An Ode to Shel Silverstein (My High School Graduation Speech)

Adopted from a speech given at the Las Vegas Academy of Visual and Performing Arts.


Shel Silverstein is my favorite poet.

I say— polish the stars for me, he says, you know it!

He taught me lessons both old and new,

But I won’t go on about a boy named Sue.

Instead I’ll talk about how he told me

not to listen to the mustn’ts,

the don’ts, the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, and the won’ts.

But worst of all of those is the don’ts—


For a while,

I’ve had a small little person on a diving board inside my mind,

Who’s been up there since half past five doing everything but dive.

Something is telling him don’t,

So what is there to do?


Give me a second to fasten my head on tight,

I’ll remember the things gone wrong and gone right.


I’ve met monsters who didn’t just pass me by,

I’ve said no thank you but was still given pie.

I’ve stopped when the light was green

I’ve gone when the light was red


if I’d done that last one, boy would I be dead.


Somewhere down the line,

I lost this history of mine.

You see, that little person on a board way up there

Has jumped more times than I thought I could spare.


Shel told me not to doubt myself,

Not to be complacent like a book on a shelf.

Because even if I fail, at least I’ll have taken the leap

I mean—

How else am I supposed find out if the water is deep?