Senior Speech: Sami dePass

Emily Orr and Matthew McConnell

Click above to check out our ThingLink, an interactive look at senior Sami dePass’ speech in assembly on Sept. 21, 2015.

“What starts here changes the World.”

The University of Texas at Austin’s slogan was first brought to my attention during the 2014 Commencement address given by Admiral William H. McRaven, a former United States Navy admiral and the ninth Special Operations Command.

McRaven refers to, a question answering web search engine, and reveals that the average person will meet 10,000 people in their lifetime. He challenges us to consider that if 8,000 of the individuals graduating from UT Austin changed the lives of just 10 people, and those people changed the lives of another 10 people, then in 5 generations- which is 125 years- the class of 2014 would’ve changed the lives of 800 million people.

That’s over twice the population of the United States and if they went one more step further, just one more generation, they could change the population of the entire world. That’s about 8 billion people.

You are likely thinking it’s pretty hard to change the lives of 10 people – altering their life forever- but you’re wrong. Everyday, somewhere, the decisions one person make can impact the lives of many.

Mr. Shorey and his soldiers clearing the road of IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq that possibly could’ve ended the lives of numerous soldiers. In particular, He had one soldier who was blown up over 20 times as he tried to clear IEDs, possibly altering the lives of many going through that same route.

If you think about it, that soldier didn’t just save those other soldiers, he saved their children and their children’s children. Generations were likely saved by one decision and one person.

Malala Yousafzai, A eighteen year old Pakistani activist, advocating for human rights, specifically education for women in her native Swat Valley in Northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had banned girls from attending school. One person can make a difference.

In Darlington terms, if 451 people were to change the lives of 10 people, and those people changed another 10, and it continued, over 45000 people would be affected.

Admiral McRaven believes that changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it and I happen to agree.

He gives a few lessons that he learned throughout Navy Seal training, that apply to all aspects of life, to help you go about changing the world. If you want to change the world, it takes baby steps, and you first have to begin with yourself.

#1 Make your bed. If you do this, you’ll have accomplished the first task of the day, after getting up that is, and you’ll have a small sense of pride in this completed act. You’ll likely be encouraged to do another act, and another, and it just happens to reinforce the idea that the little things do matter. And, by chance if you happen to have a miserable, long day, you’ll go back to your dorm room, or your house, and you’ll have a made bed. Which of course makes everything better. 

#2 You can’t change the world alone, you’ll need help. To get from your starting point to your destination, you’re going to need some friends.

# 3 Nothing matters but your will to succeed, not your color, not your ethnic background, not your social status, nothing.  Measure a person by the size of their heart not by the previous things mentioned.

#4  Sometimes no matter how hard you try, how well you prepare, how well you perform, you still might not succeed. It’s just the way life is sometimes. Get over it.

#5 Life is filled with many challenges and is not always fair, you will fail, you will likely fail often, it will be painful, it will test your will to the very core, but never be afraid of those challenges.

#6 There are a lot of bullies in the world, if you hope to get through life, don’t back down, and stand up for what you believe in.

#7 If you want to change the world, lead by example. Be the type of leader who is at the front of the pack, not directing it.

# 8 Believe in the power of hope, the Power of one person; A Martin Luther King Jr, a Nelson Mandela. One person can change the world by giving people hope.

#9 If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moments.

#10 If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever give up.

With all this said about how to go about changing the world, One of the most important questions to ask yourself is what you deem as a success. Is it the 100 you scored on a test, is it the end product? Or is it the long, torturous hours of studying you spent in order to achieve that.

According to Google, success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, the attainment of popularity or profit, and you as an individual are defined as a success if you achieve desired aims or attained prosperity.

So all the people who never attain any of the things I just said, are failures? Correct?


Success is personal and I do not believe it can be defined holistically. Success to me is that feeling of excitement someone gets when talking about what they do, what they like. Sticking through what matters even when you want to do nothing but give up. Living a life that you can be proud of in retrospect.

A friend of mine recently said to me that she is prouder of her failures than she is of her successes. That those failures formed her into the person she is today. It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that will ultimately define us and lead us to succeed.

So I’m going to leave you with two things, a quote by J.K. Rowling that says “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless, you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” And from me, In order to change the world, I have to view myself as able to change the world, as able to be a success and powerful beyond what I might be at this specific juncture, as able to make a difference. So what starts here, does in fact, change the world.