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Louder than words

Carlisle Valedictorian Hannah OdenBuy Photo
Carlisle Valedictorian Hannah Oden

By Hannah Oden

First, I’d like to welcome parents, family, friends, faculty and administration, and say thank you to everyone who helped the Class of 2013 make it here today. I’d also like to congratulate my fellow Seniors on putting forth the effort that it took to get to this moment. We’ve been talking about this day for years, and how we couldn’t wait for it to get here, and now it’s finally come. Our high school years are behind us, and the future everyone’s been preparing us for is right around the corner. In some ways, this new chapter in our lives means new freedom, but it also means new choices. Our parents shouldn’t be responsible for us, we should hold ourselves accountable, and our decisions from here on out should reflect this responsibility and maturity.

When I was deciding what to write my speech on, I did a lot of praying and a lot of thinking because I wanted to make sure I said the right thing. I went to my dad for advise and he said, “If this were the last time you were ever going to say something to your classmates, what would you want to tell them?” At first I didn’t know, but then something Mr. Clark said during graduation practice on Friday confirmed it for me, and I knew what I had to say. He advised us to be safe and make wise decisions as to how we celebrate graduation, and to be honest I could tell not everyone took him seriously. We’ve all heard the “make good choices” speech over and over, but I think we could all benefit from being reminded every once in a while. Especially now, because graduating high school is a pretty big deal, and this step up in life and society comes with new expectations as well as new penalties for failure.

We aren’t going to get our planners signed (hallelujah), get detentions, paddled or ISS. Those punishments were to teach us a lesson and to warn us not to make the same mistakes twice. In the real world, the truth is we don’t always get a second chance to make things right. Some decisions we are forced to live with.

We’re also not always going to have our parents called every time we mess up. Those around us will see us as adults capable of comprehending and accepting the consequences of our own actions. But before we think about how the world sees us, we should be confident in how we see ourselves. Do we see ourselves as adults? Do we recognize ourselves as responsible people? Whose influence will people be able to recognize in us?

I urge you all to stand out from the crowd and be recognizable by the choices you make. No, I don’t mean by being wild and irresponsible; I mean don’t follow the world’s example. We are entering a phase of our lives where we don’t have much holding us back from what we want to do. Some of us will be out of the house, in college, have jobs, and all of these will fall under the category of “lack of parental supervision.” We’ll have this freedom thrown on us and we’re all so excited to do something with it– and the world knows it. We will have so many opportunities presented to us, and most of them will probably be ways to get into trouble, so we have to be careful of the paths we choose to travel. The best bit of advice I can offer you for this comes from Romans 12:2:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I have another piece of advice that I’m not going to take credit for, my dad is pretty good at these sort of things, and when I talked him about what I was going to say he told me, “Responsibility isn’t just going to happen. You have to make the conscious decision to work for it.” We would all like to think that being a good and responsible person could just come naturally, but like most everything else, it doesn’t come easily.

I can stand up here all day and make this speech about making good decisions, but giving the advice and not taking it doesn’t do much good, does it? This is one of things I wanted to bring out today. We can say what we want, but the only thing people are going to remember about us is the way we acted. This year we were the oldest, the underclassmen looked up to us as the example, and that isn’t going to change when we leave here today. There will always be someone out there watching us and how we live (and some probably waiting to put it on YouTube). So I encourage us to always be mindful, remember who we are and who we want to be.

I also encourage us to enjoy these years of our lives. My point today was not only to remind us of what we should avoid, but also what we should look for. There is such a thing as clean fun, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with finding pleasure and enjoyment in truly harmless things. I wish you all the best of luck with the rest of your lives, and I pray that when we look back we will be proud of the choices we made. Thank You.

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