Wednesday, June 01, 2011


This evening, Blue Oak School will hold its graduation ceremonies at the Napa Valley Opera House. I'm ... so moved to share Michael's graduation speech below (any grammatical or typo tics are his idiosyncracies of just knowing English for about 2 years). I truly did not influence his speech -- but it's obvious how HE IS SO MUCH MY SON! I mean, geez: how could he ever have thought to write his speech as mostly a poem!

Which actually leads me to mull about one of the advantages of adopting older children -- they are old enough to listen to you counsel them on their "new normal" as they join a new family as well as, in his case, a new country/culture. And so, coming out of an orphanage, he hadn't (yet) been exposed to how culture marginalizes poetry. When I discuss poetry with him, he receives the information without knowing that it's ... not typical by many folks' lifestyles to be discussing poetry. I think that's why he, on his own, thought about writing a poem to convey most of his graduation speech. Poetry -- it's not something he puts on a pedestal, or shirks from; it's not something he either disses or privileges. It's just part of life, everyday life.

He also didn't display self-consciousness as he voluntarily rehearsed last night the delivery of the poem, taking my earlier suggestion seriously about mentally counting 2 beats after each line-break and four beats after each stanza break (I wanted to slow down his reading to improve his pronounciation). I so appreciated his earnestness! Anyway, nuff said on that -- here is THE GRADUATE!

Michael Alexander Pollock Graduation Speech

Hello, my name is Michael Alexander Pollock. First I would like to thank everybody who has joined us today for this celebration where we 8th graders take the next step for going to high school. From my school experience I learned that you can’t just accomplish a goal by asking for it, but you can accomplish a goal by working hard for it. I reached the goal of graduating from 8th grade thanks to my parents who gave me the opportunity to learn and supported me along the way. I also want to thank the teachers who helped me this year. Now, I would like to share a poem called “song of my self.”
Song of Myself

I was born in Colombia
Speaking Spanish.
Knowing only one culture
With not much education.
I did not know how to help others.
I played soccer
But did not read books.

Today I live in the United States
Speaking English.
I’ve learned about different cultures
           like China, Italy, and Greece.
I am receiving a good education
           Especially from Blue Oak
I learned about community service.
I enjoy tennis, skiing, fencing, and swimming
And I read books every day.

In the future, I might live in Europe
I might be bilingual or more.
I will experience other cultures, especially Italy
           Where I want to visit as part of college.
I will work to help other people
           Like poor children.
I will expand my sports to include
           Baseball, water polo, and surfing
I hope to write about my life in a book.

Gracias a mis profesores que me ayudaron a lograr muchas cosas.
Thank you to my teachers who helped me accomplish many things.

Gracias a Mis padres por haberme dado la oportunidad y amor, tanto como todos los libros que me ayudaron a aprender a inglés.
Thank you to my parents for giving me the opportunity and love as well as all those books which helped me learned English.


By the way, the students were given a macro theme of "I Was, I Am, I Will Be..." for writing their speeches. Michael's poem contained three stanzas, each representing one of those three phases in the assigned theme. Isn't it a cool approach...?

But Michael did shoot down a suggestion I had for the poem title. I thought it could have been "Yo Era, Yo Am, I Will Be..." Get it? Begin in Spanish, transitioning from Spanish to English, and then being in all English! Yeah, okay: the concept was better than the manifestation...

...but it was a teachable moment as regards Whitman's Song of Myself! It's all ... good. It's all so good!

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