It’s official: My oldest child has graduated from high school. Her commencement address was remarkable (see short clip below). I’ve included a couple photos of her as seen on the Target Center jumbotron talking to 600 of her peers and an audience of 3,000 parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends.
Here’s the introduction and first couple minutes of her remarks (I’m a terrible hand-held camera operator – just FYI).
Here’s the last 1:45 of the speech.
The Maple Grove High Graduation Ceremony was broadcast by cable access Channel 12.
She’s a superstar, what can I say?!
Text of speech:
“Our Crimson Identity,” by Kayla Grothaus
You know, I was looking through the yearbook the other day and suddenly, it felt like I was staring at pages of faces of people I’d never seen before in my life. So I began to think about it and I realized that in my time here at Maple Grove, I have only gotten to know a small group of people. Maybe a couple dozen or so out of the 2 thousand involved in our school community, out of the nearly 600 students who sit here on this floor.
And, I thought, how strange is it, really, that here we are today, celebrating one of the first huge milestones in our lives, together… When some of us haven’t even met yet! I mean, I don’t know who would invite 600 strangers to their grad party!
But as I look out on this room, I realize that we aren’t really strangers. Not at all. Because somehow, it just feels right that today we wear the same clothes – the same cap, the same gown. We bear the same colors: our crimson and gold. It represents a piece of who we’ve been the past few years and who we are right now and who we will be forever. And as much as I would have loved to have gotten to know more of you, the peers I share this wonderful day with, I am content to know that we share one thing in common, one thing that will be unique to us and only us, regardless of where we find ourselves in the coming months and years.
It is our Crimson Identity that unites us. We discovered it three years ago at that homecoming pepfest. And I’m willing to bet that the Class of 2007 might still try to deny it, but we earned that spirit jug. Why? Because in those 45 minutes, we forged the character and began the legacy that is the Class of 2009.
Since then, we have grown and matured and learned and for this short while, our lives have become inextricably intertwined. Every time we went to a football game, or a school play, or any of the dances, and every class we’ve attended, or cafeteria lunch we ate, our experience has been shaped by all of us: the people who go to our school, people we may not know.
Obviously, it is this collective us who make up a class with whom we are all quite familiar. But as a senior reflecting and reminiscing on the high school experience, standing on the precipice that is graduation, preparing to enter the adult world, one thing has become very clear: In life, it is incredibly easy to get lost in the crowd, to forget the role we play and contribution we make to the big picture. I’ve realized that high school was never just about me and my friends. No, it was about each of us in line at lunch, or on our feet screaming the battle cry, or in our classes, writing papers and giving those presentations.
For each of us, we reached a point when we asked “What’s it all gonna add up to, anyway?” When we wondered where or how poetry explication is going to have value in our lives. And I realized that, for our teachers, it has never been just about World History or Geometry. They have dedicated themselves to preparing us for the world we are about to step into. Because of them, we are able to comprehend the fact that we aren’t alone in this universe. That there are seven billion people out there who are just as willing and able to work as hard as you and I. But fear not, because our teachers know what it takes to go above and beyond, what it means to really strive for excellence. And I know just as well as I know about sine, cosine, and tangent, that our teachers did everything they could to supply us with the knowledge and skills it will take for us to really go far in life.
Because our teachers…they have been there. They have done that. They have seen students from the class of ’08 and ’07 (and years before) walk this stage. They have shaken hands and given hugs. And, thanks to their efforts – thanks especially for their patience – they have seen former Crimson graduates succeed in college and careers and in life. They are not strangers…they are our mentors. Our logic and rational voices.
And if there was anything I think they would like to impart with us before we leave it is this ancient Greek tradition: E tan e epi tas. For you see, when the Spartan warriors left their homes to fight Xerxes, their women handed them their shields and said: “E tan e epi tas” It means, “Come back with it or on it.” It was a matter of pride and glory, of honor and perseverance. Come back with it or on it. Today, for us, it means to go out into the world with the skills we’ve learned and do the things we can be proud of, then return home and say, “Yes. I gave it my best.” Even if the outcome isn’t all we hoped for, we will have invested ourselves and used the skills and tools we’ve learned. And in doing so, we will return home with the same honor and glory that the Spartans once had. We will uphold that Crimson Identity, and as classmates, as comrades…not strangers…we will pay tribute to the legacy that is the Class of 2009.