Dedication Speech (2009)

By Jacob Barnett

(Presented at the Evan Bayh Leadership Summit on October 24, 2009 and in a slightly abridged form at Project Leadership’s Red Rubber Ball Banquet on June 26, 2010)

Hello everyone, I’m very happy to be here. It’s an honor to speak here in Indianapolis today. I’d like to thank Senator Evan Bayh for inviting me out here to speak. I’d also like to thank Mr. Brent Wake, and all of the Project Leadership staff for helping making this possible. Also, I want to thank my friends and family for all of the support they have given me.

My topic today is dedication.

Gail Devers, Olympic Gold Medalist, said, “Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.”

Dedication is necessary to follow your dreams and to make a difference to the people around you. The world needs more dedicated leaders.

There are many people in the world today who aren’t dedicated enough or dedicated to anything at all. There are people who say things about themselves that aren’t entirely true. They can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.

I don’t want to be one of those people.

I’m dedicated to be a successful Twenty-first Century Scholar. I’ve made a promise to stay out of trouble, off of drugs and get good grades. I meet once a week with a mentor who encourages me to be myself and inspires me to be the best person I could possibly be. She’s been meeting with me for three years and I’d like to recognize her today. Stephanie Santarosa, would you please stand up.

Talk about dedicated. She was a complete stranger in my life three years ago. Now she’s one of the most helpful, supportive and enthusiastic friends in my life. She represents my definition of dedication — to become more involved in the things you say and to invest or spend more time in whatever you are into.

I’ve been fortunate to have many dedicated people in my life.

Take Grandma Barnett. She raised 11 kids. It was always tough for grandma and grandpa – neither went to college – and it was hard for them to get money. She raised her children to be great people. My Dad was one of those people. To this day, even though she’s well into her 80s, she continues to provide for my disabled uncle, feeding him, lifting him into chairs and caring for him daily. And she makes a great broccoli cheese casserole.

Then there’s my youth pastor Dwayne. I’ve never seen him frown. He smiles all the time and connects well with young people. He’s a teen-ager at heart. He’s taught me many great things about faith. He invests his time in young people and God.

“Dedication is necessary to follow your dreams and to make a difference to the people around you. The world needs more dedicated leaders.” –Jacob Barnett

My parents are the greatest example of all. They’re dedicated to providing me with the education I need and to taking care of me. They’re just there – there to love me and support me through my life. They want to see me go onto college. They teach daily lessons in discipline and dedication.

One of the things my dad taught me was how to play the drums. That was 7 years ago and I was 9 years old. I always thought that drumming was something I could do to express myself. And it looked like a lot of fun! Years of dedication in improving my talent has lead to opportunities to use my talent in unexpected ways. Now, I play the drums at my church. At football games, I perform in front of fans and the community with my bass drum.

The point is: Becoming dedicated in using your skills and talents leads to good opportunities in life. It can get you the job you’ve always wanted. It can make you a more responsible and organized person. Or it can help you with all the goals you have set in life.

For example: your homework; I know homework is something a lot of us have to put up with every day but doesn’t homework help us get closer to our goals and opportunities in life? Isn’t it the reason why we are in school learning? You see homework is a task we do, it’s something we have to do a lot, but it challenges us to be dedicated.

So homework — no matter how big or small — gives us a lot of experience in the area of dedication.

And of course there are some people who are dedicated to the wrong things in life. People can be very dedicated to groups or gangs at school, or they can just be dedicated to impressing the whole class with all of the funny jokes that they have. Being dedicated to the wrong things are why most of us teenagers don’t try to be leaders. We can say it’s too much work, or say I’m dedicated to no one or nothing but me. These are some ways people aren’t dedicated; how can we fix these problems?

The answer to this is to have a lot of young dedicated leaders. You know teenagers, pre-teens, young adults. We’ve got to have young leaders who can walk their talk, young leaders who keep going despite obstacles or hard challenges, Young leaders who are reliable and trustworthy, and young leaders who are prepared. Dedicated leaders who are reliable and trustworthy are the types of people who help others out a lot. This type of leadership will make you a huge role model for people you’re helping. It gives them confidence and reasons to look up to you.

An example of this can be your older brother or sister. Both of you have a lot in common but the older sibling may know more than you do. That’s when they begin to help you with things that are very important to you like homework, maybe some personal problems, or tips on how to use a cell phone right. Whatever they help you with will show that they are great leaders or role models who are reliable and trustworthy.

Dedicated leaders also walk their talk and always keep going despite tough obstacles. When I say you should walk your talk I basically mean that you should do what you say.

Just imagine, if this city, this state, this country, were all filled with dedicated leaders. Our parents are dedicated to loving us and taking care of us through our lives. Our teachers are also there to provide us with the education we need. Our youth pastors are there to teach us the many wonderful things of God. Our President of the United States Barack Obama is here to find what’s best for our country. All of this is done out of dedication.

Why can’t we be like them? Why can’t we, the teenagers, be like these great adult leaders? We have plenty of time in our lives to fix up whatever things we’ve done wrong so we can become dedicated leaders. The first thing we need to do is determine if we are ready to be dedicated leaders, and know if we are ready to walk our talk. We are the future of the United States; it is up to us to make the right choices to become a dedicated leader. It’s pretty much like stepping up and filling the role of last year’s quarterback. That’s what we’re basically doing. Some of us here have what it takes to be the next Lebron James or Kobe Bryant. Some of us are pretty good writers, some of you can be the next Dr. Seuss or next J.K. Rowling. And a lot of you I’m sure know a lot about politics and government. You could be the President of the United States someday. And all it takes is some dedication from young leaders like you.

A lot of days my mom and dad ask me what I want to be when I grow up. I tell them, ‘I don’t know right now.’ They ask, “What college do you want to go to?” I give them the same answer. “I don’t know.”

As I stand here today, I haven’t decided exactly what I want to be. But I know who I want to be, the kind of person I want to be. I want to be a positive role model like my mentor Stephanie, my mom and dad, and Grandma Barnett. I want to be a dedicated leader.

Many of us might feel some pressure as high school students to figure out where we want to go to college and what we want to be. Those are important questions to answer. But I encourage you to start with this question: Who do I want to be?

I hope your answer will include one day becoming a dedicated leader.

Thank you.


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