Gorman School

“You Can Do ANYTHING!”

I was given the opportunity to present the Commencement Speech for the SEVEN graduating 8th Graders at Gorman School, the smallest school district in Los Angeles County. In fact my own daughters attended this tiny yet effective school many years ago.

The speech centers around my Dad’s philosophy in life. He lived it. And he wanted us all to know that we could live it, too. He’d give a little laugh and say: “You can do ANYTHING!”

Went online and found some AWESOME recordings of DAD’s music! (Links below.) Very emotional to hear – takes me straight back to a simpler time . . .

The 8th Graders seemed to enjoy this. I hope you do, too!

Gorman 2013 8th Grade Grads

Gorman School Commencement Speech 

By Dawn Jenkins, Lady Farrier

8th Grade Graduation
June 6, 2013

Congratulations – you’ve studied, worked hard – and now you’re OUT OF HERE!

You’re moving on to the next four years of High School – and that’s an exciting place to be.

My girls attended Gorman School when they were young, and I have lots of fond memories here. Like the Halloween we brought our little white pony dressed up as a Unicorn with a cardboard horn. And my daughter, Ella, on this very stage reciting Shell Silverstein’s poem “My Beard” in 2nd Grade.

Gorman Hopscotch

I want to share with you a few things that I’ve learned in life that I hope will help you on your journey. About the good in life, and about the bad.

I had an extraordinary family – a loving Mom and a Bigger than Life Dad. You could say he was a Disneyland Dad – because my Dad worked at Disneyland! He was hired by Walt Disney, himself.

My Dad was the Disneyland Bandleader! He stood on the Bandstand at the end of Main Street and made Big Band music that filled the nighttime hours at the Park. (Dad always referred to Disneyland as “the Park”.)

Twinkling lights, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, the smell of popcorn and sound of Dad’s music still permeate my childhood dreams.

[For more Disneyland memories, read my post It’s OK to Scream!]

My Dad (foreground, Saxophone) and my Uncle Lloyd (Trombone ) on the Carnation Plaza Gardens Bandstand at Disneyland

My Dad (foreground, saxophone) and my Uncle Lloyd (trombone) at the Carnation Plaza Gardens Bandstand at Disneyland (mid-50s). The Elliott Brothers Orchestra (also called The Disneyland Date-Niters)


Listen to Dad’s music here – Date Night At Disneyland, The Elliott Brothers Orchestra


I didn’t see much of my Dad growing up – he worked two jobs and was rarely home.

Dad worked Disneyland at night, and played music (saxophone and clarinet) for movies and TV during the day – Batman, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, South Pacific, Dick Van Dyke Show. Stuff from the ’50s and ’60s at 20th Century Fox.

It was a DREAM JOB. And my Dad believed in LIVING YOUR DREAM! Finding your PASSION IN LIFE and GOING FOR IT!

Dad had a philosophy:  He’d say: “Just be the BEST at what you do and you can’t help but make good. There’s always room at the top.”

That's Dad, Bill Elliott (Ulyate) next to Walt Disney, Uncle Lloyd, also in white coat, with Music Greats (Les Brown)

That’s Dad, Bill Ulyate (stage name, Elliott) next to Walt Disney. Uncle Lloyd Ulyate, also in white coat, with Music Greats (Les Brown)


Cousin Holly, Lloyd’s daughter, tells her story at Daveland website  pictures



And Dad lived his philosophy. He worked both jobs which enabled him to make more money. I grew up in a house on the Beach in Malibu – with the sand and waves and sea crashing outside my back door! Sea gulls squawking. Pelicans diving for fish. The smell of salt air . . .

Dad loved music. He loved the ocean. And Dad loved to fly.

Grandfather had been a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Service, WWI, and Dad saw his old photographs as a kid, and always dreamed he’d, too, learn to fly.

Dad got his flight training through the GI Bill after he got out of the Army, after WWII.

He bought his own airplane, which he flew every evening to get to Disneyland for work. He’d fly over the traffic from Santa Monica to the airport at Fullerton. There he kept a “band truck” and drove ten minutes to get to the Park.

Bill Elliott - 1963 News Article

I loved flying in the plane with Dad – and I dreamed someday that I, too, would learn to fly.

It’s starting to sound like we were all spoiled. But we weren’t.

Dad didn’t grow up rich. His parents were immigrants who worked hard. And they taught their boys to work hard, just like you’ve worked hard here at Gorman School.

But Dad learned how to make the most out of life, and that’s what I want to share with you.

Dad had a saying – he’d pat me on the back and say:  “That a girl, honey, you can do anything!

How awesome is that, to have your Dad say that to you.

But let me ask you, how many of you think that I actually believed him?

I DIDN’T! I didn’t believe him at all.

But Dad believed! He believed it for me, because he believed it for him. He worked hard, and became the best at what he did. He learned that he could do ANYTHING that he wanted badly enough.

And he wanted me to know that I could do anything I really wanted. That I, like him, could live my dream.


Watch Dad here –The Elliott Brothers Orchestra with the YOUNG Osmond Brothers



But then our lives changed, quite literally, overnight. Dad died one night of a heart attack when I was just 16.

For the next ten years, basically, I floundered. I graduated high school, dropped out of University, moved out of state, took odd jobs waitressing, as a maid, even milking cows on a dairy farm for a couple years. I finally went back to school and got my two-year Community College AA Degree, which was fabulous. But I still didn’t know what I wanted to do.

You see, when you don’t know what you want from life, you flounder.

Then one day, at age 26 – ten years after Dad died – I decided I’d had enough. I moved back to California, back to the beach – this time, near San Diego. I drove to the airport – and I looked into flying lessons.

And then I did one of the most frightening, challenging, amazing things of my life. I signed up for lessons and I learned how to fly!

Now, flying isn’t so hard, but LANDING is! And the navigational skills involved in flight required MATH – which I’ve never been good at.

But I studied! Really hard! Because I REALLY wanted this. I applied myself.

And in three months I got my pilots license! (A BIG accomplishment!!!)

After that I started my own fashion business – and in the next two years I got a full-blown hands-on business education.

I hired employees, manufactured silk flower hair accessories, and sold my products nationwide to 400 retail accounts. I hired an attorney, applied for a US Design Patent and Federal Trademark Registration.

And the best part, I got to fly my rented airplane 300 flight hours all over Southern California. Over the snowy mountains here in Gorman, over the emerald coves off Laguna Beach, over the rolling grasslands of Santa Ynez and San Luis Obispo.

You see, it took me ten years, but I discovered that DAD was RIGHT! I CAN do ANYTHING – as long as I apply myself – as long as it’s something I REALLY WANT TO DO.

My life changed when I followed my passion and learned how to fly. It forced me to stretch myself. And I realized that I’m capable. I’m a human, and I can learn ANYTHING that a human can learn how to do.

So you know what that means? I’m looking around – you guys are human. And you are capable! You can learn ANYTHING that a human can do!

If you know what your passion is – if you can envision what you want, you can achieve it!


That's me with my Breyer plastic horses in Grandfather's back yard

That’s me with my Breyer plastic horses in Grandfather’s back yard

Now I ALWAYS wanted to work with horses. I begged for a horse ever since I was a little kid. Dad picked up on this and got me my first horse when I was 13. So years later when I got a horse that had to have special horseshoes – done JUST SO – to keep him sound and moving well, I decided to learn how to shoe him myself!

My Uncle Ink was a farrier. Who knows what a farrier is? It’s a person who nails the shoes onto horses’ hooves.

Honest to goodness, if I hadn’t learned to fly an airplane, if I hadn’t realized that I’m capable, and that I can learn whatever a human can learn how to do, I would NEVER have learned how to NAIL SHOES onto my horse’s hooves!!!

But because I needed to, because I WANTED to, I learned how to shoe my horse from my Uncle. (I then went on to a more formal and complete education.)

And you know what I do for work now? Who wants to guess?

I’m a farrier. I nail shoes on horses’ hooves.

But the coolest part about what I do – remember I always loved flying, always loved the ocean.

I work in Hawaii every six weeks – HAWAII! I fly there on a big jet out of Los Angeles International Airport, and I stay for two solid weeks shoeing horses in Paradise! How cool is that!!! And I’ve been traveling there, shoeing horses, for the last ten years.

I’d call that a Dream Job, wouldn’t you!

I discovered my Dream Job. And you can too.


As you go on to High School, be looking, searching for your passion in life! Search for what it is that you LOVE to do.

And don’t wait. Don’t flounder like I did. Find your passion and pursue it. There are so many ways.

When considering College and Career, and University – consider learning a Trade – and you can start learning in high school.

Horseshoeing is a trade. I wish I had realized this option sooner. Talk with your high school counselor – go online – see what’s available. Take advantage of all that you can in the next four years.

Many potential skills and vocations await you. Woodworking, welding, glass-blowing, sculpture.  Fire science, electrical, agriculture, computer tech. Skin, hair, make up, culinary. The list is endless.

And don’t forget the film industry. We’re really close to LA. And so many exciting skilled crafts are associated with the film industry.

Also Community College is a fantastic education.

Years ago, my brother went to Community College to learn how to become a Recording Engineer. Today he has his own studio in Topanga. He works with Rock Legend Tom Petty. And he’s actually recorded Paul, George and Ringo – ever heard of the Beatles?

Dream Big! Pursue your passion!

And don’t waste time floundering. Don’t worry about your future. If you can’t find the job you want, create your own job. You can start your own business, like I did.

Remember, you are a human. And if a human can do it, YOU can do it.

You can do ANYTHING!


Now, I have a couple things I want to give you.

I’m going to give each one of you a bell. A Graduation Bell!

One of the ways I deal with the challenges of life, I have a bell collection. And when something REALLY GOOD happens, I RING MY BELL.

I figure too much attention is paid to the BAD STUFF. We humans tend to focus on the bad and overlook the good that surrounds us most of the time.

So I like to give special recognition to all the GOOD STUFF in life!

Whenever something good happens, I ring my bell!!! (You can even light a rubber duck :))

Ringing a bell makes life fun. It keeps life exciting.

It helps get you through the bad stuff that happens.


Next, I’ve gotten each one of you a notebook. This is for exploring your thoughts, feelings, goals, passions, and desires in life. Think of it as a wish-list of what you’d like your life to be.

Get creative! If you don’t like to write, you can draw. You can RAP. You can scrapbook.

But use this little book to gather up your thoughts and create a vision of what you’d like from life.

I did an exercise like this that summer after Dad died, while at Church Camp in Colorado. They called it Alone with Your Thoughts, and they gave us each a notebook.

They instructed us to go outdoors, somewhere by ourselves, without anyone else around us. We were to write – we were to be very real with ourselves.

I walked outside, away from the buildings. Down the slope to the open meadow, surrounded by pine trees. I looked out to Nature, to the big valley below and the distant Rocky Mountain peaks beyond.

At first I didn’t know what to write. But then, after a while, the words began flowing.

I realized that I wanted to live my life in Nature. With trees and sky and fields rather than cities and suburbs. I wanted to hear the wind in the pines, not the cars on the freeway.

I realized that I needed to hike and horseback ride and keep my life as ‘outdoors’ as possible.

And I believe that without setting those guidelines, I might not have achieved the marvelous life I live now. I might have compromised and settled for less than what my soul yearned for.

And that’s what’s so wonderful about being up here in the Mountain Communities. We have so much Nature around us. I live in Pinon Pines and I ride my horses in the vast Los Padres Forest. It’s AWESOME!

So use this book.

Take some time, sooner rather than later, and reflect on your life and where you want it to take you. Dig within to find your passion, and write it down. Keep it with you. You can add to this book and use it throughout the weeks and years to guide you.

Because you truly can do whatever you really want. You truly can live your Dream.


My Dad was right. Even though I didn’t believe him at the time.

Turns out, I’m human. And if a human can learn to do it, I can learn to do it. I just have to want it badly enough.

Everything has worked out beautifully in my life. Just as it shall in yours.

I look for the good in life. I ring my bell. I light my duck. And I celebrate :))


So, you’re graduating from Gorman School tonight!

This is it! Probably not the last time you’ll come on this campus, but definitely the last time as a student at this school.


Now everybody – grab hold of your bell – and we’re all going to give them a good SHAKE!!!!

Mariachi Legs and Feet


Mariachi Band, Gorman School Graduation Party 2013

Mariachi Band, Gorman School Graduation Party 2013

Mariachi Soulful Trumpet

Dad would have LOVED these guys!

Dad would have LOVED these guys!

Graduation Party -- hot dogs and soda!

Graduation Party — hot dogs and soda!


Like what you’ve read here? Visit Dawn’s sister blog: Soul Horse Ride

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Copyright 2013

39 thoughts on ““You Can Do ANYTHING!”

  1. Graham Heneghan

    Inspirational Commencement Speech! Words full of passion and celebration, experience, history, life and love. Well said Dawn.


    1. DawnSeeker Post author

      Thank you for taking the time to read — and for your kind words. Putting the stuff together about Dad was awesome, because all I have is a beat up old cassette tape of the Disneyland Album. Now I can truly listen in High Fidelity! 🙂

      Hearing the music takes me straight back to my childhood . . .


  2. Beverly Boyles

    Beautiful speech Dawn…the graduates were so very lucky to have you as the speaker…but I feel so very personally lucky as you touched so many memory places for me…I grew up in Anaheim before Disneyland (the Park) and graduated high school (AUHS) in 1955….the year the Park opened…my whole family worked there and we have always only called it the Park…my mother just as your father was an original employee and knew Walt Disney…and I remember the Disneyland band playing for me and my friends when we rode the carousel…also have so many memories of Fullerton airport…your father instilled so many great values in you and the Gorman School graduates have benefitted from those values…


    1. DawnSeeker Post author

      WOW! Thanks so much for writing! There’s a whole nostalgia attached to those days — like a moral code that Walt himself instilled. It truly was special. It was like all the employees were somehow Walt’s “kids” and they all wanted to make “Dad” proud. And they did.

      I remember many times seeing Walt stop by at one of the big round tables marked RESERVED at the back side of the bandstand. We kids were mute around him — in silent awe. He’d sit and listen for maybe ten minutes, and then move on. Just checking in on things, and also enjoying the show.

      Go read my cousin Holly’s account at Daveland. You’ll love that, too.


  3. Richard Ulyate

    Really inspiring speech. Dawn. Our live have Ups and Downs and it’s how we deal with these that make us the people we are. I remember so many of the things you mentioned (including my fantasy flight to Disneyland with you Dad). Well I’m sure your revved up the graduates with these thoughts and observations. Thanks from Everyone!

    Cousin Richard


    1. DawnSeeker Post author

      Thanks Rich! Great memories, eh? How neat you got to FLY with him! The BEST part of going to work with Dad. 🙂 (And that’s saying a lot!!! All of it was so much fun!)


  4. Tina schell

    Terrific post Dawn-so glad you found me so I could find you! What an interesting life you’ve led and how terrific of you to pass it on to the younger generation. Giving them the small, tangible gifts was a stroke of genius and at least some of them will surely follow your advice and be inspired by you. Great job! (And your dad sounds terrific. Mine was the same way, and I credit him for much of my own success)


    1. DawnSeeker Post author

      Thanks, Tina. I appreciate your beautiful words. 🙂

      Love your photos! I travel with my work between California and Hawaii. It’s amazing how much wonder and beauty and extraordinary goodness surrounds us so much of the time! And aren’t we fortunate to have the spectacular, high-tech ‘apparatus’ available, at our hip, to capture it all! Our pioneering relatives would be green . . .

      Glad you had a great dad, too. A giant boost in life, to begin with!

      Please check out my horse blog — I think you’ll like it, too. http://soulhorseride.wordpress.com/


  5. booklovinggrandma

    Great speech. Even though I’m a big older than the graduates in your audience, the topic gives me something to think about: since one of my school librarian positions was eliminated (sad on so many levels), I’m now wondering what this 60-year-old can do. Thank you for liking my blog.


    1. DawnSeeker Post author

      The most wonderful thing about adversity in life, about abrupt changes, is that there truly is something new, even better, tucked inside it. We just cannot see it at the time.

      My best remedy for this is to thank God for all things, the good and the bad (bursting to write a post on this and how it’s worked in my life). God’s never failed me! By staying tuned in love and thanks, the negative circumstances pass, and blossom into something I couldn’t have predicted.

      I have a client in Hawaii who tutors private school kids. That’s how she makes her entire living. Doors are opening to you. Be willing to walk through.

      And look for the joy in your new circumstance. Joy works as an attractant for all things good!

      Keep me posted. I’m also available for “entrepreneurial counseling” (have done this for years, long before the term “life coach” ever came about) 🙂


    1. DawnSeeker Post author

      Just read your Dad story. Very moving. But somehow they live right on through us. They find wonderful ways to tap us on the shoulder, show us a rainbow or some other sign that they love us and are still here.

      (Mom shows up in a rainbow, Dad, an airplane, or something musical. And then there are always the numbers, repeated numbers making patterns on digital clocks, gas receipts and such, that tell me all is well!)

      What a journey, this short span on Earth. A rich journey — with all her joys, pains and sorrows. A miracle, really, that so many of us have made it at all.


      1. Mary Gilmartin

        Thanks for reading and commenting. Life is a wonderful journey and living a joy, a blessing. Live life, don’t waste it and “You can do ANYTHING” because finding out what makes you happy is the key to success.


    1. DawnSeeker Post author

      Thanks so much! It was a great privilege — you should try your hand at writing one. Then, you’ll be ready when someone asks . . . 🙂

      btw I work in Hawaii — your daughter has a beautiful Hawaiian name. Are you from Hawaii?


  6. lmaclang

    Thanks for following my blog. Yes, I absolutely agree with you that life is a rich journey of joys, pains, and sorrows. It has a lot of miracles, too, when we start becoming like one to people around us.


  7. The English Professor at Large

    Your speech resonates with me in many ways, especially the horses, the outdoors, and the returning to college at a later stage. It is an honest, inspiring speech from one who has a beautiful family background and a lot of experience in finding one’s way in this world. Thank you.


    1. DawnSeeker Post author

      Thanks so much — glad you found it inspiring. It’s a powerful thing to review our roots and remember how we got to where we are today. We all make choices and take action, not always knowing where it will lead us. So it’s a good thing to reflect.


  8. dalo2013

    Just a fantastic story & speech. Inspirational for kids entering high school, entering the real world after college, entering middle-age…and beyond. Love the philosophy of your father, and while heart-breaking to have him leave your life when you were 16, you have definitely carried him with you. Time to ring that bell again for your great life, I like this idea.


    1. DawnSeeker Post author

      Thanks, Dalo. And I am celebrating my life right now, another birthday coming up — having lived more than a decade beyond Dad. I think the BIG QUESTION we all have: Will my life actually work out? Will it all go well?

      I’m happy to report: It actually does! HANG IN THERE with what goodness you believe in; work your Strategies in life; make the best decisions you can along the way — and, you betcha! It all works out! (phew!!)

      There’s always a Silver Lining beyond every mishap. We fall down, get back up, dust ourselves off — and learn from the venture. We add the needed corrections to our lifestyle, to our behavior . . . And we find ourselves blessed beyond measure — living here, on this beautiful planet, Earth, that we get to call home!


    1. DawnSeeker Post author

      Thank you Martha!!! These are the strategies I’ve been working with, and so far they’ve really helped. If we have a plan in place, we can go there, instead of into panic, when life’s crisis happen. Thanks for checking it out!


  9. JF

    Reblogged this on closetoeighty and commented:
    I don’t remember when we found each other’s blogs but I do remember that we started to communicate with DawnSeeker very often and she gave me many links to wonderful blogs. Today I found her very interesting comment to my yesterday’s post “Under influence of rain”. We exchanged some thoughts and I mentioned that she is a very good writer. Then I received from DawnSeeker a link to this post.
    After reading it I decided to reblog the post. It is a long post but I recommend to read it slowly and thoughtfully from the beginning to the end.


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  16. Michael Pelizza

    Thank you for forwarding it. Hearing stories of people who love what they do makes me really happy. It kind of excites me.

    I relate to this a lot: my dad, the floundering aimlessly, and finding a passion and going for it. I was feeling you while reading it!!

    Please don’t hesitate to forward more of these!



    Liked by 1 person


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