It was a warm evening in a small town in central Georgia and the school auditorium was filled with parents, relatives and friends. It was a celebratory event, where spirit and pride were
high, especially for the moms and dads. The
Graduates entered the auditorium to the tune Pomp and Circumstance. The local minister had given the invocation. The class president stepped forward and said……………………………………
Tonight is ours! Tonight belongs to you seniors, and to me, to a greater extent then any other night we have ever lived. The goal which was sighted long years ago has at last become a reality—the intangible has materialized. Tonight we are about to receive recognition for a job well done. It has been a long road and, at times, a very rough road. Some of our companions have been lost along the way, but we who are here tonight have at last reached our destination. We have reached a plateau in our lives, a place from which there is no going back. There is only one road from her on, and it leads forward. We have attained something which cannot be taken from us—be it by ungodly men, through a struggle for power by crazed nations, or what have you—I say nothing can take from us the knowledge we have gained in these formative years of our youth.
Yes, we have reached our long sought-after goal, the right to receive a high-school diploma, yet we cannot rightly claim this accomplishment as our own. For this night, directly or indirectly, has been the goal of countless thousands through the ages. First of all, we must thank God for His Divine guidance as we read His command in Second Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be a shame…” Today the United States has one of the highest educational levels in the world, and, if we search for the reason, we find it is because the United States stands today as a Christian nation, under God, founded and established on Christian principles. This truth has fashioned the lives of thousands of men and women who have given their lives to furthering our educational opportunities. Sacrifice, tears, and in some cases, blood, and even death, have been the price paid for this night. To the colonists who fought and died for freedom of worship, government, and education; to men like Horace Mann and Henry Barnard who labored to develop the first public school system; to our present leaders and educators, we are eternally in debt; for this night was their dream and their goal, too. A night when young men and women would be free and would have the opportunity to walk across a stage like ours and receive a high school diploma.
Closer and more real to us than these, however, is another group of men and women. This group we have called teachers. Our teachers have taught us to study and to live. The very character we possess today has been greatly determined by their influence upon us. On this night we realize more than ever before that these teachers have given their time—and their love—to prepare us for the step which we are about to take. Because of them we are ready to go out into the world, capable young men and women. Our teachers ask no more thanks from us than to see our lives successfully lived in the future. We owe this much to them.
Still there is another group which has shared with us this goal of graduation. The individuals who compose this group are perhaps the happiest persons present in this audience. No flower words can adequately express our gratitude to our parents, for we realize that without their help, their love, and their encouragement we would not be here tonight. For the most part, it has been for them that we have given our best and have put forward every effort to achieve the highest and the noblest of rewards. They have sacrificed in many ways, often unknown to us, to make this dream of graduation come true. May we live our lives in such a way that they shall always be proud of us.
Yes, all these things have combined to make tonight possible. It is with grateful hearts that we recognize them, for we know that only because of them—tonight is ours!
The seniors have chosen for their motto “Not the end just the commencement.” We see today the light of intellect, the light of influence, and the light of progress, the light of leadership, and the light of the love for our country. Shining brightest of these is the light of Him who said, “I am the light of the World. Come, follow me.” Let us, as seniors, take the challenge to follow the gleam of these lights because, as long as we follow the gleam, we shall never walk in darkness. If we will but follow the light we will make our motto, “not the end just the commencement.” a reality.
Gary Coker, Class President