Guest Commentary: It’s ‘goodbye’ as we move onGiving a graduation speech isn’t easy. I have to stand in front of an audience of both complete strangers and my closest friends and try to say something meaningful, as well as make them laugh occasionally, or at least keep them from falling asleep.
By: Sonja Peterson, Two Harbors Class of 2010, Lake County News Chronicle
Giving a graduation speech isn’t easy. I have to stand in front of an audience of both complete strangers and my closest friends and try to say something meaningful, as well as make them laugh occasionally, or at least keep them from falling asleep. However, a quick internet search told me that there’s about 18,000 high schools in the U.S. According to Google, there’s 18,000 other kids giving 18,000 speeches in 18,000 gyms to 18,000 sweaty crowds of parents and grandparents. Knowing that made me feel a little bit better.
It also made me wonder... at how many of those 18,000 schools was it snowing a couple weeks ago? At how many of them can you see the biggest lake in the world from the windows of the cafeteria? At how many of them does just about every member of the senior class know all the others, at least by name? Two Harbors is a special place.
Of course, it’s not a perfect place. Small town life can be stifling and monotonous. Our biggest news story last year was a tree getting cut down, after all. There have been times when I wanted follow the tourists straight out of this little, sleepy town and not come back for a long while.
But more and more, I’ve realized how lucky I was to go to Two Harbors High School, and how much I like this beautiful place. I like jumping off the point on hot August days. I like driving down empty gravel roads, lined by trees full of fiery fall leaves. I like waking up to a blanket of snow, subzero temperatures, and the radio announcing school closings... in March. I like our sports teams, who may be seldom victorious but are always close-knit. I like our teachers, who know us well enough to care about our lives inside and outside the classroom. I like feeling that I’m part of a community. While sometimes being surrounded by a group of people you’ve known practically since birth can seem tedious, I’ve realized that even the people you thought you knew the best can and will still surprise you.
To my classmates: just as you may not have always liked Two Harbors, you may not always like wherever you end up next year. Life can seem like a lottery, and you might feel like you have the losing ticket. But there really are no losing tickets. What you have to do is make your own luck. Don’t wait for opportunities to fall into your lap; seek them out, or make them yourself. Rather than complaining, make the best of any situation. You had a one in eighteen thousand chance of ending up at Two Harbors, but whether you enjoyed it or not was up to you. In the end, I chose to make the most of out of my time here, and I believe most of my classmates did as well.
It’s hard to believe that it was six years ago when we started out, back at the old high school building. We were the last class to experience the beautiful murals on the walls, the underground tunnel leading to the band cave, and the terror of going to a study hall on the top floor, where seven foot tall, fire breathing seniors filled the hallway. But now we’re the intimidating seniors, and it’s time for us to leave. There will be no more homerooms, no more homecoming dances, no more of Mr. Packer’s sarcasm or Mr. Torkelson’s stories.
It’s a time to say some sad goodbyes, but it’s also a time to celebrate. We’ve made it. And we did it without any help from anybody at all. Just kidding. Thank you to parents, family, teachers, administrators, coaches, mentors, volunteers ... everyone who got us through the past thirteen years. And to the Class of 2010 ... congratulations and good luck.
This is an excerpt from the speech Sonja gave at the Two Harbors graduation ceremony last week.