Mark Twain was a man who knew a little bit about taking risks. He left his sleepy little hometown as a young man -- about the age of you graduates, and took to the river that flowed beside Hannibal, Missouri. He became a master riverboat pilot. Then he headed West, failing in his quest to earn riches mining for gold.
He turned to journalism, finding success with his travelogues and humorous pieces. He was acclaimed as a public speaker. He was terrible with money, going into bankruptcy. He knew what he didn't know, got assistance in managing his finances, and paid all his creditors back in full.
He was born during a visit by Halley's Comet, and died upon its return.
He left us with some of the greatest pieces of American literature -- Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
Graduates, listen to the sage of the Mississippi. He knew how to live a life.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream."
You've finished one phase of your life. You are about to graduate from high school. You're ready to take off those training wheels and ride on two wheels. You are, according to the law and your own anxious hopes -- adults.
Adults, but adults without the limitations we older adults often place on ourselves. We've got mortgages, careers, children to put through college and retirements to plan. You? Well, you're footloose and free. It's a perfect time to take a chance, take a risk, and see just how big the world is.
Sure, it's easy for me to tell you young people to cut those apron strings and explore the world. After all, my only child is a year from this big day. Ask me again next year how far I want my son to wander.
It's not really about geography, however. It's about mental freedom.
Doing what's expected, if it's not what you dream of, can lead to a life of disappointment and frustration. That's what Twain is talking about. Risks don't have to involve international intrigue to be frightening, and freeing.
The goal of your parents is to raise a respectful, caring, contributing member of society. They've done their duty, got you this far despite yourself. Now it's time for you to do yours.
You're going to fall. You're going to fail. Disappointment will find you.
But, you'll find, if you stretch, that you can do more than you've ever dreamed.
So, push off from shore.
All the best as you begin your adventure.