A few months ago I was asked by my old highschool if I would like to come back and give the Commencement Speech. After the intial 'Public Speaking, No Way', I thought about it and realized how this is one of those moments in your life that you have to do. So gathering up my courage, I hopped on a plane back to Hammond, Indiana (or as the locals call it 'The Region')
Speaking to students that are taking their 1st steps into adulthood was not something I took lightly. Why was I asked to give advice on such a important day in these young people's lives? I guess it's cause I achieved my dream - but what does it take to achieve a dream. Then it came to me.
17 years and 3 days ago I was standing on that very stage recieving my highschool diploma. I had no money, no clout, no connections, no plans for college, and was a C student at best. But I had something much more powerful then any of that - Drive. It turned every NO into WORK HARDER. And thats what I did. I worked like my life depended on it.
It really was a dream being back there. I got to walk those old halls w my now soon-to-be 16 year old daughter, show her where I asked her mother out on date for the very 1st time. I was asked to go to the principal's office, but not because I was in trouble but to shake hands. Watch the biggest smile I have ever seen on my father's face when the assistant principal announced 'He may be a Hollywood big shot, but he will always be a Region Rat!' The crowd applauded 3 times during my speech and I actually got a standing ovation!
I was really nervous the weeks leading up to this event until a friend gave me some really good advice - Enjoy This! I wrote those words on top of my speech w a thick black sharpie. He was right, I enjoyed every moment of it. Its one of those life moments that I will always look back on and smile.
Thank you Unter for such good advice and Thank you Karen, my wife. I couldn't have done it w/o your amazing words.
Seconds before giving the speech to 500+ people
In my Harry Potter robe standing in front of the movie posters I send back every year
Ladies and Gentlemen, the class of 2010!
My old locker (trying to remember my lock combination)
Wildcat Pride fills the halls after graduation
My old art table!! I can't believe its still there!
One of the proudest moments, Buzz on a Chicago Bus!!
Many late nights taking that bus home after working on my demo reel in hopes of getting a job one day at Pixar.