Ladies, gentlemen, parents, friends, family, staff, fellow students:
Instead of taking up more time and reading my speech, it is available to you at http://www.olen’s_speech.com. Thank you.
No, just kidding.
But seriously folks...
Today we are gathered here to celebrate our graduation from 12 long years of schooling. The education granted to us has been a privilege. One so graciously given to us by the citizens of our state, by our community, and by our parents. Today would not be possible without them.
So far this evening we have looked back over the many past memories of our school years, remembering the good times and the bad, talking about the fun times, and so on. Now I would like to bring your focus to the present, and make a challenge for us for the future.
The ceremony tonight is a very old and traditional one. In past, such a graduation meant not only the completion of a school career, but also a step into adulthood, into society, into the world. With this came many duties and responsibilities. This still applies to today. I’m sure many of you have heard the “going into the real world” speech as often quoted at high school graduations. You know, the one outlining the responsibilities of living on your own: cooking your own meals, balancing a checkbook, doing your own laundry, etc. Those are all well and good, but I’m talking about something a little different — responsibilities which go beyond those — the duties and rights of citizenship.
Most of you are 18 already, or will be very soon, this is the age at which we can vote. As full citizens, it is now our right, and one which we should not let pass by. Our country is founded upon a democracy, and all democracies have one integral part: power by the people through voting. In major elections in the United States today, less than half of eligible voters actually cast ballots. In today’s society, and I think among the students as well, there is a growing feeling of distrust with our government and a feeling of "who cares." Well, it is now time to care. We whine and complain about everything our government does, and we do nothing about it, and yet we’re still upset because nothing’s changed. It’s like we’re armchair quarterbacks who really expect the football player to actually hear us ranting and raving at the TV. We need to do something, and that is to vote. As Lincoln said, "The ballot is stronger than the bullet."
There are also other ways to make a change in this world, however. Some of you may remember the petition I passed around the lunches a few weeks back regarding the block schedule changes. It may have seemed an insignificant, almost frivolous thing, but the point was to be heard; to make a statement — that we can be heard and do have a say. And we were, at least in part,...