Speaker Graduation International School of Geneva

When I accepted the honor of speaking at the International School of Geneva’s graduation ceremony during my final year of teaching, I was filled with trepidation. Who was I to give advice to such a talented group of students and their families? How I could bid farewell to my community and career without bursting into tears?

I am uncomfortable being in the limelight. My story is only one of many of the stories of the trailblazers who fought for civil rights, but my message – the right to pursue one’s dream – is universal.

As I stood on stage in front of a packed gymnasium, I fixed my eyes on my husband, sister, brother-in-law, former athletes and students and my racing heart calmed. I entered the zone, knowing I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was destined to do.


Students, colleagues & parents congratulate the speaker

« You each have a gift. You all have a story. Share it. As I step back into the shadows, you go out and shine. Show up. Stand up. Speak up. Be the best you can be. Raise the roof for the class of 2016. Go out and rock the world. »

At the end of my speech, people hailing from every corner of the globe gave me a thundering standing ovation and I was deeply humbled. Due to illness and injury I can no longer do so many of the things I love, but in spite of pain I continued to show up even when I didn’t feel like it and focused on what I could do. I was bowled over by an outpouring of appreciation from the community that has sustained me for the past 2 decades. Though I can no longer run, jump and play, « I can still walk, talk, write, speak, and inspire. »

And maybe that is enough.

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships.


  1. You have so much to give – yesterday, today, and tomorrow – and I’m happy that you had this wonderful opportunity where you deserved to be in the limelight. You will shine wherever you are, my friend. Congratulations and on to great things!

  2. Oh, Pat, I am jumping up to join in that standing ovation. You do great justice to the limelight and we are all richer for it! I always love reading your words and stories but hearing your voice and seeing you in action adds to your inspirational message. “Oh, the places you’ll go” ..in your retirement.God’s Speed, my dear friend and congratulations.

    • Thanks Kathy. I have never been comfortable with public speaking but like you once I embarked on this writing journey I realized that part of passing on our message is also through spoken words. So ever since joining the DanClan I have learned to step outside my comfort zone and I have looked up to you to lead the way. I appreciate your endearing and never ending support Hope Sister.

  3. Pat,
    Thanks a million for sharing your blog and speech, it brought tears to my eyes. You’re my hero and always will be! Your speech was right on, let’s hope they listen and apply your wonderful advice. I wish someone would have given us the same advice at their age.
    You have a wonderful gift…always providing inspiration and leadership to others. What’s next in your life’s plan? Would love to see you any time or place, we have so much to talk about.
    Take care my friend and I hope our paths will cross soon.

    • You can thank the Frenchman for that. It has been a real team effort with family helping out so much with the techie side of things, so that I can sit back and do what I do best… tell stories. ha

    • Me, too, I love your new website. And you are a fabulous speaker, my friend. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to hear your voice! What a treasure you are to your students and the school community, Pat. And to us.

      • Thanks Lynne. I am struggling with the letting go and saying goodbye to a career, so I continue to look to you and Any Shiny Thing for inspiration on how to live the second act. And I cannot lie, I can’t claim any credit for the website design I have the Frenchman to thank for the new look.

  4. Pat, seeing you — and hearing you speak — makes you REAL to me! You know, you still haven’t lost your Illinois accent! Your graduation speech was simply delightful — funny, inspiring, encouraging…everything these 2016 grads needed to hear. Well done, my friend (and no, you didn’t look like your knees were knocking!) Love your new digs — congrats to your Frenchman for an outstanding redesign!

    • Yes, Debbie people over hear often kid me about my midwestern nasal twang (do we really twang?) Thanks for you compliments on the design too. That means a lot especially from someone who is a tech wizard like you. Hope we can meet up sometime when I am back in Illinois.

  5. good job, Pat! (- that is the translation of the German way to express highest praise!)
    it is great to see you on the video 🙂
    and congratulations to the newly designed web page! Like it a lot.
    All the best to you from you former team mate

    • Thanks Bette. Is that like the French expression “pas mal” which means really great. ha Looking forward to retirement & finally having a chance to visit Berlin and see you!!!

  6. Congratulations on your new site and your awesome speech, Pat! Now it’s my turn to know what U sound like:) Keep shining, Expat!

    • Thanks Helene. I know our paths will cross one day and look forward to meeting you in person even though I feel like I already know you through your words.

  7. I finally watched your speech, Pat, and it was amazing! Truly inspirational for everyone. Thanks so much for sharing. We have much in common right now as I am retiring from my university too after 28 years of teaching. I will miss it!

    • Thanks Patty. I wonder if it has been as bittersweet for you as it has been for me. I am hoping that if my next back treatment works, I will be able to enjoy hiking again like you and maybe one day we will meet up on the same path.

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