WHITMIRE — Whitmire High School presented approximately 40 graduates with diplomas Wednesday evening. During the ceremony, Dr. Fran Guinn Rogers, Class of 2002 and middle level academic specialist for Greenville County schools, asked the soon-to-be alumni: what is it that they will do with their lives?
“A while back I heard Denzel Washington say ,‘You will never see a U-Haul behind a hearse’ which made me stop and really think. If I were to tell you there are no U-Hauls behind hearses what would that mean to you?”
Rogers told the graduates they will be tested in life and there will be trials, but anything worth having is worth fighting for.
“Life is good, I did not say life was easy, you will have trials, you never know your level of faith and endurance until you are tested. In life, there are no handouts, you have to work hard for what you want,” Roger said.
She also challenged the graduates to work hard and work in silence, letting their success be noise.
”I want to charge you to do something so hard in today’s social media times. I charge you to work hard and in silence, everyone doesn’t deserve to know your moves or your strategy, work hard in silence and allow your success to make noise and silence any critics,” she said.
As the graduates prepared to take the next step to becoming alumni, Rogers encouraged each graduate to recognize the gifts they were given.
“Recognize your gifts and take inventory of what you have, when you leave this Earth you cannot take these gifts with you. I was created and destined for greatness and so are you. I ask that you work hard, say that you’re sorry, try new things, make investments in others and ultimately make a difference,” Rogers said. “I urge you to live every day like it’s your last because it just might be. When you leave Whitmire High School don’t leave feeling less than because you’re from Whitmire, you are amazing, you are powerful, you will do great things.”
Whitmire High School valedictorian Mark Stevenson made it a point in his address to stress the importance of planning for the future.
“As we graduate, we are or should be making plans, to achieve desired outcomes we must plan, if you fail to plan you plan to fail. You need to consider now what you want out of life and plan accordingly,” he said.
He also encouraged his fellow graduates to have their priorities in order. For Stevenson, those priorities include God, family and his country.
“Today is the end of one journey and the beginning of another. We need to consider our priorities as we make choices. Some of you will choose to go to college, others to the workforce and others to the armed forces to protect this blessed land in which we live. Do not squander this chance to plan and therefore succeed,” Stevenson said.
No matter where his classmates go upon graduating, Stevenson wanted his classmates to understand that success is not measured in money or intelligence, but by the choices that they make when they walk out of the doors of Whitmire High School and into the real world.
“True success is finding contentment, fulfillment and happiness in life. This cannot be measured in dollars or degrees, nor can it be measured by merely obtaining goals or reaching destinations. Your choices dictate your journey and your success,” Stevenson said.
Salutatorian Justin Brannon addressed his classmates one final time.
“As I was writing this speech I looked up the top five things you should add in a graduation speech. Since tradition is such a big part of Whitmire I decided I could not overlook the tradition in this speech,” Brannon said.
The first link that popped up in Brannon’s search were the top five cliché things to say in a graduation speech, which included saying ‘we did it,’ grumble about a teacher you had in a joking fashion, tell everyone you will miss them, mention a quote from your high school days and putting your own personal touch into the speech.
“I thought about all of the laughs and celebrations we’ve had together and all the great things we were able to accomplish as a class. I decided to share a graduation story from my childhood that may or may not mean anything to you, but I think it’s pretty cool.”
Brannon recalled attending his first graduation ceremony at 11 years old, an event that he summed up as pretty boring, falling asleep throughout the ceremony because he didn’t want to be there.
“I’m sure there are some people here today for the same reasons like little 11-year-old Justin. I don’t remember much from the ceremony, but I distinctly remember a speech that was given by one of the students of the graduating class. I don’t remember his name, but I remember him saying he was inspired to give a graduation speech when he was younger,” Brannon said.
In that student’s speech, there was a common theme of wanting to inspire someone else to give a speech at their own graduation.
”I could have sworn the speaker was speaking to me the whole time. This is something I’ll remember forever just because of one speaker at a graduation, I was encouraged to speak at my own graduation. That and the fact that my mom would always tell me ‘Justin if I don’t hear you speak at graduation I won’t let you graduate’ so thanks mom,” Brannon said. “My message to you is to be brave, be strong and be extraordinary. When I was a child I never thought I would be on stage and standing in front of all these people telling my story. I know for some of you, you are just waiting for me to be done so we can get this show on the road, but I do hope someone is listening and in a few years he or she gives their own speech at graduation.”
Closing out his speech, Brannon referenced the story of Moses, a powerful leader in the Bible. After Moses passed, God appointed Joshua to take his place which were big shoes to fill.
“Throughout life we should go through our experiences without any fear just like Joshua, he went through life with no fear because he knew that God was on his side. If we could go through the rest of our lives living for God and staying strong and brave we would walk a life without any fear,” Brannon said. “With God you will live a life everyone wants because in the end you will be rewarded with riches.”
Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123 ext. 1868 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.