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Actor gives commencement speech at Magruder graduation

Jason Kravits speaks the Colonel Zodak Magruder High School GraduationCharacter actor and Magruder alum Jason Kravits encourages the high school’s 2018 graduating class not to plan too far ahead and “focus on the task at hand.” COURTESY PHOTO BY MONTGOMERY COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLSIt’s okay to fail. Don’t plan ahead too much, nor carve your future in stone. Say yes to new experiences, and don’t be afraid to start over.

That was some of the wisdom imparted by actor Jason Kravits to the 2018 graduating class of Colonel Zadok Magruder High School at its June 1st graduation at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

Kravits, a Rockville native and 1985 Magruder graduate, has appeared on television on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and “Gilmore Girls” and on Broadway in “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

While, by many standards, including his own, Kravits is a success, he told the students his career has been “a circuitous mish-mash of high and lows” with “ups, downs, disappointments, and unbridled joy.” 

But, he told the seniors, he took risks and viewed each failure as a teaching moment.

“You are going to fail. It’s true, and it’s not a bad thing,” Kravits said. “For every role you see me on TV, there are nine I did not get.”

Each rejection “was an opportunity to look at myself. It taught me what I was made of,” he said. 

“So, I hope you fail, early and often. It’s very useful,” he said, advising the graduates not to waste time whining when things don’t work out. 

Many in the audience don’t have long-term plans as high-school graduates beyond partying at the beach this weekend, he said. But that’s OK, because those with specific plans and those without, will all see those dreams change. 

He encouraged the students not to plan their futures too stringently. Instead, he said, “Focus on the task at hand. Work with one brick and then another. Don’t focus on [erecting] the whole cathedral.”

He also urged the graduates not to label themselves, by their career, their religion, or the people they associate with. “These are just roles we play in the movie of our life,” he said. “They are just labels. They are not you.”

Instead, he suggested, “Take time to be undefined by anyone, including yourself.” 

If you must start over, that’s OK, Kravits said. “You can change your mind, despite what you heard.”

It’s important to remember, Kravits said. "You are the main character in your own play. Rewrite it as many times as you want."

But he also advised the students not to walk away from every bad job, relationship, or marriage because things aren’t going as planned.

“Don’t walk out in the middle of a play,” Kravits said. “When times are tough, stay on the stage. Eventually, the scene will change.”

The world is different than when he graduated more than three decades ago, he said, specifically pointing to the lack of corn fields in every direction around Magruder High School when he graduated. Back then, he said, MTV and Pac-Man were popular. 

But some things haven’t changed, Kravits joked. “I had to pull an all-nighter” to write this commencement speech, although he was given four months to come up with it. 

The graduation ceremony also featured a clarinet solo and a few short speeches by several students, including Class President Lucy Webster, who declared: “The stress, workload, lack of sleep, and frustration were definitely worth it.”
And now, she said, “It’s time to write our own goals.”

Before handing out diplomas, Principal Leroy Evans addressed the students, stating that he never had had a graduating class “with as many collective talents, achievements” and commitment to public service.

He urged the students to embrace challenge and opportunity and to make a difference. 

Use both hands, “one for helping yourself and one for helping others,” he said, adding, “Accept the challenge of uncertainty.”

@SuzannePollak

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