save Our Butts. (Okay, I stink at acronyms, but my only idea other was Generation Butt Savers…)

I’m challenging you to learn, to think, to communicate, and to dream. Train and discipline your individual talents. Use the incredible array of tools you have available. Work collectively to bring these individual talents together. Put the pieces in place to build a problem-solving force the likes this world has never seen. Use your potential and your energy. Glean experience from us older folks and from your own trials.

Generation S.O.B., I’m counting on you!

Dream big.

Demand better.

Let it rip!

Leave the world a better place.

Be Generation S.O.B.

Hard work is the magic.

 

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As if to meet the moon

I watched the rare blue super moon eclipse this morning from the front porch. It was crisp morning, but not the usual frigid Kansas January 31st morning. Nature has provided us a bounty of the celestial phenomenon this year as a reminder of how incredible our planet and our universe really are. Watching westward through the bare branches of our oak, just minutes before sunrise, this Robert Frost poem came to mind.

“We ran as if to meet the moon” Mercy, that’s a kickass, beautiful line.

 

Going for Water
By Robert Frost

The well was dry beside the door,
And so we went with pail and can
Across the fields behind the house
To seek the brook if still it ran;

Not loth to have excuse to go,
Because the autumn eve was fair
(Though chill), because the fields were ours,
And by the brook our woods were there.

We ran as if to meet the moon
That slowly dawned behind the trees,
The barren boughs without the leaves,
Without the birds, without the breeze.

But once within the wood, we paused
Like gnomes that hid us from the moon,
Ready to run to hiding new
With laughter when she found us soon.

Each laid on other a staying hand
To listen ere we dared to look,
And in the hush we joined to make
We heard, we knew we heard the brook.

A note as from a single place,
A slender tinkling fall that made
Now drops that floated on the pool
Like pearls, and now a silver blade.

 

The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, is seen in silhouette as it transits the moon at roughly five miles per second Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, Alexandria, Virginia. Onboard are; NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei, and Scott Tingle: Russian Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov, and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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Baseball at Night

Baseball at Night by Morris Kantor, 1934 (Photo credit: American Art Museum on Visualhunt.com/)

I ran across this painting while researching for a potential book about one of my favorite baseball players of all-time, Josh Gibson. I was hypnotized by it. I need to find out more about the painting and its creator, Morris Kantor.  But, for now, I’m sharing it here as a reminder that, despite the half-foot of snow and single-digit temperatures outside, baseball season is just around the corner.

Baseball…

Dream on, people!

 

 

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The Tokohama Ruse

In 1887, after a season of white baseball players increasingly refusing to play with or against black players, the “gentleman’s agreement” to implement a color line in professional baseball was approved. Cap Anson, one of the greatest players—and most outspoken bigots—of the era, receives much of blame for using his influence to force the issue. Truth be told, though, American professional baseball rosters were stacked with bigots who came from Southern and Northern upbringings. The ills of a society were again reflected in its sports.

In 1901, John McGraw of the newly formed Baltimore Orioles club of the brand new American League attempted to bring in a black player named Charlie Grant into the whites-only league in what has been coined, The Tokohama Ruse. The Tokohama Ruse has so much wrong with it. Blatant racist actions by all parties.

Fueled by a desire to win and compete in the fledgling league, John McGraw’s new Baltimore Orioles team was desperate to bring in talent. This original version of the O’s was short-lived as they went bankrupt after the 1902 season and the modern version of the O’s would not be established until 1954 when the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore. During their training camp in Hot Spring, Arkansas, McGraw ran across an extremely talented infielder who he wanted to sign.

The problem was the player McGraw had set his sights on was a light-complexioned black baseball player named, Charlie Grant. Grant was a talented infielder with the Negro League Columbia Giants playing out of Chicago. In order to make financial ends meet during the offseason, he was working at a resort in Hot Springs. Grant and some of the other player/employees of the resort formed a baseball squad whose main purpose was to provide a sports entertainment option for the guests.

McGraw saw Grant play and wanted to sign him. He knew none of the other owners would allow him to bring in a black player, so he came up with one of the more blatant racist moves in sports history. Light skinned Charlie Grant was now Chief Charlie Tokohama, a Cherokee who was the son of a white father and a Cherokee mother from Lawrence, Kansas. McGraw developed the elaborate backstory and chose the name from a map of Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in the hotel which had a creek named Tokohoma Creek.

To make matters worse, McGraw painted Grant with warpaint and had him wear a feathered headdress on the field. Chief Tokohama played right along with the deception, probably for the chance at making some decent money playing at the highest level of his sport. It was reported he performed well in practice and on the road for the exhibition season, where fans lined up to see the spectacle of the “Chief”.

Before the Orioles made it back to Baltimore to open the season, though, cracks developed in the Chief Tokohoma scam. Charlie Cominsky, the owner of the Chicago White Sox, was the first to speak out as he revealed Charlie Grant as the true identity of Tokohama. John McGraw and Grant continued to publicly deny the allegations and stuck with their original story.

Cominsky’s reply?

“I’m not going to stand for McGraw bringing in an Indian on the Baltimore team,” he said. “If ‘Muggsy’ [McGraw’s nickname] really keeps this Indian, I will get a Chinaman of my acquaintance and put him on third. Somebody told me that the Cherokee of McGraw’s is really Grant, the crack Negro second baseman from Cincinnati, fixed up with war paint and a bunch of feathers.”

Nice political correctness, fellas.

Well, anyway, the truth breaks and McGraw quietly let go of Grant before the season started, saying the young Indian player was too inexperienced, especially on defense. Grant returned to Chicago where he continued to play baseball in the Negro Leagues. After 15 seasons, he returned to his hometown of Cincinnati and worked as a janitor. In 1932, Charlie Grant was killed when a car lost control after blowing a tire, jumped the curb, and hit him as he sat in a chair on the sidewalk.

With all the wrongs of the Chief Tokohama ruse, one does wonder what would have happened if it would have worked long enough for Charlie Grant, not Chief Tokohama, to show he could play alongside white professional baseball players. I doubt nothing.

The institutional bigotry was too ingrained for it to succeed until Jackie Robinson received his chance from Branch Rickey to become the first black player to break the color line. Or was he? In a future post, we’ll look into the Washington Senators, who in the pre-Jackie Robinson era employed several Cuban players, who may have actually been the first black players to break the barrier.

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The Importance of the Little “Lies”

I’d like to thank Mrs. Lane, Mrs. Murphy, and the freshman and junior English classes at Clay Center Community High School for the opportunity to speak about story structure and the power of story. It was an absolutely fabulous experience for me, and, hopefully, also a positive experience for the students.

The day reminded the 53-year-old grumpy, old man in me how awesome our young people are. It reminded me to have confidence in the future. It reminded me that these students will be fully capable of cleaning up the mess my generation is leaving them. I challenged them to keep their natural BS meters sharp by reading and thinking and attacking problems. I pleaded with them not to lose this skill as they grow and mature. A well-honed BS meter will be an essential skill as they learn to live with the portal to access all of humanity’s information that they carry in their pocket.

Parents and school administrators, be proud of your students! Their potential shines and I can’t wait to see them mature and grow into the people they dream to be.

Below is an excerpt from HOGFATHER by Terry Pratchett (one of my favorite books and movies) I’d like to share with the students as repayment for being so warmly welcomed into their world for a day.

HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN

The Hogfather nodded at Death, as one craftsman to another, and then at Susan. She wasn’t sure if she was being thanked—it was more of a gesture of recognition, of acknowledgment that something that had needed doing had actually be done. But it felt like thanks.

Then he shook the reins and clicked his teeth and the sleigh slid away.

They watched it go.

“I remember hearing,” said Susan distantly. “That the idea of the Hogfather wearing a red and white outfit was invented quite recently.”

NO. IT WAS REMEMBERED.

Now the Hogfather was a red dot on the other side of the valley.

“Well, that about wraps it up for this dress,” said Susan,. “I’d just like to ask, just out of academic interest…you were sure I was going to survive, were you?”

I WAS QUITE CONFIDENT.

“Oh, good.”

I WILL GIVE YOU A LIFT BACK, said Death, after a while.

“Thank you. Now…tell me…”

WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HADN’T SAVED HIM?

“Yes! The sun would have risen just the same, yes?”

NO.

“Oh, come on. You can’t expect me to believe that. It’s an astronomical fact.”

THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.

She turned on him.

“It’s been a long night, Grandfather! I’m tired and I need a bath. I don’t need silliness!”

THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.

“Really? Then what would have happened, pray?”

A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD.

The walked in silence for a moment.

“Ah,” said Susan dully. “Tickery with words. I would have thought you’d have been more literal-minded than that.”

I AM NOTHING IF NOT LITERAL-MINDED. TRICKERY WITH WORDS IS WHERE HUMANS LIVE.

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need…fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET— Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.

She tried to assemble her thoughts.

THERE IS A PLACE WHERE THE GALAXIES HAVE BEEN COLLIDING FOR A MILLION YEARS, said Death, apropos of nothing. DON’T TRY TO TELL ME THAT’S RIGHT.

“Yes, but people don’t think about that,” said Susan. “Somewhere there was a bed…”

CORRECT. STARS EXPLODE, WORLDS COLLIDE, THERE’S HARDLY ANYWHERE WHERE HUMANS CAN LIVE WITHOUT BEING FROZEN OR FRIED, AND YET YOU BELIEVE THAT A…BED IS A NORMAL THING. IT IS THE MOST AMAZING TALENT.

“Talent?”

OH, YES. A VERY SPECIAL KIND OF STUPIDITY. YOU THINK THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IS INSIDE YOUR HEADS.

“You make us sound mad,” said Susan. A nice warm bed…

NO. YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN’T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME

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