I was walking one day in downtown Columbus. I had parked my car in the lot of restaurant next to the riverfront. The place was closed and I decided to take the pathway down to the place where there’s a replica of the Christopher Columbus’ boat – the Santa Maria that he and Spain used to find the new world. In fact, I had seen that boat numerous times, so I was not particularly interested in it, but last time I went there I noticed that near the boat, next to the road there is a small park – very little, triangular in shape, and mostly with concrete instead of grass. Anyway, this park caught my attention last time I had been there because it has a few bronze statues of mythological creatures. In fact, I went up to one of them and I saw that it was a unicorn, which looks like a small pony with a cone sticking out of its forehead. Then I read the plaque beneath that read: “Now the unicorn could not ask any more questions because he knew all things. The only thing the unicorn did not have was taste.” I thought those words to be rather interesting, although I did not contemplate on them much. Well, on this particular day, which was a few months later, in November, I wanted to go back to that little park to see that unicorn again, and to see if there were any other statues there that I might have missed the last time I had been there. And so I climbed the steps up to the park and I saw the unicorn again with his horn sticking out of his head. I read the plaque again, and again I was amused.
Then, interestingly enough, I saw another bronze statue of a quirky looking animal – another mythological creature. It looked like a leopard, but it had wings. I proceeded to read the plaque. The griffin, said the plaque, has what it does not need. Which if you think about it makes sense: why would a leopard need wings? Then the plaque said something extremely wise: “The griffin was afraid to be wrong. Do not be like the griffin.” As I read those lines, I thought they were revolutionary and very liberating. The griffin’s problem, you see, was fundamentally that he was afraid to be himself. And I think, especially when we are growing up, that is a problem that we all face. We are afraid that our behavior, or some characteristic of ours is unacceptable unto others, and so we hide it, in order to gain more acceptance. We, like the griffin, are afraid what other people will think. But ultimately, you need to realize that other people will not judge you. Other people are a lot less judgmental than your or the griffin believes! They are busy with their own lives. In fact, if you are one of those people who wants to please others at your own expense, here’s what I’ve got to say: do not be like the griffin. Do not be afraid to be wrong. There is no right or wrong when it comes to being yourself.
excerpted from my speech Good Luck!