Ladies and Gentlemen; The SpeechJune 6, 2007
Last Friday evening I had the distinct pleasure of attending my son’s high school graduation. This is a milestone in the lives of the parents as well as the children, I’m sure we all agree. My joy was doubled when I learned a few weeks ago, that Sterling would be delivering a speech at commencement because he earned the title of Salutatorian. For those of you who’ve forgotten, Valedictorian is the student with the highest grade point average, Salutatorian has the class rank of #2.
Because of my interest in writing, and some people think I have some skill at doing so, I had hoped to review the speech before Sterling delivered it. I figured I could help edit, plus I’d get to see what is on his mind. He would have nothing to do with that idea. Only three people saw the speech before commencement: Sterling, an english teacher, and a principal. He was forcing me to wait until that evening to hear his words. I wanted to crawl under my seat at the opening sentence, my jaw dropped and the phrase “you arrogant son of a bitch” ran through my head. I did like the way he used that hook to draw us in, then lead us down the path that he chose for us. It’s a great commencement speech. I offer it to you here:
Good Evening students, parents, and administration,
The past four years of my life I’ve been graced with the ability to succeed. I’d love to stand up here and tell you how hard I worked, studied, and strived to get A’s in high school, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth. The intent of High school is to prepare you for your college education, and I believe I did my best to be prepared. Although I stand up here as salutatorian, my grades have never been a high concern of mine, as I’ve been more concerned with preparing for my future. Hopefully, all of us have strived for more than just to earn that A, but to prepare for our bright futures.
In high school, I think we all learned more valuable lessons than just what teachers taught us out of textbooks. I once overheard Mr. Krofcheck say that he didn’t just teach us AP European history, but he was trying to teach us how to make choices. I usually don’t pay attention to the things Mr. Krofcheck says, but every once in awhile he says something poignant.
Sometimes I look back at some of the choices I’ve made the past four years of my life, and wonder if I’ve learned a lot, or nothing at all. When I decided to never bother to learn what logarithms were and fail every Pfeifer test on them, had I made the right choice? When I wrecked my mom’s car after barely having my license for three months, was I an inexperienced driver or just unlucky? When I almost fractured my wrist after a microphone problem during the step up to the mic concert because of punching the bathroom door, I knew I had made the wrong choice. A list of my bad choices could go on for days.
But on the other hand, hopefully Mr. Krofcheck can say I’ve made a lot of good choices. I never came into school unprepared for an AP European history test, because I knew Mr. Krofcheck would know. I took a full schedule of CP classes every year, even though I hated the work load. Every Saturday afternoon when I would go shovel coal for my pap and watch gun smoke on TV land instead of hanging out with my friends, I was making the right choice. When I paid for my own car and handed my mom 500 dollars for her wrecked Toyota, I chose the only choice I had, to take responsibility for my actions.
But sometimes, no matter how many good or bad choices we’ve made, we don’t get to decide when our time is up. Our friend, Chris Keifer, isn’t graduating tonight with us, even though he made better choices in life than most of us. Our senior class learned a very early lesson in life about loss and heartache that no lecture from any teacher could have prepared us for. As we all stood at Chris’s funeral and signed his casket, we all analyzed every choice we’ve made in life, and how awful some of them have been. Many of us swore to fly the straight and narrow from then on, but it’s hard to make the best decision every time in your life, and sometimes, the choice isn’t up to you.
So as we graduate tonight, let’s not think of what our class rank was, or how popular we were in high school. Whether you hated high school and struggled through the last four years, or whether you loved high school and thought these would be the best four years of your life, whether you made the best choices you could, or made some terrible mistakes, tonight it shouldn’t matter. The one lesson our teachers have been trying to teach the last four years is to be happy with where you are, because all of this will pass by before we know it, and our lives can be cut shorter than any of us have expected. If us seniors have learned anything in high school, I hope it is to enjoy every minute of what you’re doing, and never regret any choice you’ve ever made.
That’s my boy!