Good evening faculty, family, friends and distinguished graduates of 2012. It is truly my humble honor to be here this evening, and for this honor, I would like to extend my appreciation to Dr. Chandler and the Board of Education members, Ms. Robins and the administration of Adams City High School, as well as those staff members and students—whom despite my decision to leave and pursue teaching elsewhere—have never quite left my heart. Though our paths have diverged, our stories are still the same shared saga. In fact, in many ways, together we are writing one life, together we are living one story: a story of learning and teaching, laughing and crying, losing and finding, connecting and remembering.
My presence on this privileged stage, during this treasured night, in front of this great group of graduates is a testament to this shared story. Though I turn the pages, though I write new words, though I begin new chapters, it is still this graduating class of 2012 whose words and sentences and exclamations and questions—whose lives I cannot erase. Teaching you, being taught by you, growing beside you, and watching you grow into young men and women has and will always be, one of those defining and glorious moments in my story. You are more than inky words on my transparent, crinkly pages…you are eternally written in deep within my heart. Treasured there are memories of: spilled milk, stunning Socratic seminars, cold water fights, many, many complaints about how you overanalyze everything now, shared sorrows and tearful hugs, very important “monthly meetings,” dancing the Caballo dorado and Cupid shuffle, and since “I’m sexy and I know it”: even the ever-famous wiggle, wiggle, wiggle dance.
However, though you are treasured in my heart and special in my story, your role in the stories of so many others is just as significant. I would like to make a request of the adults here tonight. If you are an adult—teacher, parent, administrator, any adult—whose story and life have been encouraged, inspired, or influenced in some way by one or more of these graduating seniors, please stand. Si estas un adulto…Seniors, class of 2012, look around. These are the lives you touched and the hearts you have inspired. These are the stories in which you have written a part. From all of us standing, I would like to say thank you, seniors, for writing such beautiful additions to our stories. Thank you, please sit.
We are here tonight to recognize how in this time of your life, your story is beginning to change, to expand in ways you hoped, perhaps to turn a different page than you ever expected. You are off into the world: You will learn more than you ever envisioned. You will hurt more than you ever feared. You will love more than you ever dared. You will question more than you ever considered. And you will grow. Your paths lead you through college, where you will learn from and alongside some of the greatest minds. Your paths lead you to some kind of work, through which you will spend the rest of your life earning the means to enjoy your story. Your paths lead you to people and places and events that will forever change your mind, and then change it again, and then change it yet again. Embrace the changes life brings, for resistance to change is a refusal to pick up the pen and revise old memories or write new moments into your story.
As your story continues, as your path leads to you to growth in your mind, I want you to carry with you the echo of EP Beachene’s words: “You are never a great man when you have more mind than heart.” In 40, or 60, or 80 years, when you look back and reread your story, what will matter most is the state of your heart. Your degrees and your bank accounts and your possessions and your accomplishments will be mere chapter headings in your story. But the matters of your heart: your relationships with others, your relationship with yourself, will be the sentences that fill those chapters and color those settings. I applaud your intended study in college, but remember to foster your heart’s deepest interests. I exalt your intended career choices, but remember to support your heart’s undiscovered talents. I honor your future accomplishments, but remember to give and forgive and take and make generously from your heart. According to John Eldridge: “Success or failure can be pretty well be predicted by the degree to which the heart is fully in it”. Today class of 2012, and every day for the rest of your much anticipated lives, may your heart be ever, fully, beautifully, gloriously in it—whatever your it may be.
Today—and every day—we celebrate you and your mind and your heart. Congratulations to the class of 2012. Thank you.