Tonight as you sit on the field and listen to the many speeches, mine will not be among them. I'll be watching from the booth, one of the best seats in the house, but I'll leave the talking to your peers and principals. That being said, I have a few words to share as you graduate. Tonight's all about you, though I'll confess graduation is always a tough night for me (and presumably many teachers). I doubt you'll see any tears; it's not quite the preschool graduation, but it always stings about the same.
I have a strong connection with this group because it's the first (and perhaps only) class I've had the pleasure of teaching for three years straight. Many of you walked into my room in August 2012 as a group of shy, sullen, and in some cases sneaky sophomores. It was a fun, yet awkward as most sophomore classes often are. It was your arrival, however, that sparked my transition from a traditional teacher to more innovative projects. The result a mixture of Star Wars and Greek Tragedy, as well as song lyrics and poetry as 10th grade finally joined the 21st century. I also taught a select group of you during your Junior year as we took 11th grade English in whatever direction we wanted. From Words of Wisdom, to Crucible tableaus, to short-story videos, to acting out To Kill a Mockingbird, this class came through to prove that school is more than just a process, it's about learning and experiences. When you're able to bring a group together, some powerful stuff starts happening.
This year, however, I've been truly blessed to work with the Senior Class activities for the first time. While having at least a third of you in class on a daily basis, I also got to see you all at your prime. Senior year is that moment where you finally know who you are and what you're capable of. In whatever sport, club, team, or hobby you're involved in, this is the year you're at the top. When this group finally shook off it's sophomore angst, and the junior stress, it really took the reigns as a class that was ready to lead. You not only won the "Escapades Through British Literature", but made your own marks in the world with your 20% projects including Operation Beautiful, Lip Dub, Homeless outreach, and fighting cancer. You finally made school something real.
I wrote last year that each class has a unique trait. Some are chatty, others are pompous. Some are quiet, and others are studious. This group was unique in the fact that it called its own destiny. In fact, this class actually lived up to it's own motto.
This class was actually History in the Making.
The thing about people who make history is that they don't know the importance of their work while it's happening. Those who make history are often those you'd least expect. In many ways, that sums up this class perfectly. From the outset, this group give the appearance of a perfectly average high school class. Despite being smart in class, you would still hang out on the third floor and prank teachers and students. Despite winning elections for class office, you would still choose to "make it awkward" or worry about social probation. Despite being capable of earning high A's in all nine weeks, you'd choose to coast with a B because they "just weren't feeling it" at times. Despite being some of the nicest people in the school, they'd sit in the back of the room and not say a word for a year or two. If I didn't know you any better, I wouldn't know what the hype was all about.
But...despite your best efforts to blend in as ordinary people, you rose to the occasion time and again to change the school's culture for good. From the very beginning of the year, you created the first Homecoming festival/dance in the modern era. You still had fun even when Drake ditched us again. You carried the volleyball team on your backs as you turned out in droves for their championship run. You all came together for Baldwin's first-annual Lip Dub, an event that was even more impressive because it was entirely student operated. You made a powerful impact on the school with your Mock Crash work, and you surprised many with your Prom flash mob. Of course those were just the landmark events; that's ignoring all the little united victories along the way, from the Color Guard's sweep of the regional competitions, to the girl's Lax history-making playoff run, to the 75th anniversary recognitions, to the TEDx talks, to the Special Olympics...to actually getting Mara to Prom. There's been no shortage of leadership, passion, talent, and drive. Despite your best efforts to mask your abilities, you've been changing history your whole time here.
As you walk across the field one last time tonight, I'll challenge you to do one simple thing: don't wait for anyone to ask next time. It's great that you rose to the occasion when called upon, but the future will be determined by those who design such occasions. You stumbled when divided, you stalled when self-conscious, but when you actually came together, there was nothing you couldn't achieve. I hope the junior class can pick up where you left off; you've given them an excellent model to follow, and there's much left to be done.
Tonight is surely surreal as your life (in one way or another) changes forever. This won't be the absolute best night of your life, but it's one of the peaks your journey. Simply surviving high school isn't altogether impressive, but you should be extremely proud because you actually made a difference in these halls. Enjoy the moment and be sure to take in this huge turning point. You've done well here, but don't you dare look back. The future belongs to those who create it.
I'll leave you with the same words I welcomed you with last June: