VALEDICTORIAN: ‘No’ just means ‘new opportunity’
Editor’s note: Following is the valedictory address delivered during commencement exercises by Caroline Wilde: G ood evening family and friends, teachers, administrators, staff, and school board members. Thank you for being here to recognize our special occasion. Your presence means a lot.
If we could say a collective thank you to all of the people who helped us arrive at this moment, we would. I have never seen a turtle on a fence post, but if I do, I can be pretty sure it will not have gotten there by itself.
Not one graduate arrived here tonight because of any singular effort. We are all here tonight due in part to the effort of someone other than ourselves. To my classmates, if someone has cared enough to encourage you along the way, find them and tell them thank you before the night is over. No one ever gets anywhere worth while by himself.
I especially thank my parents, sister, and grandfather for their special love and support. I also say a big thank you to my extended family members who have loved and encouraged me and made me laugh. My thank you would not be complete if I did not say thank you to my church families as well for their wonderful support. I am also grateful for the part my grandparents who are no longer with me played in my life. They will always be a special part of me, and for that I am thankful.
And above all, I thank my God. He is a part of my everyday life and has given me strength, hope, and peace that I could not find in anyone else or by any other means. And to my classmates, most of us have been together since elementary school. We have played together, studied together, and have shared many laughs. We already have a special bond.
At this time in our lives, I think the question we are most often asked is, “So, what are your plans?” Most of us have probably been asking ourselves that question for some time. In pursuit of our plans, we may occasionally run into an obstacle or a stumbling block along the way. In pursuit of our goals and dreams, we may sometimes hear the discouragement of the word “no.”
But like Mark Burnett, executive producer of shows like Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice, The Voice, and most recently, The Bible, when he hears the word no, he simply takes it to mean “New Opportunity.” To my classmates, I hope we are challenged to make each step in our lives count. Don’t let discouragement or a detour or the word no become a stumbling block. Use what looks like a stumbling block as a stepping stone, or better yet, a launching pad. We must work at being optimistic. Sir Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
The acclaimed Dr. Seuss wrote, “So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.”
And don’t let missteps or mistakes keep you from trying again. It’s said we should learn from the mistakes of others. We won’t live long enough to make them all ourselves. And we must remember that failing does not make us failures. Sometimes the worst failure is the failure to try. Failure sometimes is the path of least persistence. So, don’t quit. Remember, stopping at third base adds no more to the score than striking out.
Don’t let the enormity of life or goals keep you from setting a goal or setting out to accomplish a goal. Henry Ford said nothing is particularly hard when you break it down into small parts.
As we begin to lay out plans for our lives, we need to seek people who will encourage us. We need honest people in our lives who are willing to disagree with us but who will still encourage us. Proverbs 27:17 says “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Do our friends and colleagues sharpen us? And in seeking out people to encourage us, we should always look for opportunities to offer encouragement to others.
One life lesson I have learned during my involvement at Rockdale High School is the importance of reaching outside of oneself to help others. As prideful humans, this often seems hard and not easily done. But the result is far more rewarding than seeking to serve only ourselves. So I encourage you, Class of 2013, to be a bright spot in a sometimes dim world. Be the different one. As my mother says, “Stand out; don’t stick out.”
And in this act of serving others, let’s try to leave things better than we found them.
This ride of life that we are about to take may have some bumps and uneven spots. But I believe, just as cars have shock absorbers, life has humor. My classmates know this well. In Proverbs, we are told that a merry heart does good like medicine. Always remember to harness the power of laughter and humor.
My final wish for my classmates is that we harness the power of prayer. Life is not always within our human control. During those times, we come to the stark realization that the only intervention that will do is divine intervention. It is comforting to know that we do not have to figure life out alone. As Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
I would like to close with some words of wisdom from a grandmother and a doctor. At times, when my grandparents were about to leave for a trip, my grandmother would tell my grandfather, “Let’s enjoy the trip while we’re on it.”
What she really meant was… take time to pull off the highway for junk stores and antique shops. Maybe we would do well to take that advice to heart. Perhaps it is not being driven in life that makes us successful. Maybe it is more about being directed on the right path, with the right people, at the right time, and occasionally taking time for a detour to smell the roses or find a good bargain.
And finally, one of my favorite books written by a wellknown doctor offers some useful advice for our next phase of life. In his book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Seuss writes:
“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose…On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are…And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)…you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”
To my classmates, my life is better because I know you. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the Class of 2013. “Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.”
From here we will all go our separate ways to start our lives as Rockdale High School graduates. It will definitely not be an easy journey. We will be required to work very hard and to never quit learning, but we should always strive to be our best in every way possible and to follow our dreams.
As graduates we will all go on to experience new things, meet new people, and make new friends; however we will always be a part of the Rockdale High School class of 2012.
As we venture out into the world and part ways I would like to wish every one of my classmates the best of luck in all of their future endeavors.