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Principal Hawkins called the graduation to order. He then proceeded with the introduction of the valedictorian. “Ladies and gentlemen, students and others gathered here today for the graduation of our senior class. I want to introduce to you your speaker, who I am fairly sure really needs no introduction. In all my years as the principal of a school I have never seen a final report card like Steven Boothwell’s. I have never seen a list of accomplishments like Steven Boothwells. I have never met with a finer gentleman who is so caring and understanding of others. In fact, in 28 years of education I have never, and I mean never, had a student like Steven cross my path. Steven is this year’s class president, he is a national merit scholar, he received honors in all his grade 12 subjects and completed all his provincial tests with highest merit. He has accepted a place at the University of Alberta engineering school and has been awarded a total of 6 scholarships including a gymnastics scholarship at the U of A. It is truly my honor to introduce to you, Steven Boothwell.”

The entire audience including the graduating class gave Steven a standing ovation as he rose and walked to the podium.

To all my fellow classmates. I want to tell you a true story today. There was a boy of 7 whose mother was dying of AIDS. He was left out night after night to fend for himself simply because his mom forgot about him. She still loved him a great deal, but the added burden of this fatal sickness had stricken her mind. 

It was one night in July when he was 7 years old that he was rescued by a man, literally being found in a garbage dumpster. Showing great compassion, kindness and love, this man took this boy under his wing and led him down the path of greatest success. This was not without many bumps in the road and hardships.

This boy flowered under the guidance of this man into a strong man of his own, ready to take on the world in a kind and loving way. I started by telling you this was a true story because it is the story of me and the man who rescued me is seated right over there.

Fellow classmates, teachers, administrators, significant others and friends. This is what I am going to talk to you today about. We are all so glad that you are able to make it to our grade school graduation. After 12 years of school, we are all ready and composed to make it where we can be best suited. We are well educated, caring and loving individuals and it is because of all of you.

I know I am lucky, and I thank my dad every night for rescuing me. I cannot imagine where I would be now without him. In grade 8, we, the moving on class, did something never done before. In our grade 12 meeting for this graduation, it came up again and everyone thought that it was still, a great idea. How do we best show our appreciation to our parents? Out in the open where everyone can see just how much you mean to us. Without further a due, I ask the entire graduation class to please do your duty.

With that, every student stood up, walked to their parents and presented their mom with flowers and their father with a certificate and card. They then hugged their parents and returned to their seats. Steven gave both the flowers and certificate and card to me and as he was hugging me he told me how much he loved me. I knew exactly what he was thinking. We would stop at his mom’s grave on the way home to present the flowers.

Now I want every other student seated in this room, if you have your mother or father with you, to turn to them and hug them. They are your guiding light and the sacrifice they make for you is immeasurable. You too will up here sooner than you think.

At this time in our life we are willing to make a change in the world that will have an everlasting impact. The problem is that we are not able to. It is not our time yet. We are still too young and inexperienced, perhaps even not well enough educated. The time for this impact is not here yet – but be aware, we are the class that is going to make a serious impact in this world. I see in this group future leaders of industry, leaders in politics, national and international advisors, and finally maybe even a leader of our great country.

And how are we going to do this. With great love and compassion for others. It is this that makes up what we are as a senior class. I am not sure if you are aware, but this year’s senior class has racked up a staggering 2800 hours of service over their four years in high school. To the best of my knowledge, that is a record and one that I am proud to announce. I also want to encourage the freshman, sophomores and juniors to beat it. Nothing would make us prouder of you that to see this number grow every year. A good doctor once told me; everyone’s life is important. He is seated right beside my dad.

To all of our teachers here with us. You have been our inspiration and guidance. It is your wisdom, understanding and consistent positive energy that has brought us to this point. It goes without saying that we could not have done this without you. The senior class is proud to announce that they have raised enough money this year, and have the permission of Principal Hawkins, to completely refurbish your faculty room. In fact, it is happening now while we are all in here. All new tables and chairs, new couches, new microwave and toaster ovens, new coffee machines, a new refrigerator and new utensils and mugs. Please accept this gift as our sincere thanks for doing an over the top job with us these past four years. We all love you a great deal.

With this, the entire senior class stood up and clapped and cheered for all their teachers. It was not long after that the rest of the audience joined in.

Added to this is all the other people in our lives. This is very personal due to the very nature of significant others. For some students it is extended family members, for others it is our spiritual leaders, still for others, coaches and mentors. Whoever they are they also deserve our gratitude and love. The impact they have had in molding us is truly a feat of its own. As I look over the vast number of you in the audience, I see these people waving, blowing kisses and just sitting looking proud to be associated with us, the senior class. In fact, it is us who are proud that you have been a vital part of our growing up. While not original, our thanks comes from the heart and soul of every student. 

A boy named Michael rose up and yelled out, “Three cheers for everyone in our lives,” which was raised with a resounding “Hip Hip Hooray” three times from the entire class. The rest of the audience was clapping and cheering as well.

As a good English student, I am going to conclude this by looking back to the beginning. If one person can make such a difference to me, just imagine what all 68 of us can do to the world. Go out there and try hard, with love in your heart, compassion in your soul and a willingness to work hard to truly make a difference. I know you can do it; the whole world is waiting and all you need is to be willing. Congratulations senior class.

I thought the floor was going to flood and the roof was going to fall with all the tears and cheering at the same time. Steven shook the hand of Principal Hawkins, gave him a hearty hug and returned to his seat.

When the ceremony was all over, Steven came over to me and just stood in front of me. “Do you remember when I use to greet you in the morning by just standing and waiting for you to wake up?”

I nodded my head in remembrance.

“Well what I was really doing was secretly thanking you every day for being my dad. I love you so much dad and want to thank you for everything you have done.” With that he ran to me and gave me a very big hug for almost 5 minutes. This time there was no holding back, tears were streaming down both our cheeks. “I thought this might happen dad, so I made sure to bring some Kleenex.” And he handed me a wadded-up pile he had obviously had in his pocket. Between the two of us, we used up the entire wad.

My little frail and fragile Steven had grown up into a man.

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Harold Daw
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