DERRY — Ed Gerety has spent years traveling the country, hoping students will listen to his words.

The motivational leadership speaker made a stop at Pinkerton Academy last week, spreading his messages of tolerance, kindness and how to be successful leaders.

Gerety combined a lot of humor with his own life experiences to share stories with the students about getting along, family issues and how to be respectful to others.

Adding in several "power claps" to gain students' attention kept most engaged and laughing for most of the assembly.

"I feel like Oprah," Gerety said as he pulled a student up on stage to make a point about appreciating everyone in your life.

"Who is the one person you would call if you only had one hour to live?" Gerety asked.

Some students called out "Mom" or "Dad." Others yelled out a best friend.

The student on stage said his mother would be the first, so he made the call in front of hundreds of his peers.

"I'm calling you in front of the entire senior class to tell you how much I love you," he told his mother.

Gerety's example went on to teach the students how important the people in our lives are. Making sure everyone is treated kindly is at the top of the list, especially when no one really knows what others are going through when they go home at the end of a long school day.

Teasing and picking on someone for being different is not the way to go, he said.

"We do not know everyone's story," Gerety said. "When we make that comment about a person to get a laugh, think first."

The presentation went on to teach respect, responsibility and good choices, all part of Gerety's messages he spreads to thousands of students all around the nation in a year's time.

Gerety spent several days working with Pinkerton students in larger assemblies and in smaller leadership workshops in addition to his crowd-size assemblies.

Most students said he kept their interest while sharing important advice.

Senior Benjamin Shriber, 17, said Gerety's message was powerful, especially when it comes to how people deserve to be treated by others.

"He hit the nail on the head," Shriber said. "It's true, we don't know everything about anyone."

Sarah Morrow said she enjoyed listening to Gerety and said she took part in Pinkerton's bullying policy work.

The 18-year-old said bullying on the high school campus is a big issue and hearing someone like Gerety speak can only help make things better.

"He's really, really effective with kids," she said.

Morrow said it was important for students to give input when it came to bullying and how it affects people.

Gerety told the students they have the power to be leaders, and to dream big.

Adding in an "I love you" along the way can't hurt, he said.

"We all make mistakes, nobody is perfect," he said. "But we can live our lives with gratitude and can (share) acts of kindness every day."

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