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 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.
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.
Listen to Dad here – Entire Album, 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 go wrong. There’s always room at the top.”
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.
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!
You see, 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.
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!
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 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.
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 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!!!!