Alva Review-Courier -

Graduates need brains, heart and courage for future lives


Desiree Malicoat

Jack Staats, former agricutlure teacher at AHS, addresses graduates Friday evening.

Former Alva High School agriculture instructor Jack Staats spoke during the AHS graduation Friday evening. After the mixed choir sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" directed by Alisha Beleele, AHS Principal Les Potter introduced Staats.

After growing up in Laverne, Staats attended Panhandle State University and Oklahoma State University majoring in agricultural education. Following graduation he taught at other schools before an extended career at Alva High School from 1977 to 2007. In 1991 he was honored as Agriculture Education Teacher of the Year. In 2007 he became the program manager and Oklahoma FFA advisor to the Oklahoma Department of Career Tech.

Staats told the audience how excited he was to be invited to speak. He was excited "because I knew how Alva High chose their speakers. The young people voted on them." He said this was "the biggest honor, the biggest award that I could have."

He said speaking was "a lot better gig than the gig I had when I left here." He said when he was teaching at AHS, he thought the principal Mr. Parkhurst liked him. He was asked to help with graduation, and Parkhurst told him he only had to do one thing – stop anyone without a ticket. The first time he had to stop a grandma from watching her grandchild graduate, he knew, "Parkhurst really didn't like me."

Staats told the assembled graduates to think about where they are right now. If they woke up with a shirt on their back, a roof over their head and breakfast on the table, they are better off than 75 percent of the world's population. If they had money in their pocket or in a checking account, they are in the top eight percent of the world in wealth.

If they woke up with more health than illness and felt good, they are better off than a million people who won't make it through another week on earth. If they haven't been tortured or imprisoned, if they haven't felt hunger, they're better off than 500 million people in the world. "That's where we're at right now."

Staats periodically lightened his message with stories. He commented, "I'm biodegradable. I'm organic. I'm hypo-allergenic. I am GMO free. Something else very important to me, I'm free range and cage free. And most of the time I'm lactose tolerant."

Lessons from the Wizard of Oz

He used "The Wizard of Oz" to illustrate his advice to the seniors. "I'm going to let you guys be Dorothy," he told them. "You guys are fixing to be in a tornado. The world's fixing to sweep you away about an hour from now."

As Dorothy traveled through Oz with her dog, she met three characters with needs. The scarecrow needed a brain. "Thank goodness all of us have a brain." Staats said, "I used to get so mad at young people who would sit there and tell me, 'I can't do it. I can't achieve ... I'm just not smart enough."

He said the average human has 70,000 thoughts in a day. "If we just use three or four of them, we're pretty good."

"Challenge it, use it, nurture it," he said of their brains. He recommended they go get some training, whether through college or in other ways. "Whatever you do, be the best at it."

Next was the tin woodsman who needed a heart which Staats described as compassion and love. "Do you have any idea how much influence you have on anybody it you only say one nice thing?" he asked.

He illustrated how one nice comment can grow with that individual telling two others who each tell two more and so on.

"Show that love, show that compassion to other people," he said.

The third character is the lion with a need for courage. Staats said if anyone tells you they're not afraid of anything, they're lying to you. He defined courage as being afraid and yet having the respect for yourself to move forward and do it anyway.

"These three things will carry you through every endeavor that you do," he said.

Finally, Dorothy met the old wizard. "Everybody that tells you yes is maybe not your friend. And everybody that tells you no is probably not your enemy," said Staats.

"The brain, the heart, the courage – if that's manifested in yourself everyday it will take you a lot further than going to get it from somebody else."

A Couple of Stories

In conclusion, Staats told a couple of stories and offered a couple of challenges. He said he grew up in a time when "we didn't know what helmets are. We rode in the back of pickups, rode on tailgates." He told about seeing his father leave in the pickup thinking he was going to the hayfield. He and his brother decided to hold onto the back of the pickup and let it pull them running down the road. When his dad shifted into third gear, they knew they were in trouble. They weren't going to the hayfield. They were running faster than they thought possible. Luckily they were able to yell and get their dad to stop.

"I hope all of you know where you're going," said Staats. He said the average adult changes vocations seven times in their lifetime. "Don't be afraid to change. Follow your passion. If you don't like what you're doing, do something else."

He said he was going to get his master's and then his doctorate so he could teach at a university. Two days before he was going to get his fellowship, it was canceled. He said he had to get a job teaching agriculture. "Guess what. I fell in love with teaching school. I never worked a day in my life because I believe if you follow your passion, you never work. It's just fun."

For his last challenge, Staats told his favorite story. He and his cousin liked to ride horses. When his parents were gone, they would take a rope, attach it to a little red wagon and dally it to the saddle horn. Then one would ride the horse and the other would ride in the wagon. One day Staats was on the horse going fast and taking the turn into the driveway. "I stuffed my cousin into a mailbox," he said.

His cousin got up and got mad. He hurried to the barn, saddled his horse in record time, attached the rope and told Staats to get in the wagon. When they reached the mailbox, Staats was prepared and bailed out. The wagon kept going, wrapping the rope around the mailbox post. The horse was yanked to a vertical stop. His cousin fell off, and the horse stepped on the side of his head. Though they were at the point of making their verbal wills, the cousin survived.

Staats concluded, "It's time people. Get in the wagon. It's time to go."

A video of the graduation, complete with Staats telling his stories, may be viewed at


Reader Comments


Our Family of Publications Includes:

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019