If the name looks familiar (to those of you who know me) it’s because Matt is my nephew. He’s a cool kid, but I’m biased, of course.
Matt does a lot of things well. He sings, plays the piano and the trombone, composes music and is the drum major for Brighton High Schools’s marching band. Lately, he’s been running and competing in triathlons.
He typically likes to write analytical papers and essays, but occasionally writes short stories. His goal in life is to change the world in a positive way and leave it a better place. If you met him he’d smile at you and try to get you to smile in return.
Below is his speech that won first place in the district competition of Brighton’s Optimist Club’s Oratorical Contest. Besides writing the speech, Matt had to to present it. He wrote it from the heart without stopping. Then went back to edit it.
Overcoming Obstacles with Optimism
Matt St. Germain
Two or three years ago, when I was in middle school, I was afraid. I was afraid to do well, to succeed and stand out in the crowd. The thing I really wanted was to just fit in and be a “normal” kid. Excelling in my classes and activities was important, but it came at a cost. What really got to me were the names I was called and the feelings I felt when I heard them. The names “dork,” “nerd,” and “brownnoser,” come to mind.
I was afraid to step out of my shell, and to be myself. Yet, every step of the way, I always seemed to have an encouraging adult by my side. Every now and then when I would answer a question, or do a simple studious act, a teacher would just give me a slight nod of appreciation. With that, I knew that I had to be doing something right. As time went on, I started to realize that maybe someday people my own age would appreciate me just as much as my teachers did.
Yet, I was still not fully comfortable in my own skin. I thought that I was weird and that no one would ever seem to truly love me for me. Then finally, it occurred to me: If I didn’t believe in myself and put full confidence in what I did, then I would never get anywhere. So what if people thought I was weird? I knew that someday they would see how we need to accept each other for who we are. So with every ounce of passion I had, I started to put my full effort into every single thing. No matter what, nobody was going to stop me. I was determined to go out and make a difference, all the meanwhile maintaining who I am.
There’s many times when I hear people say, “Why get your hopes up? If you don’t expect a lot then you’ll never be disappointed!” My response to that, is that if you don’t expect yourself to succeed and don’t put forth effort with confidence, then I promise you that you won’t succeed. Even if you don’t reach your top goal, you will know that you put forth every ounce of effort you could to achieve it. There will be hundreds of obstacles in your life, and you won’t be able to work your way around every one. However, you can make it through by knowing that there will always be another one that you can try to beat. Optimism isn’t being impervious to disappointment and being let down; those are natural human emotions. Optimism is when after you’ve been knocked down to your knees, you reach inside yourself for a little perseverance and a healthy dose of tenacity to get right back up.
Edgar A. Guest wrote the following lines in his poem It Couldn’t Be Done:
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
but he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,”
but he would be one that wouldn’t say so till he tried.
So he buckled right in with a trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done and he did it.
The poem goes on to say that there will be thousands to tell you that your goal is impossible and that you’ll never be able to do it, but just buckle down with a smile and soon enough you’ll be doing the thing that couldn’t be done. This past year I auditioned for a position in the marching band known as Drum Major. Since I was a freshman, and traditionally only sophomores try out, I had received much discouragement and animosity from many people. I overcame the odds, got the position, and had a fantastic marching season. Many of the people that were once against me said that they were glad I became a Drum Major.
Optimism helps you through every step of the way. It leads you places you never thought you could go. By showing your love, passion, and encouragement, you set off a chain reaction in others that helps them believe in themselves. When you overcome your obstacles, you help others overcome theirs. So I challenge you to go out with your head held high, and to tackle the thing that can’t be done, and do it. All you need to do is believe in yourself. Follow your heart, and you will achieve whatever you set out to. I am living proof.
Please leave Matt an encouraging word.