Cardinal Newman valedictorian speech



Good afternoon, your excellency, Bishop Baker, Mr. Jim McIntyre, distinguished guests, faculty, parents, family, friends, and fellow classmates. Finally, we are out of high school! It has taken a lot of work to get to where we are now, and it seems like school is something that has finally been overcome. However, our summer break will be short lived; more school and more work is coming our way. A lot more will be expected of us graduates. The education we have received thus far has been to prepare us for even more education in the forthcoming years. Not just college education, but the learning that continues throughout our lifetime.

And why is education so important? It allows us to live in this world, with the knowledge and understanding that gives us the ability to do what we believe is the correct thing to do. In fact, it allows us to find what we think the right thing to do is, giving us a guiding star or mission in our lives. A few years ago, the world outside of school would have seemed a lot more complicated and intimidating; many things in it escape our understanding and seem irrational. However, the things I have learned at school help me understand the world better. In all my classes, I have been taught many things, but also more than just the topics covered by those particular subjects. I have been taught to learn, which is one of the most important purposes of school. Another important thing we have all learned in school is that human beings all share several characteristics; one of these, oddly enough, is diversity. Through interacting with other people, such as the fine young men and women in gowns waiting for me to finish my speech, I have seen how different types of people can coexist and work together toward a common goal: in this case, the goal has been learning.

It seems to me that the more we grow and change, the more we discover about ourselves. But there is always more to learn. This is just one society, amongst so many in the world. And this is just one world amongst so many in the sky. The things I have learned at Cardinal Newman have given me insight into myself as well as into other people. Moreover, I have found that people are not necessarily very different, and so learning about oneself provides knowledge of others.

Sometimes we look to the future with uncertainty and anxiousness over what we want to do. In college, everything we do will be directed toward one or possibly two majors and toward a particular career, even if we do not know what it is right now. But one important thing I learned at Cardinal Newman is to enjoy the moment. It is imperative to remember that we are who we are, right now, and, though I do not want to sound cliché, life is what happens to you while you are making other plans. History is made up entirely of the present, except that all those moments have already passed. So it is necessary to keep good plans about the future, and carry them out, but also to enjoy life to the fullest, and not to get distracted by anything.

Nevertheless, the future really is uncertain. Despite what we may plan, things will happen, and not necessarily by our own making or choice. And change will happen; we change every day and our plans and dreams change as well. But we have to move on and not be afraid of changing our lives. After college, where will you live? What career will you go into, and where will that take you? No one knows, but I hope we are all willing to find out. And wherever you go, you must be yourself. You have got nothing to add to a situation if you are not going to do something that is distinctively you, something that is a result of your own personality thrown into the equation.

And here is something to remember about doing what you see is right. There were probably people who thought a journey to the moon would be unsafe. It could have been filled with hostile moon people. However, also remember that General Custer probably thought, “It’s just a few Indians.” Of course, we do know who General Custer is, maybe even more so because of his last, fateful stand. Whether or not decisions turn out as we want them to, as long as we are ourselves and do what we see is right, we will have made an impact on other people’s lives and the world around us. As John Henry Cardinal Newman once said, “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.”

In closing, I would like to thank our families, friends, and teachers for getting us to where we are now and for getting us ready for the future. We would not be who we are today if it was not for everything that has come before. I would also like to thank us, the graduates, because we would not be here if we had not made at least some good decisions. And though there is much we owe others, the next steps we take are our own: they are our responsibility and of our own creation. As a great singer/songwriter once sang (actually, it was me), “Well, you’ve got to get somewhere, there’s only one way there: to take your chances head on and know the stones you’ve bled on.” We have to change, and since change is such an important part of life, I would like to close with another quote from Cardinal Newman, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

I have had the privilege to speak for the first graduating class of the new millennium. Thank you.