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Good morning. Before we begin this busy school year, it is important we all reflect on what lies ahead, and set goals for the coming year. I will be speaking today not to lecture about my own life’s lessons, but to discuss our community as a whole.

Each and every one of us exploded into this world, beginning our life’s voyage only a few years ago. We were screaming, little nuisances; yet, somehow, we were loved. Most importantly, ingrained in all of our souls was a tool that would carry us towards the future: hard work. We spent hours twisting our tongues and shifting our lips as we toiled to produce a “mama” or “dada.” Meanwhile, our mamas and dadas were pressing their hands against their ears to block out the nonsensical babble we created. We never once gave up, though, and as the months passed, the noises morphed into a rare word or two, and we began to see results. Now, our parents were cupping their ears to hear better, and euphoric smiles were appearing. We must have been doing something right. Moving forward, we took this observation with us. We learned that if we tirelessly worked towards success, we would please not only ourselves, but also the ones around us. We placed this knowledge into our toolbox.

Onwards, we ventured deeper into our childhood when we began crawling. Four points of balance were not going to sustain us for long, though, as our brains ordered us to do better. Our minds urged us to work towards two. We employed our arms to reach our goal, as we rested them on various tables, chairs, legs, sisters, brothers, parents, rugs, and even sometimes dogs.

After receiving innumerable bumps and bruises along the way, we soon found ourselves seeing the world from a new perspective. The ancient, worn Persian rugs became brilliant marble countertops. Outside, grassy meadows transitioned into vast views of mountaintops and setting suns. We finally saw the world like everyone else, adding persistence to our toolbox.

Years flew by as our heads stretched closer and closer to the sun. Our friends began riding bikes, and soon enough the peer pressure got the best of us. We cheated at first with our training wheels, but the big leagues were in the near future. Practicing in school parking lots, we began rolling forward with two wheels as parents or friends guided us every step of the way. Before each falter, we knew that someone was there to save us from crashing onto the tarmac. Soon we were on our way, never looking back, as a steady hand guided us forward and encouraged us to keep on pedaling. We understood that difficult tasks required a helping hand, while learning that asking for help was essential. Teamwork found its place within our toolbox.

The dreaded first day of school arrived. We continued our learning, yet in a strict, structured setting. Books were thrust upon us, whether we wanted them or not. Working through a sentence seemed to last a lifetime, and reading multiple pages was a chore. We made reading a daily practice as we labored through Where the Wild Things Are and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. In this same period, we picked up pencils with right hands or the rare left hand and began scratching shapes into paper. We wrote our names not once, not twice, not three times, but three hundred times until we mastered each stroke, spending hours perfecting the curves in an “s” or establishing the perfect balance in an “m.” We discovered the importance of repetition and added practice to our toolbox.

Now, here we are sitting atop this picturesque hill with a toolbox in our hands. We will refer to these tools in everything we do: whether that is in class, on stage, or on the field; and the Spade represents those tools inside. As we embark upon this demanding journey, overflowing with new adventures and excitements, we must carry the toolbox everywhere we travel, and turn to our teammates in times of need. We are all members of this community, and now is our chance to use these skills, which came so naturally to us along the way, and which we perfected with practice and hard work, together.

As we perfect and perfect and work and work, I am reminded of the powerful words of James Engell, our 2015 Commencement Speaker. Engell stated in his address, “You are needed.” He explained that we are needed more than ever now to work hard -- for and against -- all forces that threaten our chaotic world or the ones that will save it. As we prepare to enter this world full of worries and trepidations, we must keep this motivation close. Fellow seniors, juniors, sophomores, and yes, even you freshman, we are needed. It’s time to go to work. Thank you.


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