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Hanna O-Lee

Ms. Starry

English 9 Honors: Period 3

05 March 2018

Ambition Speech

Studies show that of all high school basketball players in the United States, only one in

3,400 athletes go on to play professionally. Why is that? Well, there are two reasons. One, they

realize their dream to earn money by playing pro sports is highly unrealistic. Two, many of them

don’t “shoot” for the stars. They don’t aspire to become any better than they are. They lack one

thing. That one thing is what pushes people to do what they love or give up on it. It is what

separates greatness from mediocrity. It is what makes a person or breaks him. Ambition defines

you. Today, I will be speaking out on the pros and cons of ambition, how evidence has proven its

effect on modern society, and its impact on individual choice.

So back to basketball, I can’t shoot for my life, but I have friends who center their lives

around the sport. Running, jumping, shooting, blocking… it makes no sense to me how they

dedicate hours a day practicing over and over and over again. What can I say? It’s not my thing.

Everyone has different ambitions, different goals they want to achieve. Whether it’s

valedictorian or varsity team captain or college, we all seek to find that one thing that makes us

stand out from the crowd. We all want to get ahead, and no one in this room can deny it.

People are fascinated by ambition. According to a survey conducted by the National

Opinion Research Center, people were asked “what mattered for ‘getting ahead in life.’

Ambition ranked first at 43 percent, followed closely by ‘hard work’ and ‘a good education’”
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(Samuelson 1). To get ahead, we all must want ​something​. That desire, that longing, that wanting

for what we don’t have is the reason why society sets ambitious goals for itself and works so

hard to achieve them. But how hard is too hard? Where do we draw the line between “good”

ambition and “bad” ambition? That’s up to you.

And so I ask you, what is your ambition? In​ ​Shakespeare’s ​Macbeth​, fate told the

Scottish nobleman that his purpose in life was to be king. The crown became everything to him.

He told himself that he had “no spur to prick the sides of [his] intent, but only vaulting ambition,

which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’ other” (1.7.25-26), and yet he ​still​ let his intentions get in

the way of his conscience. He threw away everything he had in life and gave into obsession.

Now what does this all mean? Let’s imagine that everyone in the world is playing a game

of basketball, and the hoop represents happiness. Those like Macbeth are the ones who lie and

cheat, faking fouls to get the free-throw. When he has no one stopping him from achieving

happiness but himself, he’s bound to miss. The ones who win in the end will always be the

dreamers whose ambitions have grown with practice everyday. They don’t measure their success

by the successes of others. Aristotle once said, “For in everything it is no easy task to find the

middle... but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right

motive, and in the right way, that is not for everyone, nor is it easy” (Burton 1). Being able to

shape ambition into the perfect form to shoot that three-pointer is something very few people can

do. No matter how noble a person may be, ambitious temptations are strong. So here’s the

lesson: you must decide whether it controls you or you control it. When you’ve done that,

consider your stance in life perfected. Ambition has defined you. Now is your time to shine.

Now is your time to shoot for the stars.

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Works Cited

Beuke, Carl. “The Limits of Ambition.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 9 Dec. 2011,

Burton, Neel. “Is Ambition Good or Bad?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 16 Nov. 2014,

Samuelson, Robert. “The Downside of Ambition.” Real Clear Politics, The Washington Post

Writers Group, 17 Oct. 2007,

Shakespeare, William, and Sylvan Barnet. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Penguin Books Inc., 1998.