Monday, June 29, 2015

2015's Alumni Commencement Speech

Davis Academy alum, Jordan Edelstein, shared the following remarks at The Davis Academy's 2015 commencement. His words, sincerely spoken, deeply resonated with the graduates and all in attendance.

Good Evening Graduating Class of 2015!

Tonight I want to talk to you about two extremely important things, Community…and Instagram. Yes friends, tonight we’re going to explore why these two seemingly incongruous platforms are truly interconnected and will guide you on your journey forward as it surely will never stop. After this speech, you’ll physically move on from this building, but by no means are you leaving this community behind. Soon you’ll face a series of choices that will help carve your path to adulthood and believe it or not, the decisions you make, the gut feeling you rely on….everything comes back to what you’ve learned here at The Davis Academy.

The following is based on a presentation I gave a few short weeks ago to the heads of Global Media Alliances, Development and Social Media Marketing at American Express.

So, let’s talk about the “5 Rules to ‘Gram By.”

Rule #1 - Don’t Make it All About You
          Instagram is place where we all go to document and share our lives, to discover and be inspired, but what are we really doing? We’re showing the most exciting, current and trendy experiences all with the hopes of getting those highly coveted likes. Right? But who’s going to actually “like” your Instagrams? Your friends. Your friend’s friends. And everyone else searching the hashtags you carefully chose to capture that perfect #TBT or #ManCrushMonday. So in truth, Instagram is about everyone else. It’s how you make everyone else feel. Think about this as you enter the wild world of high school, the vast landscape of college and eventually the endless plain of real life. Remember, we all learned at Davis that we’re responsible for much more than just ourselves; a lesson we learned through our mitzvah projects and leadership roles on our athletic teams. We must care for others and always strive to make wherever we go better than when we arrived. Because a selfish attitude will get you nowhere, but collaboration, teamwork, humility and empathy will unlock endless opportunities.

Rules #2 & #3 – Push The Limits & Be Fearless
          This may seem a little extreme in the case of Instagram, but consider this. Why would someone follow you if you just posted the same things as everyone else? Maybe throw in a hyperlapse to catch someone’s attention or picstitch together the funny things from last weekend. Those are some quick ways to stand out. But let’s think about this beyond the walls of Insta. Soon, you won’t have everything meticulously scheduled and planned for you. As you enter high school, freedom begins to creep and with that comes your opportunity to take control of your life. Trust me, you’ll have an easy time going through the motions, taking the normal set of classes, and mindlessly moving through the next four years. But why would you want to do that? Take classes that fall outside of your comfort zone. Try out for the team you think you’ll never make. Join a club that interests YOU or even better, start a new club! Take calculated risks, push yourself, put yourself out there, don’t balk at challenges but stare them down and confidently take your first steps.

Rule #4 – Make a Great First Impression
          Now, I’m going to bore you for a few moments with some facts. But did you know that with Facebook’s auto-play video, you have a 3 second audition to grab someone’s attention before they scroll past?  With Instagram, you only have 9-images and a few short seconds to convince someone to follow you once they click on your handle. With life, you have 1 first impression to permanently represent yourself. The first impact you make matters and it’s lasting. I remember meeting Roy, the Israeli exchange student who stayed with my family, for the first time back in 8th grade. Instantly we showed mutual respect and kindness, and to this day we stay in touch. In fact, both my brother and I will see him during our trips to Israel next week. However, not all first impressions will go smoothly. In fact, you’re going to make mistakes... and that’s OK. So if you do blunder your first impression, don’t fret. Just pivot. Sure it will take some work, but hard work will pay off. Soon you’ll meet all sorts of people who will help you on your path to college and beyond. Take the time to give a firm handshake, to look someone in the eye and connect. You never know who will become a future friend, co-worker or employer, so it’s crucial to always be genuine when meeting a new person.

Rule #5 – Choose Your Friends Wisely
          Social media allows you the power to choose who you follow and who follows you. This curation of friends allows you to build your brand digitally. However, this crucial power seamlessly translates beyond digital to how you’ll build your brand in real life. Until now, you’ve fortunately been incubated in a wonderful environment filled with brilliant minds and kind people, but as you grow, so does the opportunity to stray. You might be thinking that no matter who you hang out with, you still know that you’re you and everyone will see you as you see yourself. This is wrong. By human nature, we judge. We judge everything. From how delicious that fancy dessert looks racking up hundreds of likes as we speak, to how athletic you must be because you hang out with all the soccer players. Right now you’re part of an unbelievable community, a Kehillah. The Davis class you’re part of plus all of the past graduates and future graduates to come -- all of us stand for the same values: Community, Respect, Spirit, Wisdom and Righteousness. Never let these fade. Even now 11 years after graduation I’m still close with many of my fellow classmates and if I don’t seem them regularly in New York, I always make time when I’m back in Atlanta. So choose to surround yourself with those who align with what you stand for because the people you pick will have your back for a lifetime.
So there you have it, Instagram and The Davis Academy. One, a digital establishment that fosters communities (sure they might be centered around Grumpy Cat or Lil Bub, but a place for communities nonetheless). The other, a bastion for not only the Jewish community of Atlanta, but the Jewish Community of the world, Both sanctuaries that we can always turn to, that we can always rely on. Both governed by the same rules on behaving virtuously. So when you walk out of those doors tonight, remember that you’ll forever represent the values you learned here and that you’ll never be alone.

Because once a Davis Lion, always a Davis Lion.

Congratulations Class of 2015! You’re doing great!

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