Class of 2014 graduates from Bodley

All G. Ray Bodley graduation photos taken by Kelly LeVea

Valedictorian Michael Holcomb’s speech:

Thank you Mr. Greene, Mr. Charles, Mrs. Parkhurst, Mr. Lynch, members of the board of eductaion. Thanks also to family and friends that have chosen to attend the ceremony, and of course my fellow members of the class of 2014.

As I was writing this speech I would constantly hear two phrases that irked me.

First: “It doesn’t really matter what you say, no one will remember it down the road anyways.” Second: “All graduation speeches sound the same: ‘We made it,’ or ‘We did it,’” and so on.

Why take the time to write a speech and have everyone sit here for 2 hours if it doesn’t matter what I say? And while we did “make it,” saying it like that is honestly pretty cliché, and it really doesn’t mean anything. I’ve also heard that high school is supposed to be the best days of our lives. If the past 4 years really were the best of our lives, there’d be no need to say “we made it.” It just wouldn’t make much sense.

If the past 4 years were the best of our lives: today would be a ceremony to lament the end, rather than celebrate our accomplishments. And in reality, today isn’t about the end of anything.

We’re here today at a commencement ceremony. Commencement, which comes from the word commence, which literally means to begin or start. More than we are celebrating the pastfour4 years, we are really celebrating the beginning of the rest of our lives.

The truth is, our four years at GRB, while crucial (and enjoyable at times), cannot be the best days of our lives. They were just the beginning. As U.S. President John F. Kennedy said, “We stand today on the edge of a new frontier, a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.”

I feel that this quote stands especially true to our futures. After the conclusion of this ceremony we will begin our lives as adults, and the world will be filled with opportunities and perils, hopes and threats. With the new freedom that I’m sure we will all be experiencing, I feel like it is appropriate to say: take the opportunities and nurture your hopes and dreams, without disregarding the threats of the world.

    The most important thing I want to convey to everyone here today is that we should all strive to make the world a better place and leave it better off than we found it. Make a legacy for yourself. Whether you are attending a two-year university or four-year university, entering the Armed Forces, or entering the workforce, make a life for yourself that the people who have supported you all these years would be proud of, and more importantly that you can be proud of.

Anything that gives you a sense of purpose, or promotes the good that exists in the world, just do it. No one wants to look back on their life and think that they should have done things differently. Of course hindsight is 20/20, but you know what I mean.

Make good decisions and, just as importantly, educated decisions. The world can be a dangerous place.

To quote Sylvester Stallone during the film Rocky Balboa, and we all know Rocky’s grammar wasn’t great so excuse me for a moment: “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

    I honestly don’t feel equipped to be the one up here giving all of you advice. As it was put to me just the other day, I’m a high school graduate telling 250 other high school graduates and their PARENTS and families how to live their lives, as if I know a lot about life.

I turned 18 two Saturdays ago, so to put it plainly I am a “man,” but I don’t remember feeling any different at midnight on June 14. I was eating birthday cake ice cream from Cold Stone … So there’s that at least. I had a great time that night, as it was our senior dinner dance.

I just don’t really feel qualified to tell people how to live. I’m not overly wise; I have lived a relatively sheltered life. But, life is about learning, and I will proudly say that I have a lot left to learn, as I’m sure we all do.

Go out there and gain as much knowledge as you can. Whether it’s about Shakespeare or Differential Equations or learning to build something: making something beautiful from something less so, learn. A buddy, who said I couldn’t name him in this quote, told me a few weeks ago that the most effective way to describe life is that “Opportunity knocks, ‘n’ ya take it.”

So when opportunity comes, whether it is the opportunity to participate and learn, or the opportunity to love, or the opportunity to just live, take it and run.

    Finally I would like to extend a thanks to all of you for listening to this. I gave it my best shot. On behalf of the class of 2014 I’d like to thank the teachers and faculty of G. Ray Bodley. Without your efforts none of us would be here today, literally.

It’s unreal to me how much of a resource each of my own teachers has been for me, and I am eternally grateful for that, and I can only imagine and hope my classmates feel the same. I’d also like to thank all the friends and family members who have supported a member of the class of 2014, whether it is by watching them cross the stage today, or being a shoulder to lean on over the past four years.

On my own behalf, I’d like to thank my own wonderful family. My mother and father, and also my step-mom Becky and my step-dad Toby, have been here for me every step of the way and it means the world to me. A lot of people were like “hey, say my name in your speech” and I said I wasn’t going to say anyone’s name because today is about all of us, not just about me, but finally, thank you Chase Halstead and Derek Prosser for being the best friends a guy could ask for. It’s been an amazing few years, and I’m sure it will be an equally amazing summer.

Everyone have a great summer, make smart choices, and be safe. I wish each and every one of you all the luck in the world with your futures. Thank you and congratulations.

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