Graduation Speech

It’s crazy to think that lifetime of school (20 years) came to an end today and it’s hard to believe that PT school began three calendar years back. It feels like just the other day that I was sitting in a classroom full of strangers who would soon become close friends. It seems like just last week that I was writing about what I learned in the first year of graduate school. It’s like I blinked and school is done, but I guess the old adage holds true…

time flies when you’re having fun.

I graduated school today (April 15th, 2019) with my Doctorate of Physical Therapy. While I’m proud of all the work that went into becoming a physical therapist, the title doesn’t mean too much because it doesn’t define me. Regardless of the degree that I earned or the career that I chose; I’m Joe Rinaldi the person and I want to leave this world better than I found it in everything that I do, not just work, and that will never change. However, that’s for another blog so let’s get to the good stuff…

I had the honor of delivering the graduation speech.

To most, presenting a speech might sound unappealing at best. I understand that public speaking is something that triggers fear in most people, but I love it. As you’ll gather from the remainder of this paragraph, I’m “vanilla” (it also happens my favorite ice cream flavor). I don’t look for thrills in the usual places (e.g. bungee jumping, cliff jumping, etc.) and believe it or not, as of last year, delivering a graduation speech was the only thing on my bucket list… I know, I know, I’m out of control. On January 1st , 2019 I wrote down goals for the year. One of those goals was to give a speech. Little did I know at the time, but I would be presented with the opportunity to address almost 300 people at my own graduation and even though it was scary and it would require work, there was no way that I could pass that up.

“Most people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison

In writing a speech, I wanted to deliver a message that would be pertinent to the world of healthcare but also hold significance on a deeper, broader and more human level. I had so much to share but I had to find a way to condense my message into just ten minutes and that was hard. The speech was tailored to the Drexel DPT class of 2019 and was filled with stories, quotes and inside-jokes. However, for the sake of being concise and reaching a broader audience, I decided to publish this blog.

This speech isn’t about being a good physical therapist, it’s about being a good human.

No matter who you are or how much of this you read, I want to thank you for taking the time to get even this far. I hope that you can find some value in this message and without further ado, here it is.

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While surface-level reasons might differ between people, [I hope] we all chose the profession of physical therapy [insert whatever it is you do] because we care about helping other people.

Some number of years ago, there was a man who committed suicide by jumping off of the golden gate bridge. When the police carried out their investigation, they found a note on his nightstand table. The note read as follows: I am alone in this world and I don’t belong here. Tomorrow morning, I am going to walk one mile to the golden gate bridge at rush hour and take my life. If one person smiles at me, I won’t do it.

Whether you know it or not, every single person in this world is battling something that you can’t see. Whether it’s a patient or just somebody passing on the street, I want to encourage you to be the reason that someone smiles today, because a smile can make someone’s day and even save someone’s life. While you might not know the impact of your smile, I personally don’t want to take a chance.

“If you see someone without a smile, give them yours.” Dolly Parton

As physical therapists, we will be surrounded by people could use a smile. We will all have the incredible opportunity and privilege to interact with people who are in pain, who are suffering and who are vulnerable. While the information that we’ve learned in school is relevant, it all falls second to genuinely caring about the people in front of us. Even the most “evidence-based” treatments in the world, won’t reach their full potential if the patient doesn’t feel valued and cared for on a human level.

“People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt

First and foremost, be there for your patients [people in your life]. Care for them with compassion, empathy and a spirit of love. Listen to them; make them feel heard and make them feel valued. Get to know the people who you treat [interact with] and understand that it’s a privilege to be in a position where we can help people who are trusting us to take them where they want to be. 

I understand that I am fresh out of school and I still have a lot to learn: I know it won’t always be as easy as that. I’ve been warned time and time again that throughout our careers [lives], there will be times where we will feel overwhelmed and times where we don’t know what to do next. In those cases, I want to offer a piece of advice from an old friend…

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Albert Einstein

When you feel overwhelmed and experience self-doubt [it will happen], just remember that not everything that matters shows up in the numbers or on paper. Remember that the important things – how we care for other people, how we love other people and our intentions to leave the world just a little bit better than we found it – can’t always be quantified. When you’re not sure what to do next, just do the next right thing; fall back on the fundamentals and choose to be there for the people who you treat.  Make it part of your job [life] to help your patients believe in themselves.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” Henry Ford

Find ways to show your patients that they can and things will fall into place. No matter where we end up in our careers, I want to remind us never to underestimate the power of human connection.

“People might not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Above all else, care about people, make them smile, be there for them, believe in them and give them hope.

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Some of you might now this, but I’ve been losing my eyesight for the past fourteen years. I’ve never let that stop me from doing anything, but just a few weeks before our program started, I had second thoughts: I came very close not to attending Drexel because of the “what if’s that surrounded my eyes. Well it’s now over two and half years later and I can confidently say that choosing to pursue graduate school in the face of uncertainty was the best decision of my life, hands down.

Looking back, none of the “what if’s” happened. In fact, none of the worries I had came close to fruition, instead, I had some of the best experiences of my life. I met amazing people (you know who you are), I grew more than I thought possible and I had some incredible opportunities. With my experiences as en example, I want to encourage you to forget about the “what if’s.” Instead, seek discomfort and make decisions that scare you in pursuit of being better. With the right attitude, some effort and a little bit a lot of faith, you can do whatever it is that you set your mind to. I believe so much in you and I know I’m not alone in that.

“You might not be able to change the world, but you might be able to change the world for one person.” Paul Shane Spear

Whether it’s in the clinic or just in life, remember that everyone is struggling with something that you can’t see and that with each interaction, no matter how big or how small, you have the opportunity to change the world of the person in front of you and make a positive difference in their life. No matter where your career takes you, always remember that the best physical therapists are the best humans and know that our time here on earth is bigger than this profession and bigger than us. In everything that you do, care about other people, love other people and make an effort to leave every person and place better than you found it.

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If you’d like to the speech in full, here’s the [video]. Before I close, I want to leave you with the quote that I chose to be read as I walked.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

It’s all about perspective; the best part is that you can choose what you see.

This blog is dedicated to the amazing people of Drexel DPT Class of 2019 and everyone who helped me get to where I am. Thank you again for reading; I appreciate you all so much!

Joe Rinaldi, PT, DPT

IG: @joerinaldi.dpt

6 thoughts on “Graduation Speech

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  1. Congratulations Dr. Joseph Rinaldi!! You continue to amaze me 🤓. Keep up the good work…your positive attitude is contagious. I love you! 🙏

  2. Congratulations Doc! With your attitude, you will be able to heal people not only physically, but perhaps spiritually.

  3. Dear Dr. Joe, sounds so good….
    First of all just want to congratulate you on all the hard work that you have put forth and now you are finally rewarded.
    Second, I am looking forward to my latter years when you can keep my body functioning and looking like yours.

    All the best to you and success in your future.

    Uncle Matt

    1. Thank you so much Uncle Matt! I really appreciate it and I can’t wait to be able to help you out (but hopefully you won’t need it!)

      All the best and I hope I see you soon!

      Joe

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