Thank you, students, administration board members, teachers, families, and guests. It is a real honor to stand here right now.
As a world history teacher, I know about the ancient Spartans, and I thought about beginning this speech with a description of one of their most important rites of passage when their youth became adults- the Diamastigosis Test of Endurance held at the Temple of Artemis!
When I told my husband it and the gory details, he looked at me with horror and said, “You can’t talk about that! There will be children in the room.”
So… as I tried to decide how to write a speech that wasn’t full of bloodshed, floggings, and death, I kept coming back to how you got here.
(to the seniors) This gym is filled with people who showed up to make this day possible for you. And while this is a time to recognize your achievements, I hope you don’t mind, I’m going to share this moment with them (gesture to crowd).
(to the crowd and seniors) This speech is going to involve a lot of appreciation and participation. If I mention something you did to lift these beautiful humans up, I will ask you to make some noise. Let’s begin.
(to the crowd) If you are or have been an employee or volunteer of the Quillayute Valley School District over the last 13 years, we honor you today. You made it your profession to help bring these youth to this stage.
You fed them breakfast and lunch, you wiped bloody noses, you cleaned toilets and vomit, budgeted field trips, fixed smart boards, attended board meetings, planned performances and spirit weeks, safely drove buses through snow and rain, you comforted their tender hearts in tough times, hid under tables with them, spent untold hours on lesson plans, grading, communicating with families, you broke up fights, inspired journeys of the mind, showed up every day, and gave them a second home.
If you count yourself among these dedicated professionals, I want to hear you now! Make some noise!…. Everyone now, give them a hand! Yes!
But we know so many lessons happen outside of these walls.
(to the seniors) There are people here this evening who taught you how to swim, ride a quad, bake cookies, get a wiggly worm to stay on a hook, shoot a rifle and hit your target, gather cedar and collect berries.
You watched these individuals work hard, pay bills, make meals, clean mountains of laundry, treat your elders with respect, shoulder the grief of losing someone, hold long-term relationships together, and extend the grace of forgiveness.
Parent is not just a noun, it’s a verb that represents infinite actions and choices that combined to keep you alive and inform who you are. Your Parents, Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles, siblings, your parents’ friends and your friends’ parents have all parented you.
(to the crowd) If you have shown up to raise these fledgling adults over the last 18 years, make some noise!!… Everyone now! Give them a hand!
(to the seniors) Raise your hand if you’ve ever been on a team, played a musical instrument, or performed in a drama production. For some of you, maybe most of you, these endeavors are what brought you here every year, where your closest friendships were formed.
Forks does an extraordinary job providing these opportunities.
(to the crowd) No way does a town this small experience so much success without the dedication and long hours put in by hundreds of people.
9 League Championships
2 district Championships
3 State Team Trophies
18 Individual State Medalists including
3 Individual State Championships.
Successful Band Adjudications
Recognition by a Broadway Theater for our Actors
(to the seniors) And while winning and performing is fun, really fun, ultimately, why the good people of this town shivered in bad weather to watch you play, or drove you immeasurable miles, listened to you practice lines or squawky notes over and over again, made costumes and bought gear and instruments, gave their many evenings and weekends to coach, assist, direct, and cheer you on was not just for the Ws or the applause.
It’s because they wanted you to learn how to join effort with others to create something bigger than you could on your own. You now know how to lift each other up when you are tired or beaten, how to build trust and gain respect by not giving up and always showing up.
Practice, patience, persistence, power- these are the gifts so many here gave to you.
(to the crowd) If you have ever played a part in helping these athletes to compete, these musicians and actors to perform, we want to hear you now! …Everyone, please!
Can we take a moment to talk about $162 thousand,473 dollars!? Seriously, if you’ve grown up here, you have no idea how phenomenal the senior auction is.
(to the crowd) People, incredibly generous people, showed up to provide handcrafted masterpieces, baked goods, vehicles, appliances, tools, you name it! And then, even more people showed up to purchase these items. A pie can sell for over $100.
(to the seniors) This town has literally, with money, invested in your futures through their service and giving!
(to the crowd and seniors) If you played a part in raising over $162,000 dollars this year, make some noise!! Let’s give them a hand! WOW!
(to the seniors) This isn’t one of those speeches where I tell you all to reach for the stars but to recognize the constellation you are already a part of. You are surrounded by stars, and you shine brighter with all of their light. This is a speech where I hope you see how much love and wisdom has been shared with you. You are the result of the combined effort of hundreds and hundreds of people who educated, parented, coached, and invested in you.
No matter where your path takes you, you know you have an entire town at your back. And to honor that, you have to keep doing what they have done for you. Pay your bills, do your dishes and your laundry, drive safely, share food, practice a skill, teach it to someone, listen to a friend when they are down, hold on to good people, and SHOW UP. Just keep showing up. Because when you show up, others will join you, and what this town knows, is we are stronger when we join forces, look out for each other, love, invest, and serve. You are proof of that.
(to crowd) Thank You!
(to seniors) Thank You! We love you!