Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Class of '75

            I was going through some “old stuff” the other day and found my speech from graduation.  My son said it was still relevant today, so I thought I would share it.


            “As graduating seniors, we are faced with a new era of challenge and choice.  In a society that is less structured than ever before, that is more liberal and permissive, we have the privilege and opportunity to determine our separate roles.  The choice will be ours.
            How can we, as the graduating seniors of Belton-Honea Path High School, become individuals?  To become an individual one must possess a total character distinguished from others. 
Why do so many people conform to another’s lifestyle rather than setting their own pace?  A survey was made of 600 students in the psychology classes of a university in which they were asked to state their most difficult personal problem.  Seventy-five percent of the students listed lack of confidence. 
Everywhere you encounter people who are inwardly afraid, who suffer from a deep sense of inadequacy and insecurity, and who doubt their own personal powers.  They do not believe that they have it in them to be what they want to be, and so they make themselves content with something less than that of which they are capable.  They resort to conforming to others’ standards so as to have assurance of acceptance and success rather than being ostracized for their own thoughts or actions.
            Henry Van Dyke once said, “Individuality is the salt of common life.  You may have to live in a crowd, but you do not have to live like it nor subsist on its food.”
            As we walk away from Belton-Honea Path High School, our friends, and our past; we have a choice – one that is an important molding factor for our future.  During the past, we have conformed to our peers’ ideas in dress code, our speech, and even our habits.  But when we go our separate ways, we will have to decide whether or not we will become an individual or conform again to our new stage of life, whether that stage be college or employment.  We are not forced to conform, but we are forced to make a decision in one way or another.
            Henry David Thoreau said, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
            Every person has a different calling.  Each has a different purpose or goal in his life, even within this graduating class of 1975.  In our lives we will meet people who have different ideas from those of our own.  We must learn to accept these people as individuals.
            So, you see, the choice is ours as to whether or not we will become an individual and whether or not we will accept others as individuals.  If we change our personality for every stage of life we take part in, we will never have possession of a solid character.  Let us not build something that we will have to tear down.”

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