“I come before you to stand behind you to tell you something I know nothing about.”

My dad introduced me to the opening line of one of his favorite childhood poems and it couldn’t be more fitting; I am here to experience something I know nothing about: the future.

But that’s the beauty in it; we need to know absolutely nothing to go out there and make our future. I am confident in our graduating class. The reason I am confident is because I have not seen a group as accepting of diversity than the class of 2014 — whether it be race, religion, or sexual orientation. This class embraces differences and it’s not just our class. Our generation has started a new wave of acceptance and with this new attribute we can create a more cohesive nation.

But remember, we must remain understanding; we have to emphasize accepting someone else. In order to truly understand a person, we need to believe in their inherent worth. There are many great examples of this in my life; multiple teachers on this campus have shown me what true kindness and belief in others are. Mr. Keeling, Mrs. Woodworth, Mr. Rothery, Mrs. Chesley, Mr. Fountain, Mrs. Gardner (I know, I that one shocked me, too), Mr. Beauer, Ms. Palomaa and countless other teachers I’ve had the pleasure of learning from. If I listed all the teachers who have been compassionate, Mr. Greene wouldn’t have approved my speech. It would have been too long, so I restrained myself. But I do have to mention one more teacher. First, I want to leave my fellow graduates with a lasting thought as we near the end of the ceremony that sends us into the world.

Go out there, do something, do it well — or don’t  — change the world, do something that challenges you every day, be the accepting and kind people who realize others have beautiful qualities and ideas that can help you change the world and make your mark. Life isn’t a bowl of cherries; it’s a bowl of whatever the heck you want it to be! Live life, do things and stay classy graduates of 2014.

Now back to that teacher. She has inspired and encouraged me to be my best since the beginning of our relationship and maybe it’s because our personalities are so similar or because she is a great example of acceptance, kindness, quirkiness and determination. Whatever it is, she has made a great impact on my life, has been and will continue to be an inspiration. I would like to officially recognize Ms. Rhonda Duering for her hard work, compassion and humanity; qualities that have helped shape me this past year.

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