Due to illness, I didn’t attend the high school graduation at my children’s school this year.
However, when the Hubs and Ike came home from the ceremony, they both told me about the commencement messages.
One particular speech stood out and as soon as I got the gist of the message, that night, despite strep throat, I contacted the young man who had so boldly and honestly addressed his classmates.
“Would you allow me the honor of sharing your message on my blog?” I asked. What had I to lose?
To my delight, Ben said yes!
His message speaks to anyone who understands the impact of encouragement. If you have ever been the awkward one, the misfit, the uncool person in a group, you just have to read this. If you’re on the other side of the spectrum, imagine how your words and actions can minister to another?
Had I been in the audience that day, I would have burst into tears because the message resonates deep within me. I think it will speak to your heart as well.
Here is part one of Benjamin Hoover’s valedictorian speech. I’m privileged to feature it on my blog. Thank you Ben, bless you.
I never, not for one second, thought I could be standing here as valedictorian of the incredibly talented, incredibly awesome, CCS class of 2013.
Middle school Ben, hands in pocket, rockin’ those plaid pants on Tacky Day.
In order to understand this, you have to understand who I was in sixth grade.
In sixth grade, seniors, do you remember the Asian sitting in the corner, with his pants hiked up to my belly button, buttons buttoned all the way to the top, glasses, baby face, the buzz cut, with maybe a little too much fat around the belly?
I was the kid who wouldn’t talk to you unless;
one, you needed help with a math problem;
or two, you shared my passion for Pokémon.
Playing the piano with Mom
Of course, time goes on, and soon I joined the football team, thanks primarily to the persuasion of one guy.
I grew my hair out for the first time in nine years.
I lost the glasses in lieu of contacts.
I slimmed down and lost the bit of belly fat around the midriff. I started sagging.*
But I was still super shy, not confident at all in who I was, and absolutely mortified of speaking in public.
I was going through a time that most associate with teenage drama, and I associate with insecurity.
And then here I am today, standing in my graduation cap and gown, this shiny gold medal, and this really annoying tassel. I want to say, that without all of your encouragement, I could not be standing here today.
All of you have made me who I am.
All of you have shaped me and helped me grow.
Seniors, I don’t think any of you realize how much of an influence you have had on my life, and I thank you.
Teachers, I cannot thank you enough for your undying dedication to the growth and enrichment of us students and for setting yourselves as godly role models for us to follow, you have made me who I am.
I thank you.
And of course I can’t go without thanking my family, my parents and my sisters, who have had the most influence over me for the past 17 almost 18 years, I thank you so very much for making me who I am today. I thank you all, so very much, for your encouragement. None of it has gone unnoticed.
You know, it never had to a large or flamboyant gesture. It could be as simple as giving me a pat on the back and saying, “Good luck,” as I came up here to give my speech.
It could be as simple as giving me a smile in the hallways when you could just as easily have walked on with your busy life.
It could be as simple as shaking me by the hand, making eye contact with me, and saying, “Well done.”
Or maybe, it could be as simple as bringing me a dustpan when you saw me sweeping the classroom after lunch all by myself.
I am who I am today because of you and your encouragement.
(I’m going to pause Ben’s message here and take it back up in the next post.)
So what do you think about his speech thus far? Can you remember those woeful adolescent transitions?
*sagging, in the context of Ben’s speech, means he wore his pants a little lower than previously 😉