Commencement Speech 2020
Over Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I were able to get out and hike for the first time in a few months. Even though we were exhausted by the end of the day, it was nice to finally get out on a trail. We had spent the days before debating where we wanted to go and finally settled on a trail system about a hundred miles north of us where we could possibly find a decent hike that would be isolated enough for us to keep our distance from others. Getting there was an adventure, we had two options. Take the interstate system most of the way and then a two-lane road for the last 30 miles, or we could wind our way through small towns and backroads. The later would take us a little longer but would be a far more scenic drive. We chose the latter. Several hours into our trip, the GPS system unexpectedly told us to take a right. The road was paved but unmarked, and after about four miles, we took another right onto a smaller and less maintained road. Over the course of the next seven miles, the road got more and more narrow until finally, it turned into gravel. It took us past some amazing views and old farms as we meandered through a couple of valleys. The road finally turned back to pavement and eventually made its way back to a well-maintained state road a few miles from our destination. The trip and hike were well worth the additional time that it took to get there, and it certainly wasn’t what we had expected when we left home.
Five hours after we had left home, we stood at the top of a rocky pinnacle overlooking the Northwest corner of the state and parts of both Virginia and Tennessee. It was an amazing moment of solitude, sitting at the top and appreciating the silence and the work it took to get there. As I think back over the great hikes I have had the opportunity to experience, from the far reaches of California and Utah to hikes in our own back yard, I remember far more than just the view from the top. It is all the moments along the way, its the quiet conversations with my wife and hiking partner. It is always way more than just the moments at the top.
Today, as you celebrate the commencement of your high school experience, I hope that what you take from this time with us is more than just this experience today, more than just the last three months, more than just the memory of what you have missed. I hope you take all of the other moments that got you here. From the 3rd-grade talent show to the middle school band concert, to your favorite high school memory. Make sure you appreciate those special moments that got you here. The heart of a mountaineer quietly whispers, keep climbing. While we all enjoy the moments at the top, learn to appreciate the adventure that got you here and be ready to step into your next adventure when you leave.
As we wrap up this school year, we realize that seniors have missed out on many of the activities that naturally come along with completing high school. While the summit might not look like any of us had envisioned, you will leave here high school graduates. We are proud of what you have accomplished, and we look forward to watching what you do once they leave us. Seniors, cherish these moments as you wrap up high school and get ready for whatever might be next. Years from now, when you look back on this season, it will be these moments of adventure and not just the summit that you remember. Pick these moments well; they will be with you for a lifetime.