An Open Letter to the GED Graduate

I had the very great pleasure of delivering the commencement speech at our GED graduation last May where 19 of my students were celebrated. It was one of the proudest occasions of my life. I want to share my speech because this enemy I spoke of does not just haunt my students; it is a very real threat against so many people achieving their dreams. Enjoy and be encouraged!


There is a very common and very real enemy of adult education students. An enemy that doesn’t want them to succeed. One that whispers lies to sabotage them.

Lies like…

“You’re no good at school. You never were, you never will be.”

“You can do this later. You’re not ready yet. Not ready for this class, not ready for that test, not ready for college.”

“You’re not capable. This is too difficult. You’ll never learn.”

The enemy is not lack of intelligence. It’s not lack of ability. It’s not even the life circumstances which so often slow their education.

No, the opponent that so many students battle is fear.

As a math teacher, I am no stranger to those fears. I’ve seen students tremble at the mere mention of fractions; panic at the sight of a negative number, and freeze up when faced with long division. Why, once a gentleman even ran out of my class at the mention of the word algebra.

At some point in our lives, all of us will come face to face with the fear that we are not enough. Where will you go from there?

At some point in our lives, all of us will come face to face with the fear that we are not enough. Where will you go from there?

Poet Shel Silverstein put it this way in his poem “Listen to the MUSTN’TS”

Listen to the MUSN’TS, child,

Listen to the DON’TS,

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS,


Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me-

Anything can happen, child,

Anything can be.

So as you move into your futures- take courage! Look at what you have accomplished; passing the GED is no small feat. There are high school graduates who would not pass the tests you have taken.

But beyond earning your high school equivalency, you have proven yourselves. You have shown that you are determined, you are persistent, and you are brave. Let this be a weapon of defense against your old adversary, fear.

Many of you had to take multiple semesters of GED class. Some of you had to take a subject test more than once- O that vicious 144 score! We, as your teachers cheered every time a student returned for another semester. We thrilled each time a student with a 144 walked back through our doors. It was not your speed or your scores that brought us such joy.

No, what we saw was your strength. You were learning not to let a little failure define you, not to let a setback break you. You were learning not to let life’s challenges defeat you, but rather to serve as fuel for the fires of your determination.

And now here you are!

Let today be proof to you of the most valuable things a GED class can teach:

Your abilities are astonishing.

Your worth is boundless.

Your intelligence is remarkable.

You are capable.

Capable of so much more than just getting a GED…more than just going to college…more than just achieving your career goals…

You are capable of change. You are capable of growth. You are capable of being an influence for good in this world.

It is our very great pleasure to send you out into the world to do just that.

Congratulations, graduates!



Photos: Licensed for use under CC0 on License


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