VALEDICTORIAN: 'We'll always be Rockdale Tigers at heart'

Reporter/Mike Brown Thomas Merka gives valedictory speech during Friday commencement exercies to the 104-member Class of 2009. He is the son of Tommy and Connie Merka. Reporter/Mike Brown Thomas Merka gives valedictory speech during Friday commencement exercies to the 104-member Class of 2009. He is the son of Tommy and Connie Merka. Editor's note: Following is the valedictory address delivered at commencement exercises by Thomas Merka.

According to Robert Orben "A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that 'individuality is the key to success'."

Ironic, huh? Hi, I am Thomas Merka and I am proud to represent the Class of 2009 as valedictorian.

First off, congratulations Class of 2009. We did it. And teachers and faculty, congratulations for not going insane for putting up with us for four years.

Now, remember the quote I opened this speech with? The one that talked about how we all look dressed alike?

Well, even though we are not portraying our individuality right now, I know that each and every one of us has the potential for success.

Before we can go out into the real world and be successful, we must know what success is. To me, success is not about having the most money, the best car or the biggest house. Success is about following your dreams and being happy with who you are and what you have.

Sounds easy, right? Well, not exactly.

Success isn't going to just fall from the sky. To quote Arnold H. Glasgow, "Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire."

In other words, your dreams will never some true if you do not make them come true. But, you may ask, how do I make my dreams come true?

Making dreams reality takes dedication, hard work and, above all, courage. Walt Disney once said, "All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them."

Lucky for us we have had some of the best teachers while at RHS that have prepared us with the skills necessar y to make our dreams realities.

These teachers have formed the foundations on which we will each build our lives and for that I am eternally grateful.

Thank you to everyone, teachers, friends and fellow students, that have shaped my life in so many ways these past four years and have prepared me for what lies ahead.

I would also like to thank my parents. Without them I would not be standing here tonight giving this speech. Thank you for lifting me up when I was down, standing behind me when I felt alone and supporting every wild adventure I ever dared to embark upon.

All right, enough about all that. This is the time when we should be remembering all the good times we had over the past four years in high school.

The school trips, the "band bus," the impromptu Walmart runs, avoiding Mr. Sanders, and Donut Palace, just to name a few.

These past four years we will treasure for the rest of our lives but, like all good things, they must come to an end. But, as they say, as one door closes another one opens.

Now we will move on to college where we will create even more memories and make new friends but we will always be RHS Tigers at heart.

As any of Mrs. King's English students will tell you, conclusions are the hardest things in the world to write, next to introductions of course, but here goes.

Here's what I wish for the Class of 2009.

"I hope your dreams take you to the corners of your smiles, to the highest of our hopes, to the windows of your opportunities and to the most special places your heart has ever known."

Remember, our past here was great but future will be even better if we have the will and courage to follow our wildest dreams.

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