When I learned I was the Salutatorian for our class a few months ago, I was both thrilled and terrified at the prospect of speaking in front of you today. I knew of course that it was a great honor, but also that I had no idea how to spell salutatorian, let alone craft a speech and deliver it to hundreds of people.
As any good teenager would do, the first thing I did was turn to Urban Dictionary to find out what I would do as salutatorian. I learned that I was now officially, “The person who just missed being valedictorian by a few GPA points. Remember, 2nd place is just the first loser.” This definition helped me loosen up and step back a little bit. It helped me to realize that I simply needed to enjoy where I stood, and not worry about the minute details that would eventually be figured out.
I think we could all use a moment like that. A moment that makes us step out from under the anxiety of what the future holds and the pressures of what we will make out of ourselves. A moment that makes us laugh and forget about whatever trials may lie ahead of us. Most importantly, a moment that makes us realize that we are standing at a pretty great point in our lives.
Right now, we have all climbed the educational and social mountain that is high school. By each of us taking our own unique path, we have succeeded, and stand here before you today as graduates. As graduates, it is okay to be sad. Whether you are going into the workforce or into college, you are leaving a great many friends behind. You are likely moving away from your family and your childhood. Parents should be sad as well, as they are losing a child they have never lived without.
However, this is also a time for great pride and happiness. We are going onto great things in our lives, every single one of us. We are going to forge a path into the future, whatever it may hold, and will make incredible relationships along the way. Parents be proud as well, as you have raised a strong child, ready to make their way in the world. Whether you know it or not, your child appreciates what you have done for them to get them here tonight.
As we move on, it is important to remember that graduation is not the end of our lives, but rather the end of our first chapter. While high school will carry some weight in the future, it is not paramount. Grades we may have had, or didn’t have, tests we aced or failed, will not matter in the landscape of our lives. These things may matter in the pond that is JCHS, but not in the ocean that is the world.
What does matter is what we make of ourselves. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” This quotes speaks to the fact that the opinions of others in our lives are a distant second to our own opinions of ourselves. Our ability to succeed does not lie in our high school GPA or in the eyes of another, but in our own hearts and minds.
The road ahead of us is not easy. It will be filled with trials and challenges, roadblocks and detours that we can scarcely imagine now. Most of us have not even met a true obstacle yet; an exception to this is my good friend, Steve Brown, who stands before us representing the strength and resiliency that we all hope to have. No one can know what lies ahead, but we can take solace in the fact that we have been prepared to overcome it by our past experiences. We must move on in our lives and blaze our on path, wherever it may take us. Perhaps scariest of all, beyond any obstacles, is, as the famous composer Colin Davis said, that, “The road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same.” But we are not alone in finding our road to success. As we have had in our lives to get us to this point, we will have friends, family, and teachers to help us on our way.
Tonight is a meant not only as a ceremony to end high school, but a celebration of our pasts together. It is a remembrance of good times and bad on the stage, the field, and in the classroom. It is time for a reflection on the memories we have made, whether they focus on athletic foes conquered right here on Bonnel Field, a performance we shined in at the CPA, or an awesome summer night spent with your best friends.
As we move forward in our lives, I implore you to take some time between hanging out with friends and packing for college to reflect on and appreciate all the good times you have had during your time at JCHS. Thank you and may God bless this James Caldwell High School Class of 2014.
at their Commencement Ceremony on June 19, 2014. Sean Clarkin was the Class Salutatorian.