I was honored to be asked to address the Newberg High School’s Class of 2015 Baccalaureate Service. I’ve posted an unedited transcript, below.
Throughout the past 4 years, I’ve had the honor of working with and getting to know many members of the class of 2015. My assigned job, my main job, was to teach science, to prepare students for their respective futures. I may have been invited here tonight to teach; but the more I thought about what to say, I realized this class taught me at least as much as I tried to give to them. Tonight, I’d like to share some of the life lessons the class of 2015 taught to me.
I could pretend to inform you of how important it is to be smart and ambitious. I could tell you how students in the class of 2015 are so talented, so creative, so wonderfully intelligent, or I could bring you to the main hall in the high school, where these amazing young people have laid out their futures for everyone to see. The wall lists students’ names along with their future plans. Some students have proudly chosen to serve our country in the military or to spend some time in humanitarian service. Other graduates will be attending an institute of higher learning – to name a few, Oregon State, University of Oregon, George Fox, Linfield, PCC, Duke, Pepperdine, Smith, AND……The Ohio State University. Our students can go anywhere and do anything.
I could tell you how being clever and witty and having a good sense of humor feeds your heart and soul, or I could invite you into my classroom to read the messages I find on the board from time to time.”I don’t trust atoms. I hear they make up everything.” “A sodium ion said to an oxygen ion, I lost an electron. The oxygen ion said, Are you sure? And the sodium ion said, Yes. I’m positive. ” or, “Do you know any good chemistry jokes? Na.” For a time, they even tried to teach the sophomores some presumably useful pick-up lines: “Are you made of copper and tellerium? Because you are C-u-T-e.” Yes, even their humor shows their brains and class.
I could tell you about persistence and patience, or I could invite you to one particular Advanced Placement Chemistry lab – yes, the titration lab. You could watch these students complete trial after trial after trial by adding a basic solution, drop by drop by drop, to an acid solution until they got just the perfect pale pink color in their flasks. If patience is a virtue, and persistence is what it takes to make one’s way in the world, these kids have it down.
I could tell you how important it is to be kind to one another, or I could invite you to walk the halls at the high school during the school day. You’d see students sharing everything from breakfast to Dutch Brothers drinks. You’d see them helping one another with everything from schoolwork to sports.
I could tell you about strength, or I could invite you back in time to early January, when we came to school on Monday and mourned the loss of a cousin, a classmate, everyone’s friend, Page Peterson. Amidst students’ grief and confusion, they found the strength in one another to make it through just an hour, then a day, then another day. Together, they found the strength to turn their grief into memories and tributes to Page and the joy he brought into our lives.
These are just some of the characteristics that make our graduates the wonderful people they are becoming, but there are 3 more.
1 Corinthians Chapter 13 verse 13, says And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. New International Version (NIV)
I could talk to you today about faith and hope, or I could invite you back to September, 2011 to see this class as they arrived at NHS. These scared freshmen (you know who you were) just hoped they’d make it to each class without falling down; once they’d mastered that, they moved on to learning – the kind that comes in books and computer screens, and the kind that comes with living life and working with other people.
To parents: As a scared parent of high school freshmen once myself, I can guess you wanted what all parents want for their children. You hoped the staff at Newberg High School would teach your children reading, writing, and arithmetic, and science. You hoped we’d teach the critical thinking skills they would need to make good life decisions. You hoped that we at Newberg High School would prepare your children for a bright future, and that we’d guide them along as chose that future.
Seniors, You came to us with hope. You were hoping for a valuable 4 years of learning about academics and skills and life. You had faith that we would care for your needs each day. You had faith that we would care enough to help you learn. You were hoping to make friends who’d support you throughout this journey. You had faith that we’d provide all that and asked us to have faith that you’d succeed. And we did; and you are.
The Apostle Paul said, and the greatest of these is love. These past few weeks, Seniors, I’ve seen some of you making exciting plans for your lives after graduation. I’ve seen some of you a bit melancholy about leaving your home for the past 4 years. I’ve seen some of you bobble from one feeling to another. But I’ve seen nearly all of you, be it in person or on Twitter, mention how much you will miss seeing your friends every day. Some of you will stay close to home and each other, for at least a little while. Some of you will relocate across the state or across the country or even farther. I see you worry that you will be apart from those you love most. I could try to tell you that love and friendship know nothing of distance, or I can watch you learn for yourselves that the love and friendship you have for your friends and family will be the most important thing in your lives, no matter where you are.
Class of 2015, it’s been an honor to learn patience, kindness, persistence, wit, strength, faith, hope, and love alongside you. And I’ve learned once again, from you, as the apostle Paul wrote in first Corinthians, the greatest of these is love.