Prince Charles Secondary School valedictorian Jennifer Bohn gave the following speech at the June 10 graduation ceremony:
Good evening family, friends, teachers, administrators, honoured guests, and, of course, my fellow graduates. Welcome and thank you for coming. My name is Jennifer Bohn, and it is my honour to be this year’s valedictorian.
Tonight is a special night, and not only for us grads. It is also a special evening for everyone that has helped us and stood by our sides through these first chapters. Without the amazing support, love and guidance of family, friends, coaches and teachers, I know many of us would not be standing here today. So truly, thank you.
Over the last five years at Prince Charles Secondary, we have created many memories and have learnt a lot of lessons. We have learned that standing in the middle of the hallway is hazardous to our health and Pythagorean theorem has something to do to circles. From Mr. Kunzelman we learned the five key equations of accelerated motion. From Ms. Douma, “Talk louder!” and from Mr. Fischer that if your brothers’ girlfriends must be in the family wedding photo, put them on the ends, so if needed, you can crop them out.
All, very, very, life changing lessons. As you leave here tonight, I hope you will take along just one more piece of advice.
“Limits, like fears, are often just illusions.” (NBA player Michael Jordan)
Yet, fear has such an impact on our lives. It takes part in our decisions, stops us from being who we are, and who we have the potential to be.
Fear plays a bigger role than some of us may admit; it can stop us from asking out the pretty girl across the room or can talk us into quitting the basketball team. We may have reasons to back them up: “She probably has a boyfriend.” “I’m too busy anyways.” These reasons are just excuses. The truth is, we are just scared. What happens if she’s not interested? What happens if I try my absolute hardest, and that’s still not good enough?
You might be right. She might think you’re a loser. You might be on the bench all season.
But this girl might think you’re cute, too. You might play a supporting role in bringing your team to provincials.
We let fear predict the worst, and by doing that, we also let fear block the best possible opportunities.
As fear stops us from taking those chances and risks, it also prevents us from growing. Abraham Maslow once said, “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” These comfort zones and safety nets can double as cages. We are so afraid of failure that we do not dare reach for success. So I urge you, my fellow graduates: Push beyond your walls, your fears, and do what you have only talked about doing. If you do not, you take the chance of looking back and regretting not even trying. Speak up for issues that matter to you, fight for the people you love, do what makes you feel a sense of direction; take those chances. I cannot promise you that your efforts will always be rewarded, because they won’t. Life is not fair. However, you might take a step back, and realize the journey was better than the destination. The friends you met, the lessons you learned and the memories you made were worth the effort and risk.
Graduates, I am not telling you to be fearless. Instead use the fear to your advantage. Use it as fuel to reach your destination. Push past your fears of failure, rejection and change so you may embrace the possibilities of success, acceptance and growth. While you yourselves may not see it, those around you do. They see the potential you hold, the great paths you are capable of travelling. When they look at you, they see past the acne, braces and greasy hair. They see mechanics, physicists, athletes and singers. I see it, too. Emily Simpson, rocket scientist. Micheal Johnson, computer engineer. Levi Grisewood, Mr. Universe. Shianne Gronen, the next Ronda Rousey.
Some of you have anticipated this day with eager smiles, happy to be finally free. Others have dreaded this moment, sad to be completing this chapter. I know I will miss the comfort of seeing your faces in the hallway, five days a week, 10 months a year. I know I will undoubtedly miss pretending to run some of you over in the parking lot and of course, all of Keelan’s flamboyant shirts.
One thing is for certain, though. I will not miss Andrew Armstrong blocking every single frisbee I threw in ultimate. Nor the fact you still have to ask to go to the bathroom at age 18.
As this bittersweet episode ends, another begins. We are now free to make our own choices, although it will not always seem that way. Be confident with your decisions. At the end of the day, you will have to live with the consequences. These choices will not only shape you, but will take part in how you leave your footprint on this world.
Make wise decisions. Rarely will they only impact you and you alone. You only have one body; be conscious of your mental and physical health, both long and short term. Be considerate, to not only others, but the Earth as well. Living on Mars would be cool, but it’s not half as beautiful as the planet we’ve already been entrusted with. Take advice from your parents. It might have been a long, long, long, long, long, time ago, but they have faced similar situations. They do not want to see you make all the same mistakes they did.
Lastly when making these decisions, remember, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” (Jack Canfield)
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