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A High School Graduate with Honor(s)

Posted on the 29 June 2011 by Billcookonline @billcookonline

With the graduation season ending, I wanted to share a fantastic address by the valedictorian of my daughter’s high school class.  I took particular notice of this young man’s speech, not only because it was my daughter’s graduation, but because I gave the same address to my high school class exactly 30 years ago (ouch– am I really that old?).

The biggest difference between his speech and mine was that he exuded so much more character than I did.  He gave credit, showed courage, thanked others, and pointed us all to God.  Wow.  That’s a graduate worth emulating, and a speech worth sharing.

Thank you Josh.  You are a fine young man with honor.  Here is his speech:

“Good morning everyone. And Good morning class of 2011… Isn’t it great to be here this morning? Now, I just want to start off by asking: “Who in here is happy to be here today?”

Guys, I know it’s commonplace to say, but I’ll say it anyways….”We made it!”

It was a long road wasn’t it, and took a great amount of motivation didn’t it? From our parents, brothers, sisters, friends, teachers, grandparents. Regardless of who motivated us, we made it and no one can take that away from us now.

Now if I can be open and honest with you, I’d like to share with you my personal motivation that helped me through these stressful years of school. It comes from the Bible verse Philippians 4:13 and says “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.” This is one of my favorite verses because, in its simplicity, it offers so much encouragement. It was the very motivation that helped me press on through the stresses of school, the projects, tests, quizzes and the other often-overwhelming stresses of school.  Knowing that with His help I could do anything helped me to keep my chin up and continue on….

So what kept you moving on? You heard what helped me. So what helped you? Were you a “day by day live-r?” Saying to yourself, “If I can make it through today, I can make it through tomorrow?” Were you just excited to see your friends every day, knowing that their kind words could lift your spirit up? Or maybe, did you just simply want to come and learn and better yourself for the future?

I advise each and every one of you to think of the source of your motivation and take a hard look at who you’re serving, because the success of your life depends ALL on Who you serve. Many of y’all know my motivation comes from the One I serve… but are YOU serving Him? Or are you serving someone else or even yourself?

I’ve taken so much criticism for my future plans and staying here at ASU, but it’s not about what you guys want for me, it’s about what I’m being called to do and what is in my best interest. So one of my greatest pieces of advice, don’t serve someone else… They may not always have your best interests in mind. Listen to those who DO know what is best for you, which more often than not are your parents (even as crazy as that sounds!).  If you don’t listen to the right people and advice, it can lead you down a road you don’t want to go and take you places you don’t want to see… you’ll keep ending up in misery your whole life and making compromising decisions.

As my pastor has constantly told me, INTEGRITY matters. The world today tells us to and wants us to compromise, to give up, our ideals and morals for poor decisions, for alcohol and drugs. Now I know many of y’all may laugh at me and think I’m crazy for saying that, but it’s true. Name someone whose life is better off now after losing their honor and integrity. You can’t! It’s impossible! Just ask anyone in charge of a college or business or anything along those lines. People will look at you for what you do, what you’ve done, and future generations will look up to you for what you will do. So set a good example.

It’s hard to lose your respect for yourself, but it is SO easy to lose the respect of others, and even harder to win it back. So keep your integrity… While others may falter and fall after making poor decisions, you can stand strong because you know what you are doing is right.

But it’s going to take hard work. Look at those up here– your teachers, coaches, Sterling. It’s not because of a lack of hard work that they’re up here; it’s because of an abundance of it. It is truly an honor to be standing up here with all of them this morning. I could not have done it on my own and I need to give credit where credit is due… and it is also what you should do, too.

No matter who you are or where you’re from, someone has helped you get you to where you are today. So I personally have to thank, first and foremost, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,  my mom, my dad, my brothers, Haley, Joon, Sterling, Nick Culpepper… Thank you. I couldn’t stand here today without you guys. Y’all gave me the motivation to stick with it through the hard days, taught me how to sleep in class while looking awake (Joon), taught me calculus, physics, chemistry, and taught me to do my best to remain humble. Again, thank you all for helping me, but also thank you everyone else in attendance for helping each one of these graduates in front of me to sit where they are today.

Graduates, look around you. Look at everyone who is here, even now, supporting you. I think they all deserve our gratitude and appreciation for what they’ve done for us. And I think we should give them all a round of applause for their help in getting us here…….

Always give credit where credit is due, because there is always going to be somebody better than you. But I’m here to say that that’s okay…. Use those people and those opportunities to learn how to better yourself. That’s what I’ve tried hard to do and something everyone should try to do, as well.

Class of 2011, it’s been a fun journey, but our lives are not over yet. We still have much more to accomplish. Keep your integrity, “run with endurance the race set before you”, don’t give yourself away to something meaningless, and don’t sell yourself short of anything that will harm you… I beg you! Keep working hard, and the One and the ones who are always watching will reward you… I can give testimony to that. We’ve made it here through the help of each other and my challenge for everyone is to continue to help each other, especially as we move on in our lives and travel along different paths.

Congratulations again graduates and it is my hope that one day, you will be able to step back and see the magnitude of your accomplishments. May God bless you in all that you do and whatever your future holds. And as for now, let’s stick together and continue to show everyone why Lakeside is number one. Thank you.


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