‘Win the day’
Graduates decked out in navy blue caps and gowns marched into a packed Panorama high school auditorium for commencement on Sunday afternoon.
The high school choir performed special music, a senior slide show was played, and awards presented.
Seniors Jensen Wilke and Samuel Webster delivered the keynote speeches full of memories, humor and encouragement, before the presentation of diplomas.
“We have grown as individuals, both physically and mentally,” Wilke said, addressing sixty of her classmates seated in front of her. “Throughout our years spent in this school district, we have learned many lessons, made great achievements and also some mistakes, and we have made many memories.”
She said some of those memories were happy, while others, like middle school, she’d rather forget.
“It was a time of braces and awkward growth spurts, some of us grew very tall, like Bryant (Thompson), and others stayed the exact same height like Bri (Hoffman),” she joked.
Many people see graduation as unimportant, because almost everyone does it, however it is meaningful, Wilke said.
“Every tedious minute of schooling since you were in Kindergarten has led to this moment, your time and efforts are validated through a single sheet of paper; but it has meant so much more than that,” Wilke said. “We have matured together, we have accomplished goals, and made mistakes. We have learned lessons through good and bad experiences, and relationships.”
Speaking of relationships Wilke said she’ll never forget how many times Morgan (Johnk) and Josh (Carstens) got married, and then renewed their vows, and then remarried again in multiple different spots on the playground. Or Bailey Christofferson and Brady’s (Howard) short lived relationship in third grade.
“And let’s not forget how every single girl in the grade had a crush on Gunnar (Grunsted),” she said.
Wilke said the class of 2018 acquired a lot of knowledge along the way.
“The annual tradition of TP’ing brought many lessons,” she said. “Sam (Webster) learned that you should not throw a roll of toilet paper at a random car driving by, because you will be chased and given death-threats by the 70 year old driver.”
Although many lessons were learned, the memories they share are the most important, Wilke said.
“This is our last time spent together as a group, afterwards we will venture off in our separate ways, some will travel far, others will be content right here in Panora,” she said. “No matter where we go we will always have the same roots and same memories to share as we branch out to different places and meet new people.”
Wilke encouraged her classmates to use the memories and lessons they’ve learned to influence where they go.
“I have had the pleasure of knowing each of you, and I know that our futures are bright,” she said. “Bailey (Cmelik) is going to be an excellent surgical nurse. Mryia (Boodry), Devyn (Kemble), Cammie (Laughery), Danny (Nordquist), and Destiny (Watson) are also going into the field of medicine... Let’s just hope we were nice to them in school, because if we are dying those are the people we’re going to need.”
She added, “Bailey Christofferson is going to be a great teacher, Taylor (Prince) is going to be traveling the world, Nicole (Rolfes) will be managing events left and right, and I am going to pray that I am financially stable.”
Wilke said wherever the class ends up, these years, will always be a part of them.
“Panorama was our starting place, where we grew and learned together, messed up a few times, and made some pretty awesome memories,” Wilke said.
Webster, the class valedictorian, stepped to the podium, clearing his throat with a couple sips of water.
“There are some common themes that run through these types of speeches,” Webster began. “These themes are lies.”
Webster said well-meaning speakers share the same cliches every year during graduation.
“I cringe at the lies that are told year after year at ceremonies just like this one,” he said. “I refuse to do the same. This class deserves more.”
He said the top three lies that are told at high schools across the country are:
You can be whatever you want to be.
You can change the world.
You have your whole life ahead of you.
“You can be whatever you want to be?,” asked Webster. “I hope everyone here knows that this is nonsense. There was a time when I wanted to be a professional basketball player. I’m only 5-foot-11 and if you have ever seen me dribble a basketball it’s pretty pathetic. It is ridiculous to think that I could ever do that and Lord knows I should never attempt.”
Webster said it’s important for everyone to recognize their strengths and weaknesses.
“Instead of being whoever we want to be, let’s find something we are good at, and do it well,” he said.
The second lie is that you can change the world, Webster said.
“Whenever I turn on the news it’s rarely about someone doing great things,” he said. “Most people that change the world are wicked and only have their best interests in mind. To name a few: Assad, Putin, and Kim Jong Un are all notorious people that have changed the world. Bet you didn’t think they were going to make my speech.”
Webster encouraged his classmates to change the world by bringing change to people’s lives and being there for them.
“When we are gone, people won’t remember us for how we changed the world, but instead, for how we made them feel,” he said. “We can change the neighborhood around us by treating people with respect and helping them when we are needed.”
The final lie graduates are told, according to Webster, is that they have their whole lives ahead of them.
“The notion that we have our whole lives ahead of us implies that up until this moment, we haven’t been living,” he said. “It suggests that we will always have a future ahead of us. But the fact is, we never know when we are going to die, and unfortunately life is much shorter than we’d like to think it is. We need to live for today and not wait until tomorrow because tomorrow, may never come.”
Webster asked his classmates to stand and give their friends and family a standing ovation, giving thanks to the people in their lives.
“There, now I can say my speech was interrupted by applause,” he joked.
In closing, Webster said it’s always good to celebrate all of life’s achievements, but to know that life is lived day to day.
“It is how we treat people around us and how we choose to live that wins the day,” he said.