Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Jamin's High School Graduation speech

I remember well the day. Jamin came home from his graduation rehearsal in May of 1999 feeling a bit dejected. He was to be a speaker at the ceremony, because of his role as Class VP, I believe. I know he was not the valedictorian or was a class FULL of VERY BRIGHT students, you see.

Anyway, at rehearsal, the speeches were practiced, and to Jamin, it was very clear that they were all too similar in content. Only the second class to graduate from this new high school, their collective list of achievements was pretty amazing, and all of the student speakers had mentioned those accomplishments. He could not seem to get it off his mind. We talked it over, and I mentioned that instead of looking back, maybe he could look ahead to what might happen in the future. He also thought it would be more interesting to tell his personal story. And so he decided to completely re-write his speech, and stayed up all night, the night before graduation, doing it.

I have condensed a few portions, but the large part of the speech is this:

D'Evelyn High School Graduation, Class of 1999

"I ... cannot even begin to describe what the past several years have truly meant. The only thing I could perhaps give you is this:

It's the story of a boy, who, upon completion of the sixth grade was forced by his parents to attend a school different from that which all his friends were attending. A boy who was initially so upset that he desired only to be expelled so that he could join his friends. But with some others' help, he mangaed to make it through that first year. Particularly the help of a principal who was such an amazing person that he no longer wished to be expelled.

It's the story of a 7th grade geography teacher who taught him to go beyond merely that required of him. The story of a 7th grade math teacher who helped him when he didn't understand how negative five was the exact same thing as minus five. An 8th grade physical science teacher who showed him that science could indeed be exciting and who gave him some of the best life advice he ever recieved. A 9th grade band teacher who showed kindness to an obnoxious trumpet player and who, as a 12th grade choir teacher, taught a slightly less obnoxious, but equally unskilled, bass to enjoy singing. A 9th grade teacher who sparked an interest in English that had never before existed. A 10th grade Forensics teacher who challenged his beliefs and taught him to argue them logically. An 11th grade physics teacher who made science not only exciting, but intriguing as well, and continued to provide unrivaled advice and example. An 11th grade history teacher who made our country's proud history come alive, and who, the following year, made that levithian we call our government a little less daunting. Twelfth grade AP French and English teachers who, in addition to finally convincing the boy that the study of language and literature is important, taught him an invaluable lesson: that learning is not really about how perfect a repository of knowledge or distributor thereof a teacher is, but that it is much more about how earnestly one pursues the knowledge.

It's the story of some unbelievable people he met along the way who took him as a friend, and taught him to live, to laugh, and to love. Who taught him to enjoy a spring day and to appreciate music. Who provided examples of excellence in character and personality, traits which he could learn from. Who, as Proverbs 27:17 says, sharpened each other "as iron sharpens iron".

It's the story of a man sure enough of his convictions to push for legislation allowing choice schools. Of a group of parents and teachers with the vision for a high school grounded in the liberal arts and seeking the best from each of its students. Of a faculty and administration which has carried on that goal.

Of a place called D'EVELYN.


As a young child, I once read, and was immediately infatuated with the idea that limestone could, by intense heat and pressure be transformed into marble. Marble! Like the beautiful white marble with which I dreamed of building a brilliant new city.


Certainly, I don't expect this story to be interesting as a singularity, for it is not. The story is our story, in one way or another. Indeed, each of us has been affected in a different way, and to different degree, by this place--this IDEAL--called D'Evelyn.

It has been a refining fire for every single one of us, and ask anyone up here today--there was certainly a great deal of pressure. And while we are not going to be transformed into marble anytime soon, we have been and will continue to be transformed into better people through what we learned and experienced at D'Evelyn.

You have heard or will hear, I am sure, about the number of "firsts" our class can claim as its own: first perfect SAT score, first AP scolars, and many more. But what about the "firsts" yet to come? Just like the marble blocks with which I dreamt of building the ideal city, each of us has the opportunity to build the society we will now realize to a fuller extent. Who among us will be the first from D'Evelyn to win a Nobel or Pullitzer Prize? Who will be the first to land on Mars or the first Speaker of the House? Who will be the first to exchange his blood in battle for our freedom?

The years spent at D'Evelyn have been, for my classmates and me, absolutely wonderful. If I may, I exhort each one here to strive for that excellence which D'Evelyn has taught us to pursue. Demand it of the classes and siblings to follow in the same way you have of us. Let it be exemplified in your lives as well as ours, for the world to see. Let us never stop seeking it, for as Publius Syrius said, "It takes a long time to bring excellence to maturity".

There. That is enough. I hope I have conveyed some small understanding of what it means to be a D'Evelyn Graduate and of the gratitude we have for the parents and teachers who have made this day possible. Thank you."
-speech by Jamin Buchanan Wilson

I might add that J.B. got in a little trouble afterward for giving a speech that had not been pre-approved. In his longing to give a more meaningful message, he had completely forgotten about that process. And it goes without saying, that he also was up all night after graduation!

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