BY ERIN BRINE-DOYLE,
AND ALEXIS VISSER
Erin: Thank you. It’s a great honor to be able to stand before you this evening as your valedictorians.
I think it’s safe to say that none of us sitting here could have made it this far. All 140 of us had help along the way. So, to begin, we’d like to take a few moments to thank some of those people who have had such significant impacts on our lives.
Parents: You have been standing at our sides for almost two decades. You’ve held our hands and driven us to all our activities, even when we were driving you crazy. You’ve been our unfailing cheer squads, our personal prom-night paparazzis, the shoulders we could cry on, and the hands that always reached out to us after the tears dried, helping us to our feet again. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you.
Coaches: You accompanied us where our parents couldn’t ... or wouldn’t (think DL. Crookston. East Grand Forks on a Thursday night to arrive back home at 2 in the morning. You know what I mean). Even for those far-away, not-a-chance-at-a-win games, you stood beside us, helping us to do the best we could. You never gave up on us, even when we were tempted to give up on ourselves. For this, and for everything else you have done for us, we thank you.
And, finally, to our teachers: You have been the adults we have seen more than any others for the past 13 years. You put up with our excuses, saw our efforts through our mistakes, and never stopped encouraging us to “shoot for the moon,” as those motivational posters said. You taught us much more than just what was in the textbooks: You taught us how to be people of character. And you taught this by your own example. We would not be the people we are today without you. Thank you.
Gunnar: Tonight’s ceremony represents what is perhaps the greatest turning point in our lives thus far. For some of us, independence has been a dream we’ve chased throughout high school. Others may be quivering in their seats as we speak. I believe most of us, myself included, are somewhere in the middle, ready to move on and yet still restrained by our uncertainty of the future.
Ours is an age of choices. Just as every generation has had its decisions to make, this class of 2013 will be bombarded with options when it leaves this building today. Options of lifestyles, of world views, of spouses and cars and homes and hobbies. Options that may be as simple as choosing a healthy breakfast or as complex as climbing the company ladder or even starting a business from scratch.
If you were planning on leaving tonight with nothing but a diploma, please consider also tucking away this small piece of advice as you head out of the building: Every decision you make, every option you select, everything you choose to do in life will have a consequence. Everything. High school does a pretty good job of giving us a taste of what that’s like what with different lunch options, class schedules, and independent study time. But what are the consequences of these choices? A stomachache, a bad grade, maybe a busy weekend of makeup work. These aren’t long-lasting consequences in most cases.
But what of the proverbial “real world”? What are the consequences with which it threatens us? Perhaps it’s a lost job, financial strains, or even a brush with the law. Or maybe it’s more personal. Maybe it’s a loss of trust or the end of a relationship held dear. High school seems to give us plenty of opportunities to experiment with these. But that’s only half of the story.
Your actions as an individual can move the world. When someone says, “move the world,” we usually think of “big names” like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Mother Theresa. We often pass off those who came before us as extraordinary cases. And not to diminish what they or any other historical figure have done, but we need to put their lives into perspective: They were human beings and (contrary to what Mr. Bohme would tell you) so is every teenager in this room.
Jokes aside, I cannot be more serious when I say that each and every individual in this building has the ability to change the world. What will that look like? I honestly have no idea, and that’s alright, because I don’t need to know. The one who needs to know is the one who acts.
I hope to hear someday of the accomplishments of my fellow classmates at Pequot Lakes High School, but not just the accomplishments that we usually associate with that word. I look forward to being told about a bandmate who has started a family and is living a happy and healthy marriage. I anticipate hearing about the girl I met through English class actively serving in her community. And I eagerly await the day when I open the newspaper one morning and find in big, bold letters the name of the kid everyone underestimated in school with an extensive article describing the fantastic things they have done since graduation.
You may think I’m crazy for believing these things, but history is often written by unlikely heroes. Just think of graduation as wetting your own pen. And now comes the big question: What will you write?
Alexis: Bear all this in mind as you walk out these doors tonight. “The future” isn’t a distant thing anymore — it’s right here. We’re entering it now. As we do, we have to make a choice as to how we’re going to live that future.
Tomorrow we’ll have to make this choice again. And the next day, and the day after that ... every day for the rest of our lives. It won’t always be easy. After all, the choices we make and the actions we take will determine who we are and where we go.
We’ve been taught well; we have all the tools we need. We are fully capable of walking out into the world and making a positive impact. Sometimes, we will make mistakes. Everyone does. But that’s OK; life goes on. It’s a journey that we’re just starting on tonight.
There will be ups and downs, hairpin turns, and sudden stops that threaten to throw you off. If you fall, there’s nothing to do but pick yourself up, dust yourself off, get back on that horse and ride again. If it wasn’t for the occasional failure, how would we know what success is?
Embrace your mistakes and celebrate your success, because it means you are moving forward. Express gratitude every day. Follow your dreams. You are free to invent the life before you. You are your own artist; draw the roadmap. Where would you like to go?
On this night of transition, I leave you with a few words from my favorite philosopher, Jim Rohn: “Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”
Congratulations Class of 2013!