Fred Van Vleet just finished up his sophomore year in college at Wichita State, leading them on a memorable, 35-0 start a year after he played a role on a team that made the Final Four. He may be young, he may be just two years removed from high school, but he is lauded and praised as one of the most mature players and best leaders in the country.
That was evident at the end of May, when Van Vleet was asked to return to Auburn HS in Rockford, Ill., to give a commencement speech to the graduating seniors, kids that are old enough that they went to high school for two years with Van Vleet.
And that speech?
It was very, very good.
Van Vleet told the graduates to work hard to pursue whatever dreams they have, whether it is going to college or getting a job and starting a family. He told them to be proud of where they’re from but to work to change the stereotype and the stigma that is associated with their hometown.
“I want you to go out and use this as a platform,” he said. “They’re always telling us Rockford is a miserable place to live, not a lot of talent coming out of Rockford. You can live up to it and make it worse, or you can change it and make it better. The power of change starts with choices.”
Most importantly, he told the students that graduating high school should not be the best day of their lives.
“I want to challenge everybody in here, parents, teachers, administration, students, to not let this day be the peak of your life,” he said. “When you look back on your life, don’t let this graduation day be the high-water mark of your life. I want you to go out after this and use this as a platform to continue doing bigger things.”
“Go to college, get a job, do whatever you want to do. But this should not be the high mark of your life.”