against the unknown

June 12, 2012

a speech given on 11 June in honor of the graduating class of 2012.

On behalf of the staff and faculty of LAICHS, I’d like to thank you all for being here to celebrate the graduation of the class of 2012.  It is an honor and a privilege to have taught these students who are before us today.

We began the year by reading Beowulf.  It’s the story of a warrior who saves a city by killing a monster.  It’s a classic image of courage, of a brave hero who is willing to sacrifice himself.  A hero is one who is willing to fight even when the odds are against her.  Sometimes, or perhaps often, it is hard to connect this kind of courage to our daily lives.  For high school students, this is merely a fairy tale (that their English teacher is forcing them to read).  It is not something they expect to see as they walk through the halls of their high school.  It seems less than real.

As I graded final papers over the last weeks and considered this class of students whom I’ve grown to love, I looked for something that united them all.  What is it about this bunch that has grabbed the hearts of each teacher and staff member here?  Each one is unique, and talented, and hilarious in their own way (and some in more ways than others), but the quality that immediately came to mind was the one we began the year discussing: bravery.

The students sitting before us, more than any I have ever known, are brave.

Some are brave, because each morning they wake up with the full knowledge of past (or current) tragedy—and every morning they move forward.  Some are brave because they took the academic challenges their teachers threw at them this year in stride and pushed themselves to write clearer and think harder than they ever had.  Some are brave because they are treading upon untried soil, they are the first in their families to earn this diploma and head to college.  Some are brave because they passed classes this year that it took them years to pass.  Some are brave because they faced personal failure, but chose to not be defined by it, but rather, to learn from it and keep growing.

All are brave because it is the scariest thing in this world to keep getting off the floor and trying again.

It is fitting that you, the class of 2012, have named yourself The Last Standing.  You’ve kept standing these four years, and I’m confident that you’ll keep standing over the next four years and beyond.  Your desire to keep running forward, despite odds being stacked against you will keep you standing.  Your bravery is worth more to you than grade point averages, and college acceptances.  It’s what will keep you in college and pursing your dreams even if no one else believes in you.

We, the staff and faculty of LAICHS, are proud.  Unbelievably proud of you—today.  We are proud of where you have come from and where you are going.  But most of all, we are proud of who you are.  Today you can say, with Beowulf: “We have gone through with a glorious endeavor and have been much favored in this fight we dared against the unknown.”

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2 Responses to “against the unknown”

  1. vivian hyatt said

    Good speech! And congratulations on being chosen to give it! Aren’t you the newbie? II’m very proud of you!

  2. Mary Jo Cogan said

    Great speech, Becky! Thoughtful, uplifting, and inspiring ~ good job!

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