Chapel talk: Ask yourself, "Will it be worth it?"

Math teacher and Peddie alumnus Mark Gartner '84 has been giving a version of this speech for many years, offering a bit of very relevant advice to students at the beginning of the academic year.

You may not know me, but you've seen me on TV. For 5 of the past 6 summers, I've been a stunt double for Bryan Cranston's character, Walter White, on the show Breaking Bad

Not really, but that would have been sweet… In reality, I am Mr. Gartner, and I work here. I’m a Peddie graduate class of 1984. I teach math, coach winter and spring track, work in Trask, and live in Kerr South. 

My Chapel talk begins now. 

It wasn’t worth it. You probably know about the 3 rising sophomores at Council Rock HS who died a couple of weeks ago when the SUV they were in rolled over while driving back from breakfast with their friends. There were 6 kids in the car which was driven by a 15 year old who didn't have a driver’s license. 

That breakfast wasn't worth it. 

 Did you hear a few weeks ago about the USC football player who injured both ankles? He jumped out window from a second floor apartment to get to a pool where his nephew was drowning. It turned out that story was a fabrication. He was climbing down the drainpipe of his girlfriend’s apartment…and fell. Instead of missing the first few games due to injury, he has been suspended from the team. 

It wasn't worth it. 

In both cases, the outcome could have been avoided, and I’ll explain how in a little bit. Until then, I’m going to read an edited short story about blowing up the world. The story is called "The Man from When" and is from the book, World’s Greatest Science Fiction, 1967, and it goes like this: 

It was early evening, and Mr. Smith had just sat down to do some reading on his Kindle when a thunderous explosion quaked through his house. After applying a steadying hand to the living room lamp, he sprinted outside. An incandescent glare a hundred yards from the house destroyed the purple sunset he had been taking a selfie in front of a few minutes before. “OMG!” he said (and then texted, g-chatted, tweeted, and Snapchatted), and ran back inside to hide. 

As Smith was inside gathering his wits, he was further alarmed by a steadily gushing hiss from beyond his open front door. When the sound persisted for a full minute, he went cautiously to the porch to find an intense mist rising from the area of the fiery thing he had viewed moments earlier. Somewhat awed, and thoroughly scared, he watched and waited for about 5 minutes. Just as he was about to go back inside, a man walked out of the mist and said, “Good evening.” 

“Good evening,” said Mr. Smith. “Are you the police?” 
“Oh no,” answered the stranger. “I’m from that,” he said, pointing a finger into the mist.  “My cooling equipment finally kicked into high.” 
“You’re a spaceman,” Smith decided. 
“I came only came a few hundred miles,” shrugged the stranger modestly. “Mostly, I’m a time traveler. The one and ONLY time traveler,” he added with a touch of pride in his voice. 
“The real Captain Kirk, Well come on in and have a seat. Are you from the past or future?” wondered Smith. 
“From the future,” replied the time traveler. 
“Well,” said Smith, sitting down and making himself comfortable, “I guess you’ll want to tell me all about it.” 
The time traveler said, “I had my final time-travel-calculations with the usual plus or minus…and of course it was the minus that had me a little worried.” 
“But you took the chance,” interjected Smith. 
“Naturally. And as it happened, there was SOME minus. Just enough to destroy the world. 
“That is too bad,” Smith commented. 
“Yes. You see, there was such an expenditure of energy that it completely wiped out the Earth of my time. The force blasted me all the way through space to this spot. By the way, I AM sorry if I disturbed you this evening.” 
“It was nothing, nothing at all. Forget it.” 
“Well, in any event, I took the chance and I’m not sorry. A calculated risk, but I still think it was worth it. What do you think?"
Smith commented, “As you said, you took the chance; you proved your point. I suppose it was worth it. By the way, how far from the future did you travel?” 

The time traveler consulted his phone. “Eighteen minutes,” he replied. 
“It wasn't worth it,” said Smith. 

Eighteen minutes. He proved his point to accomplish time travel, but at the cost of the world 18 minutes in the future. 

How many times have you gotten in trouble only to say, “It wasn’t worth it.” after getting caught? 

How about trying this instead? Before you get in trouble and find yourself in the Dean’s Office, the police station, or the morgue, ask yourself, “Will it be worth it if I something bad happens?” Ask yourself, “Will it be worth it?” before making that potentially bad decision. 

Will it be worth it to skip Math class in order to finish your History paper which is due later in the day? Maybe, although it may depend on what you are missing during Math class. Will you miss a quiz? Is skipping class going to be your tenth missed obligation? 

Will it be worth it to smoke pot in your dorm room?  What about getting drunk at the party on Saturday night? I’m unable to think of a party cool enough or a drug powerful enough to make me jeopardize being here at Peddie. 

I have 3 great loves in my life. Mrs. Gartner, my two sons, and Peddie. I desperately want you to have a wonderful experience at our school, but that can only happen if you are here. We've got a regular weekend upon us. That means two days to make good decisions. Make wise choices, and remember to ask yourself before doing something: “Will it be worth it?” 

Let’s have a great year! 

Ala Viva Peddie.


  1. Current Peddie students - I graduated with Mr Gartner in 1984. I heard this speech with him every year for 4 years. Like you, I probably rolled my eyes every year when I walked into the chapel and saw F.A. Towne preparing to give us "Will it be worth it" speech. Thirty years later, I wish I had a nickel for every time I've asked myself, “Will it be worth it?” It sounds so cliche, but this one simple question may save your life one day. Give it a try! Ala Viva


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