Admiral McRaven addresses the University of Texas at Austin Class of 2014

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thank you very much thank you well Thank
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You president powers Provost fenves
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Dean’s members of the faculty family and
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friends and most importantly the class
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of 2014 it is it is indeed an honor for
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me to be here tonight
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it’s been almost 37 years to the day
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that I graduated from UT I remember a
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lot of things about that day I remember
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I had a throbbing headache from a party
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the night before I remember I had a
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serious girlfriend who I later married
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that’s important to remember by the way
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and I remember I was getting
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commissioned in the Navy that day but of
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all the things I remember I don’t have a
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clue who the commencement speaker was
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and I certainly don’t remember anything
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they said so acknowledging that fact if
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I can’t make this commencement speech
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memorable
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I won’t least try to make it short so
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the university slogan is what starts
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here changes the world well I’ve got to
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admit I kind of like it what starts here
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changes the world tonight there are
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almost 8,000 students there more than
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8,000 students graduated from UT so that
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great paragon of analytical rigor ascom
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says that the average American will meet
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10,000 people in their lifetime 10,000
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people that’s a lot of folks but if
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every one of you change the lives of
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just 10 people and each one of those
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people change the lives of another 10
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people and another 10 then in five
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generations 125 years the class of 2014
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will have changed the lives of 800
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million people
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800 million people
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think about it over twice the population
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of the United States go one more
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generation and you can change the entire
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population of the world 8 billion people
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if you think it’s hard to change the
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lives of 10 people change their lives
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forever
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you’re wrong I saw it happen every day
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in Iraq and Afghanistan a young army
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officer makes a decision to go left
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instead of right down a road in Baghdad
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and the 10 soldiers with him are saved
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from a close-in ambush in Kandahar
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province Afghanistan a noncommissioned
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officer from the Female Engagement Team
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senses that something isn’t right and
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directs the infantry platoon away from a
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500-pound I Edie saving the lives of a
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dozen soldiers but if you think about it
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not only were those soldiers say by the
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decisions of one person but their
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children were saved and their children’s
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children generations were saved by one
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decision one person but changing the
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world can happen anywhere and anyone can
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do it so what starts here can indeed
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change the world but the question is
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what will the world look like after you
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change it well I’m confident that it
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will look much much better but if you’ll
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humor this old sailor for just a moment
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I have a few suggestions that may help
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you on your way to a better world and
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while these lessons were learned during
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my time in the military I can assure you
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that it matters not whether you ever
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serve the day in uniform it matters not
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your gender your ethnic or religious
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background your orientation or your
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social status our struggles in this
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world are similar and the lessons to
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overcome those struggles and to move
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forward changing ourselves and changing
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the world around us will apply equally
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to all I’ve been a Navy SEAL for 36
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years but it all began when I left UT
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for basic SEAL training in Coronado
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California basic SEAL training is six
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months along torturous runs in the soft
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sand midnight swims in the cold water
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off San Diego obstacle courses unending
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calisthenics days without sleep and
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always being cold wet and miserable it
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is six months of being constantly
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harassed by professionally trained
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warriors
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who seek to find the weak of mind and
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body and eliminate them from ever
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becoming a Navy SEAL but the training
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also seeks to find those students who
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can lead in an environment of constant
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stress chaos failure and hardships to me
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basic SEAL training was a lifetime of
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challenges crammed into six months so
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here the 10 lessons I learned from basic
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SEAL training that hopefully will be of
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value to you as you move forward in life
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every morning in SEAL training my
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instructors who at the time were all
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Vietnam veterans would show up in my
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barracks room and the first thing they
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do is inspect my bed if you did it right
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the corners would be square the covers
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would be pulled tight the pillows
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centered just under the headboard and
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the extra blanket folded neatly at the
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foot of the rack it was a simple task
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mundane at best but every morning we
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were required to make our bed to
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perfection it seemed a little ridiculous
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at the time particularly in light of the
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fact that we were aspiring to be real
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warriors tough battle-hardened seals but
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the wisdom of this simple act has been
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proven to me many times over if you make
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your bed every morning you will have
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accomplished the first task of the day
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it will give you a small sense of pride
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and it will encourage you to do another
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task and another and another and by the
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end of the day that one task completed
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will have turned into mini task
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completed making your bed will also
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reinforce the fact that the little
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things in life matter if you can’t do
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the little things right you’ll never be
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able to do the big things right and if
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by chance you have a miserable day you
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will come home to a bed that is made
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that you made and a made bed gives you
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encouragement that tomorrow will be
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better so if you want to change the
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world start off by making your bed
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during seal training the students during
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training the students are all broken
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down into boat crews each crew is seven
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students three on each side of a small
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rubber boat and one Coxon to help guide
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the dinghy
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every day your boat crew forms up on the
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beach and is instructed to get through
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the surf zone and paddle several miles
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down the coast in the winter the surf
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off San Diego can get to be eight to ten
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feet high and it is exceedingly
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difficult to paddle hoop through the
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plunging surf unless everyone digs in
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every paddle must be synchronized to the
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stroke count of the Coxon everyone must
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exert equal effort or the boat will turn
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against the wave and be unceremoniously
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dumped back on the beach for the boat to
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make it to its destination
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everyone must paddle you can’t change
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the world alone you will need some help
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and to truly get from your starting
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point to your destination takes friends
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colleagues the good will of strangers
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and a strong Coxon to guide you if you
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want to change the world find someone to
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help you paddle over a few weeks of
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difficult training my seal class which
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started with 150 men was down to just 42
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there are now six boat crews of seven
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men each I was in the boat with the tall
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guys but the best boat crew we had was
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made up of little guys the Munchkin crew
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we called him
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no one was over five foot five the
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Munchkin boat crew had one American
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Indian one African American one Polish
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American one Greek American one Italian
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American and two tough kids from the
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Midwest they out paddled out ran and out
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swam all the other boat crews the big
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men and the other boat crews would
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always make good-natured fun of the tiny
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little flippers the munchkins put on
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their tiny little feet prior to every
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swim but somehow these little guys from
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every corner of the nation in the world
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always had the last laugh
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sewing faster than everyone and reaching
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the shore long before the rest of us
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SEAL training was a great equalizer
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nothing mattered but your will to
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succeed not
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color not your ethnic background not
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your education not your social status if
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you want to change the world measure a
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person by the size of their heart not by
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the size of their flippers several times
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a week the instructors would line up the
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class and do a uniform inspection it was
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exceptionally thorough your hat had to
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be perfectly starched your uniform
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immaculately pressed your belt buckle
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shiny and void of any smudges but it
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seemed that no matter how much effort
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you put into starting your hat or
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pressing your uniform or polishing your
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belt buckle it just wasn’t good enough
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the instructors would find something
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wrong for failing uniform inspection the
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student had to run fully clothed into
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the surf zone then wet from head to toe
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roll around on the beach until every
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part of your body was covered with sand
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the effect was known as a sugar cookie
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you stayed in the uniform the rest of
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the day cold wet and Sandy there were
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many a student who just couldn’t accept
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the fact that all their efforts were in
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vain that no matter how hard they tried
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to get the uniform right it went
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unappreciated those students didn’t make
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it through training those students
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didn’t understand the purpose of the
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drill you were never going to succeed
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you were never going to have a perfect
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uniform the instructors weren’t going to
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allow it sometimes no matter how well
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you prepare or how well you perform you
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still end up as a sugar cookie it’s just
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the way life is sometimes if you want to
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change the world did over being a sugar
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cookie and keep moving forward every day
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during training you were challenged with
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multiple physical events long runs long
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swims obstacle courses hours of
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calisthenics something designed to test
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your mettle every event had standards
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times you had to meet if you failed to
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meet those times those standards your
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name was posted on a list and at the end
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of the day those on the list were
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invited to a circus a circus was two
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hours of additional calisthenics
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designed to wear you down to break your
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spirit to force you to quit no one
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wanted a circus a circus meant that for
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that day
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you didn’t measure up a circus meant
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more fatigue and more fatigue meant that
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the following day would be more
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difficult and more circuses were likely
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but at some time during seal training
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everyone everyone made the circus list
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but an interesting an interesting thing
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happened to those who were constantly on
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the list over time those students who
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did two hours of extra calisthenics get
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stronger and stronger the pain of the
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circuses built inner strength and
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physical resiliency life is filled with
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circuses you will fail you will likely
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fail often it will be painful it will be
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discouraging at times it will test you
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to your very core but if you don’t if
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you want to change the world don’t be
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afraid of the circuses at least twice a
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week the trainees were required to run
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the obstacle course the obstacle course
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contained 25 obstacles including the
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10-foot wall a 30-foot cargo net a
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barbed wire crawl to name a few but the
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most challenging obstacle was a slide
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for life
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it had a three level 30-foot tower at
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one end and a one level tower at the
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other in between was a 200-foot long
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rope you had to climb the three tiered
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Tower and once at the top you grabbed
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the rope swung underneath the rope and
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pulled yourself hand over hand until you
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got to the other end the record for the
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obstacle course had stood for years from
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my class began in 1977 the record seemed
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unbeatable until one day a student
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decided to go down the slide for life
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headfirst instead of swinging his body
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underneath the rope and inching his way
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down he bravely mounted the top of the
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rope and thrust himself forward it was a
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dangerous move seemingly foolish and
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fraught with risk failure could be an
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injury and being dropped from the course
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without hesitation the students slid
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down the Rope perilously fast instead of
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several minutes it only took him half
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that time and by the end of the course
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he had broken the record if you want to
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change the world sometimes you have to
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slide down the obstacles headfirst
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during the land warfare phase
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training the students are flown out to
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San Clemente Island which lies off the
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coast of San Diego the waters off San
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Clemente are a breeding ground for the
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great white sharks to pass seal training
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they’re a series of long swims that must
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be completed one is the night swim
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before the swim the instructors joyfully
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briefed the students on all the species
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of sharks that inhabit the waters off
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San Clemente they assure you however
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that no student has ever been eaten by a
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shark at least not that they can
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remember but you were also taught that
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if a shark begins to circle your
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position stand your ground do not swim
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away
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do not act afraid and if the shark
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hungry for a midnight snack darts
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towards you then summons up all your
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strength and punch him in the snout and
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he will turn and swim away there are a
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lot of sharks in the world if you hope
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to complete the swim you will have to
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deal with them so if you want to change
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the world
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don’t back down from the Sharks as Navy
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SEAL is one of our jobs is to conduct
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underwater attacks against enemy
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shipping we practice this technique
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extensively during training the ship
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attack mission is where a pair of sealed
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divers is dropped off outside an enemy
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harbor and then swims well over two
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miles underwater using nothing but a
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depth gauge and a compass to get to the
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target during the entire swim even well
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below the surface there is some light
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that comes through it is comforting to
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know that there is open water above you
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but as you approach the ship which is
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tied to appear the light begins to fade
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the steel structure the ship blocks the
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moonlight it blocks the surrounding
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street lamps it blocks all ambient light
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to be successful in your mission you
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have to swim under the ship and find the
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keel the centerline and the deepest part
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of the ship this is your objective but
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the keel is also the darkest part of the
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ship where you cannot see your hand in
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front of your face where the noise from
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the ship’s machinery is deafening
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and where it gets to be easily
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disoriented and you can fail every seal
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knows that under the keel at that
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darkest moment of the mission is a time
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when you need to be calm when you must
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be called when you must be composed when
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all your tactical skills your physical
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power and your inner strength must be
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brought to bear if you want to change
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the world you must be your very best in
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the darkest moments the ninth week of
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training is referred to as hell week it
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is six days of no sleep constant
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physical and mental harassment and one
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special day at the mud flats the mud
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flats are an area between San Diego and
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Tijuana where the water runs off and
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creates the Tijuana sloughs a swampy
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patch of terrain where the mud will
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engulf you it is on Wednesday of Hell
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week but you paddle down in the mud
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flats and spend the next 15 hours trying
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to survive this freezing cold the
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howling wind and the incessant pressure
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to quit from the instructors as the Sun
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began to set that Wednesday evening my
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training class having committed some
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egregious infraction of the rules was
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ordered into the mud the mud consumed
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each man till there was nothing visible
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but our heads
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the instructors told us we could leave
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the mud if only five men would quit only
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five men just five men and we could get
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out of the oppressive cold looking
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around the mud flat it was apparent that
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some students were about to give up it
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was still over eight hours till the Sun
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came up eight more hours of
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bone-chilling cold a chattering teeth
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and shivering moans of the trainees were
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so loud it was hard to hear anything and
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then one voice began to echo through the
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night one voice raised in song the song
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was terribly out of ten but sung with
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great enthusiasm one voice became two
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and two became three and before long
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everyone in the class was singing the
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instructors threatened us with more time
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in the mud if we kept up the singing but
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the singing persisted
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and somehow the mud seemed a little
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warmer and the wind a little tamer and
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the dawn not so far away if I have
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learned anything in my time traveling
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the world it is the power of hope the
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power of one person a Washington a
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Lincoln King Mandela and even a young
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girl from Pakistan Malala one person can
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change the world by giving people hope
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so if you want to change the world start
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singing when you’re up to your neck and
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mud finally a seal training there’s a
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bell a brass Bell that hangs in the
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center of the compound for all the
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students to see all you have to do quit
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all you have to do to quit is ring the
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bell ring the bell and you no longer
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have to wake up at 5 o’clock ring the
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bell and you no longer have to be in the
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freezing cold swims ring the bell and
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you no longer have to do the runs the
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obstacle course the PT and you no longer
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have to endure the hardships of training
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all you have to do is ring the bell to
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get out if you want to change the world
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don’t ever ever ring the bell to the
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class of 2014 you are moments away from
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graduating moments away from beginning
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your journey through life moments away
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from starting to change the world for
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the better it will not be easy
18:44
but you are the class of 2014 the class
18:47
that can affect the lives of 800 million
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people in the next century start each
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day with a task completed find someone
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to help you through life respect
18:56
everyone know that life is not fair and
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that you will fail often but if you take
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some risks step up on the times you’re
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the toughest face down the bullies lift
19:05
up the downtrodden and never ever give
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up if you do these things the next
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generation and the generations that
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follow will live in a world far better
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than the one we have today and what
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started here will indeed have changed
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the world for the better
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thank you very much fucking horns

Where to find everyone

William H. McRaven

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