Principal: Happiness is a direction, not a place

In General

In his 2015 commencement speech, Jack Ham, Principal of Simon Youth Academy at Port Charlotte Town Center in Florida, asks students to do more than pursue their goals and dreams, but to pursue happiness. The text of his remarks is below.

Before I go into my speech I need to thank many valuable people. I would like to first thank The Academy students, staff, district leaders, and family members for making my first year as principal so magical.

Now, to the graduates. Congratulations graduates for completing a major milestone in your life that no one can ever take away from you. YOU earned your diploma and you deserve it! Graduating from high school is a rite of passage, a stepping stone into the adult life.

So, what’s next? College, Charlotte Technical Center, Military, or the workforce? I hope it’s one of those four options and not the fifth option which is living in your parent’s house until your 40 eating cereal, playing video games, and getting lost in social media.

I don’t want to put pressure on you, because you will find your way, and it will take some time. You will go through several life transitions, different jobs, and possibly various careers before you finally find your true calling.

The key is that you must be persistent and determined to be successful. Whatever you may choose, I wish you all the success possible. Always remember that you have a caring and loving staff at The Academy who will be there if you need support, guidance, or just hug.

My advice to you is short, sweet, and to the point: Pursue your happiness.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? When asked what one wants out of life, most respond with the statement, “I just want to be happy.” Easier said than done.

What is happiness? Many would say that having plenty of money, achieving social status, or owning many materialistic items will bring them happiness. Deep down all of us know this is found not be true.

This is evident when my wife makes me painstakingly watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians. They seem to have money, status, and the finest things money can buy, but are they happy? No, they are a train wreck.

This show and many others give young Americans a false perception of what happiness truly means. The happiness that I am discussing is long term. The happiness that will get you through your most trying times.

I personally cannot tell exactly what will bring you happiness. What I can say is that your achievement of receiving a high school diploma today brings everyone in here happiness.  

I can tell you that waking up each day to go to a job that you love will bring you happiness. I can tell you that the day you find your true love and best friend will bring you happiness. I can tell you the day you’re watching your favorite sports team win a championship will bring you happiness (Go Irish).

How about when you are driving in heavy traffic and make every green light? Sweet. What a great sense of happiness when you are the one who found the last three cookies in the cookie jar.

What am I getting at? I am referring to the simple things in life that make us happy. Keep life simple. Surround yourself with others who are in the pursuit of true happiness and you will find it.

Don’t mistake me, it will not be an easy journey. What eases my concerns is that through your choice of attending The Academy and finishing gives me a great indication that you will fight until you find your happiness.

Sydney Harris said, “Happiness is a direction, not a place.”

Are you headed in the right direction?

You are a great class. I wish you all the best!

I love you guys!

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