When I look back at the past, there are people, places and comments that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I’ll never forget the loving touch of my mother, the laughter of my father, the wisdom from my grandparents, the love from my family, and the support from my friends. I hope and pray that each of us here tonight can say the same because every person deserves to have people in their corner, standing behind them no matter what the cost. There’s no doubt that we all have people from our past that have touched our lives in many ways. I can still remember the ringing of a golden apple bell by my kindergarten teacher. Also, how could I ever forget the only class in which I have ever made a B and the teacher who taught that class. 8th grade, Algebra I, first six weeks, Mr. Schomber, I’ll never forget it. As we move on to college where the professors will seldom know our name or even be able to pronounce it, we can trust in the things we have learned from the teachers who have spent hours and hours working with each of us on a more personal level; and we will be so grateful for our time at A.C. Jones. We will be thankful for all of Mr. Hanus’ lectures on how we will never be successful if we don’t wear a watch. We will look back and smile on the ability Mr. Belew had to make us laugh even when we were not in the best mood. Maybe after a few college tests that leave us completely lost, we will be reminded of Mr. Garcia’s tests and how they never seemed to quite match up to the review he gave us. I can bet that after one English class we will miss the enthusiastic comments Mrs. Latcham made while she twisted away at her hair. Also, while we are sitting in a class of 100 plus where it’s hard to hear and understand the professor we will probably wish for the days when Coach Dominguez would repeat everything he said not once, not even twice, but three times in possibly the loudest voice I have ever heard. When we face professors who barely give us the time of day, it’s going to be hard not to miss the silent, in your face, sometimes awkward moments of uninterrupted eye contact from Ms. Thornton. I could go on and on about each of my teachers, but I won’t. Thank you all for all that you do. When I look at my past, there are so many wonderful things and there are also some not so wonderful things, but each triumph and obstacle makes us who we are today; and we have all made it this far, so we must be doing something right. We must never forget our past because we must use it to shape our future. If we aren’t proud of our past, only we have the power to change it. We are starting a new chapter and now it is our chance to make the most out of our lives. How do we want to be remembered?
Just about everything is about to change for each of us. Some here tonight may go straight into the work force, others may head for vocational schools or two-year colleges, while some may jump straight into a university. At any rate, we are about to face changes that are going to challenge each and every one of us. It’s interesting to note that the Chinese symbol for change is made up of the combination of two characters “danger” and “opportunity.” Change for most is scary and a little dangerous. It’s much easier just to take the easy way out than to face change and the unknown, but by continuing to take the easy road we never create opportunities for ourselves. We may take away the option of failure but in doing that we leave no opportunity for success. To me, success is not measured by how much money you make, what career you have, what kind of car you drive, what degree you have obtained, or anything like that. Success is achieved when you have made the most out of the overwhelming, difficult and hindering changes that your life has put you through. Change isn’t easy for anyone. I have experienced so many changes in just the last few years, and I can honestly say it has been one of the toughest times in my life thus far, but I don’t feel that that gives me an excuse to give up. I still have a long way to go. We should all try to grow and move forward in every way.
At this point in our lives we all have been given the opportunity to go out into the world and fulfill our dreams. That may be easier for some than others because of financial, family, or personal circumstances, but don’t be afraid to break the mold. Don’t be afraid to make a difference. Take these challenges and face them head-on. For so long now we have been under the control of our parents. Their decisions have directly impacted every part of our life. Now for the most part we are going to be on our own. Our own decisions will shape the next years of our lives. The changes we will face will no doubt be difficult, but I truly think there is good reason for that. Think about it like this, if making billions of dollars was easy, and not stressful, or difficult at all, then we would all be billionaires. Clearly neither I, nor many of us here tonight are billionaries so we know that is true. Don’t settle for anything less than your dreams. Nothing that is worth achieving is easy. I guess that’s why we go through twelve years of schooling before we are put out on our own. We have to learn how to adapt and handle the hard times. Like the Chinese symbol illustrates, change creates danger and great opportunity, but I believe the true danger is not in the change or obstacle itself, the real danger lies in giving up in the heat of the change or obstacle. The real danger lies in not reaching our full potential. We have to believe in our full potential. Class of 2009, cherish the present. We should forever remember the feeling we get after we walk across this stage, and we should share it with others. Our future is right in front of us. Are we ready to face it head-on? I was fortunate enough to receive some Xeroxed copies of a few pages within a book titled Just Who Will You Be?, by Maria Shriver. I would like to share just two of the pages with you all. They read:
Congratulations! The day has come; the tests are over, the futures begun. It’s a little bit scary, exciting, too. To go out into the world and find out...who is you! And that’s what will happen now that high school is done. You’ll be figuring out your place in the sun. So here’s what I’m asking and you ask it too: JUST WHO WILL YOU BE? That’s the question for you. When you look in the mirror, it’s an image your see, but deep inside, JUST WHO WILL YOU BE? Will you follow the crowd or follow your gut? Will you be a leader or anything but?
Classmates, we have made it to a monumental point in our lives, but we are not finished. We have truly just begun. It has been a privilege to walk the same halls with you all and I can hardly wait to hear each of the great things I know each of us is going to accomplish. I am anxious to find out just who we will all be. I guess to sum up, don’t ever forget your past, cherish the present and plan for the future. I am so grateful for my years in Beeville, and I will carry a part of Beeville and A.C. Jones with me to College Station. Yes, at times, things about our school, our town, and its people drove me crazy, but this is my home, my history, and you all are my family. Thank you for all of the amazing times and great memories, all of which I will carry with me forever. I’d like to leave you with a quote from Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams — Live the life you have imagined.”