Editors Note: This is a transcript of Walter King’s valedictory speech that was delivered to the Elkins High School Class of 2016. Elkinite is seeking speeches, photos, and other recollections from graduation at Tygarts Valley High, Harman School, and Pickens School. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to recognize all the graduates from across the county.
I am very grateful to be standing before you tonight. First, I would like to thank my wonderful family, friends, coaches, and teachers for helping me to reach where I am today. In particular, My father, Bill, my mother, Beth, my sister, Liz, Coach Lewis, Josh and Randy Revels, Mr. Gear, Mrs. Parker and all those who have played a role in my academic and personal development. I would also like to thank any individual at this school who has gone above and beyond for a student to help them be the best that they can be; your actions really do make all the difference.
High school is coming to a close, and we are preparing to begin the rest of our lives as we enter into the workforce, a trade school, or a college or university. Some of us are sad to leave the past four years of our lives behind, and some of us yearn to experience all that lies ahead, while still others are stuck somewhere in between. Regardless of whether you hated high school or you loved it, we have all had experiences here that we will carry with us through the remainder of our lives. These experiences are valuable. We have learned to work in groups, tolerate those we do not like, and appreciate with earnest those that we do. We have learned to jump through the social hoops and dodge the authoritative red tape of secondary education to achieve what is expected of us.
We have been guided since we could walk, told what we should do and how we should do it. Well, that is about to end. Between the conclusion of this ceremony and the end of our lives, we will make many decisions, and each and every one of those decisions will be ours and ours alone. Our faults, our successes, will largely be attributed to us as individuals. It is time to make our own rules, forget the hoops, forget the red tape, and achieve what we expect of ourselves. You are yours and yours alone. It is time to set your own bar, to decide who you want to be, and go be that person.
So do not let yourself be convinced that this is the end of the journey, that the best times of your life are behind you. Do not slow down. Explore your current passions and find new passions. Make others happy and make yourself happy. Do not let this world take you for granted. Work towards something that you believe in, because the actions of each and every one of us, no matter how small, affect the lives of others and change the reality that we all share. There is always something left for you to give to this world and something left for you to receive. Keep that spark of optimism, of self-confidence kindled within you. Do not let anything, or anyone, snuff that out. As Dylan Thomas once wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, Rage against the dying of the light.”