Mike Smith Brings “DUDE. Be Nice” Campaign to WHS

Brianna Conley

Students smiled for a picture with Mike Smith  during lunch on March 26.

Clad in a “Dude-Be-Nice” beanie, numerous arm tattoos, a black “Omaha: We don’t coast” t-shirt and shaggy shoulder-length hair, Mike Smith fittingly looks exactly like what his job title suggests: a “Professional Teenager.”  This thirty-year-old teenager, however, does not live in his parents’ basement.  Rather, in addition to being a motivational speaker, he is the CEO of two non-profit organizations, the creator and producer of “The Harbor TV,” and promoter for popular skater clothing brands.  As Mr. Smith took the Walpole High School auditorium stage on March 26 for four separate assemblies (one for each student class), he recounted the defining moments of his own adolescence to convey to the student body his lessons of kindness, acceptance, and sincerity.

Although Mr. Smith changed the format of the presentation for the different classes, he fixated on two main themes: “Finding your Calvin,” and “Leaving a legacy.”

Raised in Imperial, Nebraska, Mr. Smith was not an ideal student in high school: as a talented yet arrogant athlete, he maintained a C average and treated others with disrespect.  Then on one evening after his father had been diagnosed with cancer, his mother told him a harsh truth.

“We’re not proud of the man you have become,” Mr. Smith recollected.

Ashamed of his actions, he stripped his walls of all his athletic trophies and academic awards. He then took a sharpie and wrote down all of the things that were important to him: things like teammates, family, kindness, and compassion.  Above his door that night, he scrawled the following question: “What’s your legacy?”

Through this story, Mr. Smith encouraged students to reflect on the legacy they will leave after they go on to college.  He spoke the harsh truth that the “things” high school students care about from instagram likes to sports records will not matter to anyone in the future. Rather, he said students need to live passionately to leave a meaningful and lasting legacy.

“He was realistic about telling us who we are,” said senior Danny Bean, “and did not attempt to avoid the truth of our generation.”

“How will you be remembered? What will your legacy be?” said Mr. Smith.

In the second half of the presentation, Mr. Smith spoke about his senior-year transformation after befriending a quiet freshman named Calvin. Because of that friendship, Mr. Smith spoke about the values of acceptance and kindness.

In other words, he encouraged Walpole High students to “find [their] Calvin.”

At the conclusion of the Senior Class assembly, Mr. Smith surprised the Walpole High School Student Council Advisor Ms. Kerry McMenimen by introducing a sixteen minute “Dude. Be Nice” video created by students to honor their teacher.  The video included clips of Mike Smith, alumni, current students, and Ms. McMenimen’s family — all thanking Ms. McMenimen for her meaningful actions in the Walpole community.

“It was truly rewarding being able to recognize such an underappreciated member of our school community,” said Student Council Secretary Annie Gallivan.

Later in the day, Mr. Smith talked with students in the cafeteria and posed for pictures.  Throughout that day, many students reacted positively to his presentation.

Senior Kody McCann said, “Mike Smith’s message is the only message I have never forgotten. He is so down to earth and his story is simple, but powerful. I have seen him three times and he doesn’t get old.”