Speaker Inspires Students Toward Kindness


Kayla Kaveney

Houston Kraft speaking at OHS.

The Leadership Symposium is an event that is offered by the Jake Anderson Legacy Fund, established by the Anderson family through the Orono Foundation for Education, to bring leadership and service-oriented opportunities to Orono students. A 2013 Orono Graduate, Jake Anderson passed away the night of Dec. 15, 2013. Jake was an outstanding leader and role model at school, in athletics, and in the community.

The Jake Anderson Legacy Fund has brought in a professional speaker for four years — Keith Hawkins for two years and Houston Kraft for two years. Kraft talked with the Orono High school students on May 17 about how students can make kindness normal throughout the school.

Kraft said that the last time we were totally free of fear is probably when we were in the womb. The womb is a magical place, when you really pause and think about it. Everyday the perfect temperature. You have to figure out how to walk , and talk, go to the bathroom, and all that hard stuff when you are first born.

“When you are in the womb nothing, no homework, no drama, no responsibilities, no social media to keep up with, nothing to concern yourself with. You get into the world and you realize quickly that there are things to be afraid of. I don’t think that you and I were born afraid; I don’t think we were born scared; I really think that the world teaches us to be afraid of stuff in our life. Fear is the only thing in our life that makes us do dumb things, or prevents us from doing things we want to do. Either way fear makes us do dumb things sometimes,” Kraft said at the symposium.

Kraft’s speech was very entertaining to everyone, “Houston Kraft was just on fire. I thought he had a really good message, got everyone involved, was really compelling. You couldn’t help but pay attention to him. He told stories, and talked about episodes that I think everyone can relate to, there was a way to connect,” high school principal David Benson said.

Kraft mentioned that all people are afraid of something in their lives. “I’ve never met a single person who’s lived a perfect life. Doesn’t mean I won’t, but so far out of the [roughly] 500,000 people, I’ve spoken to, I’ve never met a single person who’s lived a life without pain.”

“I don’t know what your what your pain is, or what your fear is. Maybe your pain was you got laughed at, for being different; you got made fun of for something you believed in, or something you cared about. Maybe your pain was at some point you were made to feel really lonely, people betrayed you, or left you or you were made to feel worthless, or unvalued. I don’t know what your pain is, but all I know is this. At some point along the way, you and I are going to suffer,” said Kraft at the symposium.

Kraft brought everyone down onto the gym floor and did a activity. Randomly connecting two students together, creating a deep personal connection with their partner, “I thought the activity on the gym floor was just great. Everyone just connected with a stranger,” Benson said.

Kraft asked the question ‘How do we change normal?’ at the symposium, and then gave students two steps to help create the school life they want. “Step one: reminder you are powerful, reminder you create this place. The only difference from school to school is the people inside, and what they chose to do every day. You define what’s normal here. You decide what’s okay and what’s not okay. If there’s something that you don’t like about this place, do something different,” Kraft said.

Kraft emphasized the idea of kindness with a challenge of leaning into the pain. “Step two: we have to be honest this stuff is hard. Kindness is hard, and we don’t talk about it enough, and you want to know why it’s hard because sometimes you are kind to people and they aren’t kind back, and that hurts. Sometimes you are kind to people and they laugh at you, they mock you, they reject you, that hurts. If the fear part of your brain is anything like the fear part of my brain then it’s going to try and protect you from hurt. This is hard because kindness is painful. So if I were to leave you with a challenge today, it’s lean into the pain, chose to do painful stuff on purpose, be people that give people princess moments, be people that notice those around you that are suffering. Don’t just be nice, be kind,” Kraft said.

Check out The Spartan Speaks app for pictures and a video of Houston Kraft at the leadership symposium.