Saturday, May 31, 2014

2014 La Grande HS Commencement Speech

La Grande High School Commencement Speech ­ May 31, 2014 
by Kevin Cahill
When I was a boy I had a recurring dream. I’m in a wide open deserted space, my father stands off a little ways from me. On the horizon I see robed figures approaching me from all sides. Steadily they draw around me in a tightening circle. I feel a sense of anticipation as if something important is about to be revealed to me...something that will change my life...and then I wake up.

My name is Kevin Cahill and I’d like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to you and your loved ones today. Class of 2014, I’ve been working and playing with and watching you for a long time now and if there is one thing that has triggered my admiration and my empathy for you as you have navigated this high school experience, it is your.... humanity.

Your humanity has shaped me more powerfully than you realize ­ I am who I am in large measure due to your influence and your example. It has been your spirited efforts to solve the maze of each day at LHS, your hunger for love and laughter, your boundless energy, your curiosity about things unknowable and things taboo, your wiliness in the face of authority, your passion for beauty and pleasure, your individual creative genius, your amazing expertise in so many areas I know little or nothing about, your grace in both victory and defeat, your fierce loyalties to friends, your love of music, your intense desire for privacy, your battles with personal demons, your frustrations with people and words, and your vulnerability in the face of personal tragedy. In all these ways you have recalled me every day for the past four years back to my own humanity and that matters so much to me because living and working in an institution as we have for so many years, it is sometimes too easy to forget what it means to be human.

Think about what it means to be institutionalized... all the rules and regulations, policing everything in your lives from seat time to screen time, from GPAs to PDAs, from eligibility on the field to incorrigibility in the classroom, from credit denial to absence approval, from book fines to hemlines to lunch lines, spaghetti straps and speed traps, from hourly bells hour to bans on cells, from GEDs to activity fees, from transcript requests to make up tests, from the ISS lab to three hours of ASVAB. from parties to tardies, from speedos to redos, from testing benchmarks to forbidden places to park, from community service chores to poster wars, from bathroom passes to elections for classes, from substance abuse to internet use, from film ratings to prom dating, from spirit week competition to bus evacuation, from security cams to instagrams, ...being institutionalized over time can lead you, if you are not vigilant, to forget some important things...things like how following rules is a poor substitute for using your personal judgement, things like how people are not meant to be herded and sorted like livestock, things like how bells don’t really tell you when something is over or about to begin, things like how being here is not the same thing as being present, things like how love and learning are two sides of the same coin.

You have helped me remember these things. You have reminded me every day that being human means being wrong even while you’re trying be good. It’s about trying and failing. It’s
about humbling yourself in order to learn from experience. It’s about not knowing but guessing bravely.

You are poised at this moment to begin making some very brave guesses about what’s going to come next. Here’s my advice ­ and don’t take this the wrong way, because I really mean this. It’s time for the Fail Stage. You may have heard of it. It’s the stage that comes before the Success Stage. Nobody gets to skip it. So I want all of you to get ready to fail. It’s going to be great! I want you to get out there and pile up some impressive failures. I want you to be the first to fail; I want you to fail fast; fail over and over; fail better and better. Fail here at home; faile in a foreign country. Fail alone; fail with your friends. Collect your failures; sing about them in songs; tell stories about your failures round campfires or in the garage under the hood of your pickup truck
or at a late night table in Denny’s. Ignore your failures and they’ll haunt you; embrace them and they’ll teach you a great deal you need to know. Everything I treasure in my life today I can trace back to past failures, epic failures. I may not be proud of them, but I am grateful for them.

One of the occupational hazards of being a teacher is succumbing to the temptation of believing in my own rightness. I mean look at the things I do as a teacher. I ask you questions I know the answers to; I assign you stories I’ve already read; I design tasks for you whose outcomes are predictable or even pre­ordained. In so doing I have occasion to shine a spotlight on you when you are wrong, when you fail. I‘ve put that spot light on many of you ... and I know it hasn’t always been pleasant, and, what can I say? You’re welcome.    Seriously, here’s a little secret... the truth is that you have convinced me of my wrongness far more often than you realize. You have compelled me to reconsider my thinking, you have persuaded me to revise my practices, and, most importantly, you have penetrated my heart. Because of you I will never be the same. Because of you.

In my boyhood dream I always wake up. Waking up. What does waking up mean? I think it means awakening to the realization that nobody is going to whisper in your ear the answer to everything. Nobody knows. Nobody knows; they don’t know; none of us knows. You don’t know and so don’t I. We’re the same. We’re all guessing, guessing as bravely as we know how.

So lets get on with it Class of 2014. Time to try. Time to fail. I’ve got tremendous faith in you. You’re going to be rich in life lessons. Rich beyond imagining. You have enriched my life beyond measure. I am so grateful to have spent these years with you. Be well. Thank you.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

To all and sundry with love

Monday, August 05, 2013

Colm's Right Foot

Colm has had a good time in Summer Rec Soccer this year. He's shown some imagination and some good awareness, distributing the ball to teammates, creating space for himself with the ball, and putting quality shots on goal. He's shown a little more balance and fiestiness on the defensive side.
The first clip is of Colm making a simple centering pass that leads to a goal. What you can't see is how Colm puts the ball right on his teammate's foot and sets up the score.

 Here's another little sample from this evening's game. It takes a few seconds for the sequence to begin but when the ball comes him, he brings the ball wide then reverses and comes down field, gets past a second defender and puts a low shot into the goal. Nothing flashy but pretty effective.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Last year Tess sang "Mean" by Taylor Swift at the county fair. Last night she sang "Royals" by Lorde.  For me the differences were noteworthy. Last year's group of participants was small and a bit uneven with respect to talent. The show was in the afternoon with a small audience consisting of who you would expect. Tess overcame initial jitters, finished well and ultimately surprised herself with a second place finish.

Yesterday's show featured a rather large contingent of participants several of whom brought well rehearsed and committed performances. The show took place at 8:00 pm and the crowd seemed larger as it picked up casual interest from fair attendees who were there for the evening. Tess delivered what I thought was a poised, engaging and skilled performance of a more difficult and dramatic song that really required her to carry the song with almost no help from the spare audio backtrack. I came away impressed by how Tess had matured. She finished outside the top three, as did a couple of other girls who were impressive. Tess struggled a bit with some unrealistic expectations and had to sort out her feelings for awhile, but she eventually came round. Winning too early is a tricky thing. This was a good experience for Tess.

Saturday, December 22, 2012



  •    Got Beth  a Sonny Osborne banjo special edition – only about 200 were ever made.
  •  Spent two nights camping, sledding and playing music and one night puking at Emigrant State park with our friends…(it’s on for next year, BTW)
  •  Colm hosted a Harry Potter for his 9th birthday party
  •  Tess hosted a talent show for her 11th birthday party
  • Saw Cirque de Soleil in Portland
  • Experienced near hurricane winds on the Oregon coast for Spring Break
  • Produced “Arsenic and Old Lace” at LHS
  •  Beth managed the LG Farmers’ Market through its best year yet
  • We put down bricks in our garden paths and more rocks in the front yard
  •  Colm played Select Soccer. His team went undefeated.
  •   I learned how to hit a draw off the tee
  • Tess won $50 for singing “Mean”  in the talent show at the Union County Fair 
  •  We went to Silverwood; Colm and I rode “Timber Terror”…never again.
  • We biked the Hiawatha Trail, camped on Lake Coeur d’Alene and heard a tree fall in the forest
  •  Camped and sailed around Lopez Island with Kelly, Jane, Annie and Jack
  •  I served as a teaching fellow at Idea Lab at the U of Portland campus
  • Beth served as volunteer coordinator of the Art Literacy Program at Central Elementary School
  •  I began my 35th  or 36th or 37th year teaching…no end in sight!
  • Tess began middle school; Colm began 4th grade
  • Tess was placed in the Advanced Math group for 6th  graders and is flourishing there
  • Colm is on his way to becoming a Lego master.
  • Got 8 chicks in the mail. Heidi killed one. Gave away 3. The rest are alive and laying eggs!
  • Tess played fiddle monthly in an Irish jam; Beth performed with Kupenga Marimba
  • Beth took a Life Drawing course at EOU and created some very cool drawings
  •  I cast my next show “The Odd Couple” (the female version)
  • Clearing out the basement to make room for a ping pong table
  • Colm and Beth have committed themselves to solving the Rubik’s Cube.
  •  Beth and I are hoping to start playing music regularly with a friend, maybe start something?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sweet Home

elfin helpers
real windows!
many hands made quick work...2 days!

a little snow makes everything effort yet, I think.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Your first time voting? it with someone special