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Full Text of Judge Teresa Kim’s Keynote Address at NMC’s 34th Commencement Exercise (May 28,2014)

Hafa Adai honored guests, family members of the graduates, NMC’s faculty and staff, and most importantly… graduates…

Congratulations! Well done!

When President Hart called me a month ago and told me the graduates had selected me to deliver remarks today, she said my remarks could be like my judicial investiture address. She described my remarks as one of, “Determination, perseverance…a message of inspiration.” I called my husband, thereafter, and told him about her call. I said “I don’t know what I would say to the graduates. I think Dr. Hart wants me to “inspire” them. But I think I used up all my “inspiration” in my investiture address. And I can’t deliver the same speech again, right?” So while I was debating whether to accept the invitation or not, my husband said “you know, they chose you and it’s a great honor to be chosen.” And he is right! It is, indeed, a privilege to stand before you and be able to be a part of this success in your journey.

So what kind of message do I deliver to you? Well, first, I would like to give you a few pieces of advice; a few ingredients for life’s recipe to success. BUT, these advices come with a disclaimer. Actually two. One, just because I’m giving you these advices doesn’t mean I follow them myself every single time. The advices I’m about to share with you are ones I struggle with myself. Ones I have failed to follow at times, ones I have successfully followed at other times but still, ones I believe in and take to heart. And 2) they are not “originals.” I didn’t come up with them in some moment of awe. I too was given these advices on my journey from others at various points in my life.

So my first advice comes from Winston Churchill. He said: Success is not final AND failure is not fatal. Don’t feel defeated when things don’t go as planned; when you don’t get that job you want, or when you don’t pass that license or certification exam. Do not raise the white flag! Do not feel ashamed and do not let it define you. If you do, that failure becomes a permanent failure. Sulk for a bit, re-assess, and try again. You simply don’t give up! And while failure may not be fatal, success is not necessarily final. To truly be successful, you must continuously work at it. As an example, I know many of you are graduating with degrees as educators. Earning that degree is today’s success. However, that’s not the end of the road. That success is not final. You will continue to receive training, continue to revise lesson plans and try different methods; you will continue to do what is needed to be successful as a teacher.

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Advice #3: Don’t step on those who helped you get to the top, because they will be there on your way back down. Simply put: Don’t be pompous! When you become “somebody” you may make new friends, new associates. But don’t forget your family, friends, colleagues who stand by you today! Those who will help you become that “somebody.” Should you need them in the future, their response or lack of response will be the result of your own doing. Don’t expect the folks you’ve snubbed while you were up there to catch you if you come crashing down. Be humble!

Advice #4: Albert Einstein said: Don’t do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Because that is INSANE. While Einstein’s interpretation may be different than mine, the intent is the same: to get to the right, or desired, result. We can be creatures of habit. At times, whether it’s in our careers or in our personal lives, we tend to approach matters the same way; the way we were taught or the way we think it should be done. It may not always work, but we do it over and over again, thinking the second, third, or fourth time around, it will work. And still it doesn’t. Recognize those situations and their outcomes. Be ready to change; to adapt, to learn. Don’t be Insane.

Advice #5: Probably the most important advice. Don’t lose sight of the people who gave you your best chance. I’m talking about the folks on the bleachers: your parents, your spouses, your siblings, your children, your best friend…. Your loved ones! For nagging you to complete your college education; for creating a positive environment in order that you may reach your goal; for relieving you of some of your responsibilities, like caring for your children, while you focused on your classes. Those are the folks here with you. The ones who share that degree with you at heart; the ones who believed in you! I am certain, that today, at this moment, they are prouder of you than you are of yourself!

These are the five pieces of advice I share with you today.

Now, I’d like to talk to you about your duty as a member of the CNMI family, your duty to give back. The Commonwealth does not and will not flourish on its own, but rather, with all of you. Professionally, give back by establishing your careers here in the CNMI. The CNMI has come a long way. Many of our residents are now educators, doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, nurses. But we clearly need more and you are the best persons to fill those roles. This is your home, and you have a stake in seeing it improve. I remember when I first returned back home after having left to obtain my college and law degrees. I had only planned to stay for a couple years and return to the States. I decided the opportunities were better there. Things changed and I stayed. Although the reasons for staying were many, I realized that even if I returned to the states, my parents would still be here. I also realized that at some point, I would come back home. The CNMI was suffering through the most challenging economic times. This is my home, where I would live out my life, and where my children and my future grand children will grow. I had a duty to do my part to make it what it once was and to help improve it. Graduates, this is our home! Do your part; take ownership and be a part of the solution for a better Commonwealth.

In your personal capacity, give back by volunteering. Volunteer in your community. Share your skills, your passions, your resources. Before ascending to the bench, I served as a board member for the American Red Cross for about 9 years, I served on the Marianas High School PTA for several years, I served in the CNMI Bar Association, among other organizations. I volunteered, not only because it gave me satisfaction in helping the community, but also because I knew I was investing in and strengthening our community. When you give, your community gives back to you. Pay it forward.

Congratulations once again! Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your graduation. While I see behind me and around me the Governor, NMC’s president, my colleagues on the bench, members of the 18th legislature, the mayor of Saipan, other dignitaries , in front of me, I see and had the privilege of addressing our future Governor, our future Congressmen and women, the future NMC President, future educators, doctors, attorneys, judges... The CNMI’s future! What an honor for me!

Thank you, si yuus maase, olomway!



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