This is the speech from Lisa Pawlowicz, Bolingbrook High School Class of 2008 Valedictorian.
I find that even though I graduated from high school a while ago, it still inspires me. Thank you Lisa for allowing me to post your hard work on my blog.
Today as we celebrate the graduation of the class of 2008, it is integral to keep in mind exactly what it is we are celebrating: we are not recognizing the end of our education, but honoring our value for education itself.
In society today, we often forget that there is more to education than memorizing facts and formulas, reading literature because it’s famous, and writing essays to fulfill word counts. With this paradigm in mind, it’s easy to see why so many of our generation regard school as a waste of time. Mired down in facts and figures, they fail to see the elegance of math, the beauty of language, the poignancy of history. But today is not about those people. Today is about those of us who realize that in order to understand football one must understand the physics behind it; that in order to appreciate music on the radio one must appreciate the music of Mozart and Bach; that in order to fully value one’s participation in government one must value the principles upon which our government was founded. This, then, is the real meaning of education --not merely to memorize something for a test and then promptly discard it as irrelevant, but to truly understand it, internalize it, and then to utilize it.
Having been a student in the Valley View School District since kindergarten, I’ve seen some of the best and worst of what Valley View has to offer: I’ve done chemistry labs with state-of-the-art equipment and I’ve done physics labs with not-so-state-of-the-art equipment; I’ve performed in a multi-million dollar auditorium and I’ve been locked out of it; I’ve had teachers who have changed my life and I’ve seen them fired for the very ingenuity that inspired me; and I’ve come to realize many things that I don’t think I would have had I grown up in a different district. I think the most important thing I’ve learned from the past thirteen years of my life is that education isn’t going to come to you of its own volition. Life presents us with the opportunities to learn, but it’s up to us to make use of these opportunities. High school can expose students to teachers, resources, and ideas, but it can’t force its students to make use of them. The fact that we are here in our caps and gowns indicates that we, the graduating class of 2008, value our education enough to do whatever it takes to improve our minds.
The question, then, is: what will we do now that this stage of our lives is over? Free from a life of 7:30 a.m. classes, mandatory attendance, and the omnipresent bell system telling us when to turn our brains on and off, will we allow ourselves to continue to explore the unknown dimensions of the world in which we live? Fellow graduates, allow me the impertinence of giving this advice: never allow your minds to become complacent, because no matter where your life takes you, no matter how far you travel or how many ladders you climb, you can never escape the home you’ve built for yourself in your mind. Don’t restrict yourself with the shackles of apathy. As John Milton stated, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Do not scorn the art of learning new things, because learning is what makes your mind an interesting place to live. Thank you.