My Speech to NHS

This is a copy of the speech I gave to the new inductees to the National Honor Society on 10/22/2012:

Good Evening. Tonight, I will be speaking to you about leadership, one of the four pillars of the National Honor Society. You all sit on this stage tonight because you are all leaders in your own right. You have proven yourself in your ability to lead by example, be it at Sanborn or elsewhere. As you prepare to be inducted in the National Honor Society this evening, I offer you some thoughts on how I would like to see you use your leadership skills for the betterment of all.

I would like to start by reading to you the parable of the five gorillas. Perhaps you have heard this story before in one form or another:

The Parable of the Five Gorillas

A scientist, according to the story, did an experiment with five gorillas housed in a cage. The scientist hung a bunch of bananas in the cage where the gorillas could not reach them. Then a large tree branch was put up against the wall close to the bananas. One gorilla figured out that he could climb the branch and reach the bananas. But, just as it was about to grab them, the scientist drenched all the gorillas with cold, frigid water. There was chaos. Later, the same gorillas tried to get to the bananas. Again, the scientist covered them with cold water. This went on several more times until at least one of the gorillas made the connection between reaching for the bananas and the cold water.

At the next attempt, that gorilla attacked the one who was trying to get the bananas. The others joined in when it became clear that reaching for the bananas caused the water to start. After that, none of the gorillas tried to get the bananas.

Later, the scientist took out one of the gorillas and included a new one that had not seen what was going on in the cage. As you might think, the new gorilla tried to get the bananas. Of course, the other gorillas attacked it when it tried to do so. They managed to stop it before the water started. It learned not to try to get the bananas. The scientist then removed another of the original gorillas and included a new one. Well, the process repeated itself, including the first new gorilla joining in the attack, even though it did not know why.

The scientist removed the original gorillas one by one, replacing them with a new gorilla every time. Each time the reaction was the same. The new gorilla was attacked when they tried to get the bananas.
Eventually, all the original gorillas were replaced. All this time, none of the new gorillas had been sprayed with water. Even though they did not know why, all the replacement gorillas kept attacking the new gorilla every time they tried to get the bananas.

Why? Well, they had all learned, “That’s how we do things around here. That’s how it’s always been done.”


As a leader, my hope for you is to never accept things for what they are because it is “the way things have always been.” If you do, you will miss out on some critical opportunities to improve your situation or that of others. Leaders have a natural ability to shepherd people to a new and better place. People are willing to follow them because they trust them, they believe in them, and they want to emulate them.

Some of you know that I have three little boys, well soon to be four. I always tell people that if I could only make one request for a characteristic that I want each of them to have in life, it would be for each of them to be a leader and not a follower. I think this is the most important characteristic one can have in their skill set if they want to be successful. You sit on this stage tonight because your peers consider you to be leaders. I challenge each of you to think about what you can do to use your skills to help improve our Sanborn school community.
Congratulations to each of you on your accomplishments!


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