Ellison inspired the 1980 graduating class at his alma mater, Konawaena High School in Kona, Hawaii, with the following message:
If I can impress upon you only one idea . . . Let it be that the people who make this world run, whose lives can be termed successful, whose names will go down in the history books, are not the cynics, the critics, or the armchair quarterbacks.
They are the adventurists, the explorers, and doers of this world. When they see a wrong or problem, they do something about it. When they see a vacant place in our knowledge, they work to fill that void.
Rather than leaning back and criticizing how things are, they work to make things the way they should be. They are the aggressive, the self-starters, the innovative, and the imaginative of this world.
Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds . . . to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.
Your vision is not limited by what your eye can see, but by what your mind can imagine. Many things that you take for granted were considered unrealistic dreams by previous generations. If you accept these past accomplishments as commonplace then think of the new horizons that you can explore.
From your vantage point, your education and imagination will carry you to places which we won’t believe possible.
Make your life count – and the world will be a better place because you tried.
– Ellison S. Onizuka, 1980