Class of 2018 graduate Jared Pease receives his diploma from school board member Natalie Smathers during Creswell High School’s 110th commencement ceremony last Friday. GINI DAVIS/THE CRESWELL CHRONICLE
”You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
That quote, from A.A. Milne’s ”Winnie the Pooh,” wasn’t spoken during the graduation ceremony for Creswell High School’s Class of 2018 on Friday, June 8, but it reflected the recurring theme as commencement speakers addressed the 75 members of the graduating class and a gym full of family, friends and well-wishers.
Recounting the legacy and lessons inherited from earlier generations of women in her family, Co-Valedictorian Leah Murphy expressed her love of stories, both literary and personal. ”But real-life stories are best,” she said, noting that Class of 2018 graduates are all part of each other’s stories now.
Co-Valedictorian Karley Bellew encouraged classmates to ”dream, travel, step out of your comfort zone,” carrying memorable friendships and experiences with them as sustenance ”as the journey continues.”
Co-Valedictorian Benja-min Vaughn encouraged his fellow graduates to strive beyond what they believed themselves capable of: ”If we did all the things we are capable of, we would truly astound ourselves,” he said, citing Thomas Edison.
”Life is not always perfect, but it is always what you make it,” Co-Valedictorian Lexi McCrory told fellow graduates. ”So, no matter what you do, do it with integrity. Character doesn’t come from what you do in life but the manner in which you live your life.”
”You get to choose what you do and choose who you become,” said Co-Valedictorian Blake Nelson. ”What happens after high school? That’s for you to decide.”
Echoing these sentiments while sharing pearls of wisdom from his stepfather Jay, a minister who passed away this winter, CHS teacher Bill Martin, as guest speaker, employed an elephant-training analogy: Chained to sturdy posts, the huge animals strain and pull until finally, conditioned into docility, ”they will stand still without being chained because they have forgotten how strong they are.”
In life, ”we put chains on others and ourselves,” Martin said. Those invisible chains that condition us into self-doubt and passivity take the form of self-defeating mental messages, negative or controlling people we allow into our lives, and the inevitable disappointments we face.
”Don’t forget how strong you are,” Martin advised graduates, ”You can achieve your dreams if you remember that the things holding you back are nothing more than chains that are not attached to a post.”
CHS Principal Adam Watkins presented each valedictorian and Salutatorians Zachary Culp and Anna Mercer with medals, and the graduates then crossed the stage one by one to receive their diplomas and congratulatory handshakes from school board members Mike Anderson, Tim Rogers, Paul Randall and Natalie Smathers.
Perhaps the most moving moment came when Smathers’ son Israel (”Izzy”) left the wheelchair on which he largely relies and slowly walked, with assistance, onto the stage. Classmates applauded as Izzy received his diploma and a proud, tearful hug from his mom.
In introducing the new graduates after the ceremony, Watkins gave the Class of 2018 four things to remember: ”You are unique; you have a purpose in life; you are free to choose who you are and what you become; and, you are not alone.”
Buoyed by speakers’ words of encouragement and their own fond memories and aspirations for the future, the graduates emerged into a cool, rainy evening. But the wet couldn’t dampen their spirits as family and friends met them along the covered perimeter of the courtyard with congratulatory hugs and kisses, balloons, flowers and leis.
Afterwards, as the Class of 2018 departed for the special grad night trip that would give them all one last, memory-making time together, Murphy’s final message in her valedictory address seemed to linger in the air:
”Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world,” Murphy had said, quoting Anne of Green Gables, from the L.M. Montgomery book. ”I think of all of you as kindred spirits. We’re all in this together.”