Good evening, members of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Hefner, Mrs. Bryant, faculty, family, friends, and members of the class of 2020. First off, I’d like to thank you all for coming and supporting me and my fellow graduates. I know this isn’t exactly how we pictured graduation, but it means a lot to us that we were able to work everything out and celebrate years of challenging work together. Personally, my teachers were very impactful in my high school career, and I know they have done the same for many students in our class. So next, we need to thank the teachers, administrators, and all other staff members of our school district who did everything they could to give us a meaningful education through the good times and not-so-good times.
When Mrs. Bryant called me a few days ago to tell me that I was the Valedictorian for my class, I was honored and elated- for all of about ten seconds. Then, I thought, “Oh, I guess I’ll be writing a speech for graduation, in the middle of a global pandemic, for the centennial class of Batesburg-Leesville High School.” So, you can imagine how anxious this made me, and it wasn’t very relieving to be told that my theme was to be the future. The future is not an easy topic to write about because no one can definitively predict what will happen, unless you happen to be one of the writers behind The Simpsons. No one could have known that this is how we would be celebrating our accomplishments, but we, as a class and a community, have always made the best of what we were given.
The class of 2020 grew up in a world that evolved every five minutes it seems. We watched the BlackBerry go from one of the most popular pieces of technology to becoming obsolete as we started adding the iPhone X to all of our Christmas lists. Education also transitioned rapidly from the standard paper-and-pencil methods to being based almost entirely on the Internet. Admirably, we have taken it all in stride. Even the Coronavirus couldn’t hold us back from our future. It’s true that several plans had to be marked from the calendar, both traditional and new. We never got to plan a senior prank or paint the rock one last time. We began the year with the Senior Sunrise, and planned on closing it with the Senior Sunset. Although our school year was cut short, it didn’t stop us from making the most of our senior year. We each made a tremendous effort to stay in touch with our friends and hold onto the exultation and pride that coincides with our academic achievements.
And at the end of it all, we are still sitting here together one last time before moving on individually to begin the next chapter in our lifetime of learning. Among our class, there are future business owners, doctors, teachers, engineers, soldiers, athletes, and farmers. No matter where we go, every single person sitting here this afternoon will contribute what they have learned to build a more certain tomorrow. Whatever the future throws at us, I believe that the class of 2020 is prepared to handle it. We have developed a hope and a desire to improve ourselves and the world around us. We don’t want to believe that the best is behind us because we can and will always work for the tomorrow that we dream about. As Eleanor Roosevelt once remarked, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” And for that reason, the future is ours.
Congratulations, Class of 2020! We made it to the future.