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Valedictorian Speech 2006

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As Valedictorian, it is my honor to deliver a valediction to the Class of 2006. I am sure many of you believe a valediction means “goodbye”, however “goodbye” does not cover the true significance of the word valediction. 

The root word valere means to be strong, to have power, and to be well. Related words are valor, prevail, and valid- words which speak to the virtues of courage, perseverance, and truth. Thus, a more appropriate English translation of valere would be “farewell” rather than “goodbye”, for in valediction we are expressing the hope that one goes forth and does good things… in other words, that one fares well 

So, if a valediction is an exhortation for us to “fare…well”, what is a way in which we can fare well in life? I think the answer lies in our time spent together over the years… our collective experiences at Blessed Trinity.  

I remember when we first came to BT as freshmen in 2002. We were the largest entering class, far outnumbering all of the upperclassmen… I think we can all remember those first days of school here. My chief memory is… being cold- and it hasn’t changed. This winter when the boiler broke, Mr. Moore in sympathy for us, permitted alterations to the dress code. He had no idea what he would unleash… bizarre flannel pajama pants, ski hats, mittens, and of course… pink bunny rabbit bedroom slippers. Being from Maine, Mr. Toole seemed to delight in the cold, and his room #416 is notorious for being the coldest.  

And I believe that it was in room 416 where Mr. Blair ingrained all of the MLA guidelines into our brains. I remember how excited he was when the 6th edition MLA handbook came out, nearly as excited as Father Tran when he happily announced to my Apologetics class that he had just received in the mail… a new Calculus book. And thanks to Father Tran, the boys in our class now have an obsession with the martial arts, especially Patrick McLaughlin and Zach Schneider. 

Some of my memories center on BT athletics. I will never forget the football season opener when the Titans defeated East Paulding by 2 points, and when the team conquered MLK in the Region Championship game. Josh Houser and Greg Callus were relentless in leading cheers from the stands, and Doug Preece’s enthusiastic beating of the drum certainly inspired the fans. And just recently in the last week, our girls soccer team completed an outstanding season.  

It is these kinds of memories, and others like them, that will help the Class of 2006 to “fare well” in life. We will always remember the Legend, the Unit, the Italian Stallion, Alfred, and Rosco, the Fab Five Academic Team, our junior year marriage partner, how Nicole Brakovich’s homemade cookies can save the world, how Kelsey Shirley sent Mr. Henry out of his own classroom, and how Brandon Braner likes to spend his free time flexing in the mirror. What about Coach Turner zooming by our classroom windows on his Gator, how Mr. Harlin uses the same hand gesture in every story he tells, how David Rutz thought that Mrs. Harkey was giving birth to puppies freshman year, and everything great, grand, and wonderful about Mr. Henry, the self-proclaimed Spinmaster and indecisive politician, because “Yes and no, but yes” has a completely different meaning than “Yes and no, but no.” You got that chief? 

I started by giving you a definition of “valediction.” This year, I studied a poem which articulated for me a profound understanding of the word. John Donne wrote “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”, and although his poem involves the parting of two people, it contains a theme that applies to us, the class of 2006, as we part from Blessed Trinity.  

The speaker in the poem exhorts the other person not to focus on parting as physical separation, and therefore a sad time, but rather to focus on parting as the expansion of their souls, the spirituality that links the two of them. In other words, even though they are physically parting, they are connected by memories. 

John Donne employs the metaphor of a geometric compass used to draw circles. In the metaphor of the compass, the speaker compares his travels to the compass foot that moves. The fixed foot positioned in the middle of the circle is the other person. The speaker says that this relationship provides stability in his life. In a larger sense, we, the class of 2006, can think of the fixed foot as our time spent together at Blessed Trinity. The moving foot refers to our separate paths in life. No matter how far we may go from one another, from BT, we will always be connected.  

These four lines from John Donne’s poem capture this connection to our memories of Blessed Trinity:   

             Such wilt thou be to me, who must,

             Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;

            Thy firmness makes my circle just,

            And makes me end where I begun. 

You must realize that our memories at Blessed Trinity will be our center, our stability. Therefore, we do not say goodbye today to Blessed Trinity, but rather, we say, we pray, that we all, in life, fare… well.