Recently I had the privilege of speaking as valedictorian at my graduation from Mount Airy Christian Academy. I had so many people ask me for a copy of it, that I decided to post it here. I hope this helps someone. (If you are from MACA, please email/message/whatever me if you want a copy of the video. I’m not publishing the link publicly here.)
As a final note to my class, I meant what I said. I will miss you all next year!
This is a bit of a departure from my other posts to my blog. I recently started a job as a web developer, and I will hopefully post something about that in the next couple weeks.
(Side note: I know the speech is actually called a “valedictory”… but the title is what you get :)
With all that said, here are my notes:
I can’t believe this day is finally here and that I’m speaking!
First, I’d like to thank God for the opportunity to speak tonight. He’s responsible for the grades that got me here; I am nothing without Him. I’d also like to thank my parents for the monstrous amount of time and patience they have invested in me.
I’d like to thank all of the current and former MACA teachers and staff that have taught me about God, academics, and life in general. I know I wasn’t the easiest student to teach, particularly in elementary school… I appreciate all the time that you all spent teaching me, so thanks!
Finally, I’d like to thank my awesome friends for being awesome. I’d also like to thank them for putting up with my terrible puns and not simply tear-ing them off and throwing them away. Most people with my personality would have been the nerd that no one talks to, so thanks for letting me instead be the nerd that people actually talk to.
Having said that, I guess I should commence my commencement speech.
Commencement is a strange word. Many of us, myself included prefer the term “graduation”. If the only time you ever heard the word “commence” was here, you’d assume it meant “to end”. However, that is not the case. The word “commence” means “to begin”. While after surviving our English final and thesis presentations, it may feel like we have accomplished everything we ever should in life, in reality, graduation, formally called “commencement” for a reason, really is just the beginning of our lives.
Some of us are going to go straight to work, some of us will join the armed forces, and some of us apparently think we need more education or something and are going to college. Whether we like it or not, in these new roles, people will try to apply the term “responsible adult” to us, and somehow, we’re supposed to rise to the occasion.
Now, as teenagers, we know that term will only come up when someone considers something we did “less than responsible”, but seriously, there are some benefits to it. We can wear stuff more comfortable than a MACA polo, we can grow facial hair, and we can eat as much candy as we can afford (wait… that might not be very much).
We also get to make our own decisions. The biggest one we’ve all made or are making is to go to work, the military, or college. We also must make a plethora of other decisions. What specific career to choose, what car to buy, who to marry, where to live, what state to move to, what hashtag to use for our next post. Those are difficult decisions to make, with real consequences.
Now in the world some people think we live in, I would have to stand here and tell you that you need to consider these choices very carefully, because aside from your family, no one cares about you, and if you don’t watch out, you will fail miserably, you will die and cease to exist, and no one will remember you.
Fortunately, as we all know, that is not true. I’d like to take a minute tonight and talk about that. I’m worried about the potential outcomes of these decisions. I’m particularly apprehensive of how I will repay my student loans I’m about to take out. I shouldn’t be. In Matthew 6, Jesus talks about this: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” I’m going to skip a couple verses for the sake of time. Jesus concludes this section of his teaching by saying “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
According to Jesus’ teaching here, we are to primarily focus on God’s kingdom, and we should not be worried about food or clothes or even our lives. Obviously, this does not absolve us of our responsibility to work hard, but it seems that if we do our due diligence to follow God, He will make sure that everything else is taken care of. Not necessarily the way we prefer, but He will take care of us. I keep reminding myself of this, and I hope it will help you as well.
I have faith that God has a plan for all of us. I think that all of us have the potential to be successful. Before I wrote that line, I did in fact consider who I was going to speak to. Seriously, each of us is good at our own thing. I won’t ask any of you to code a website, and please, please, don’t ask me to paint you a picture, but it will be interesting to see what each of us does with our God-given talents.
While I’m on the subject of success, here’s a piece of wisdom I saw on the internet a while ago, and I’m going to shamelessly repeat it here: When we’re just starting out, we shouldn’t expect to have as much money as our parents. They’ve spent 30 years getting to the point they’re at today. We won’t start out with that. (We also won’t have the same expenses, so it balances a little bit, but we still should keep this in mind.)
In closing, I’d like to exhort you: follow God, and you will be successful in His sight. That’s not necessarily what the world considers successful, but it’s what really matters. There are so many things that have happened in my life that make me wonder what God has in store for me. I’m sure God has plenty in store for you as well.
In conclusion, congratulations Class of 2015! We made it! It’s been great going through school with you all for the last 12 years. May God bless you!