My speech to the graduates: Be better than we were

(Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Thousands of collegiate and high school graduates missed out on a formal walk across the stage this spring due to circumstances beyond their control. Some say the class of 2020 was born in the wake of 9/11, was haunted by the horror of a seemingly never-ending school shootings and they are now finding their way through a global pandemic, but I refuse to say goodbye to this group of extraordinary students by defining them through tragedy. They deserve to be defined by who they are and what they will become.

There was much more lost than having an administrator shake your hand on a stage. Much more. In fact, seniors and athletes were not the only ones with loss.  

Eighth graders missed out on the uneasy yet exciting feeling of moving over to a high school. Fifth graders lost out on the anticipation of starting over at a middle school. Kindergartners never had the chance to show off their promotion to first grade through song and dance. All children, from every grade level, missed out on the chance to give a teacher one last hug before their endless summer began.

You were all born with acceptance in your hearts and, no matter how far away from this notion you may wander, it’s still part of who you are. My father once told me its better to do good than well and, though some of you were just realizing the value of sharing a toy, some of you are now mature enough to understand the difference between doing for others and doing for yourself.

Parents also missed out. As you grow older you will realize much of how we celebrate and why we celebrate is designed for parents, guardians, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Senior photos? For the parents. Walking across a stage? For the parents. And, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing.

For the athletes, it’s hard for me to relay to you the knowledge that you need to play every moment like it’s your last. As children, you already did and you already do. Adults are the ones who squander opportunity. Looking at a called third strike as an adult has real-life consequences but missing a penalty kick as a teenager? There was always going to be another kick – another day. No worries.

The fact remains, the youngest children share the same worries about everyday situations as the oldest. Many of those worries will continue through your adult life and they will get magnified when you are caring for your own children. Some of you already take care of your younger siblings so you already have a sense of the worry and some of you will have to get back to me in a decade or so.

I started writing books for children when my granddaughter was born and one of those was an imaginary conversation between my daughter and her daughter and it dawned on me that kids of all ages have the same fears of losing their place in their parent’s hearts, their place in school, their place on their team, their place with their friends, their place at work, their place on social media and so forth. The worries are indeed endless.

So, here is that conversation of a child reaching for reassurance and go now and be happy. You have already made a difference. Be better than we were:


“Will you still love me even when I make you sad when I’m bad?”

“Yes, I’ll still love you even when you think I’m mad.”

“I’m glad.”

“Will you still love me if I bump my head from jumping on my bed?”

“Yes, I’ll still love you but you should play outside instead!”

“That’s what Dad said!”

“Will you still love me if I had a brother or a sister?”

“Yes, my heart would grow larger and larger.”

“I think mine will grow even larger.”

“Will you still love me when I’m tall and no longer small?”

“Yes, I’ll still love you even when you’re 10 feet tall.”

“That’s taller than my wall!”

“Mommy, will you still love me at night when you turn off the light?”

“Yes, because my love will always shine bright.”

“Can you hug me tight?”


Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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