Valedictorian, Ria Rebein, Class of 2016, gives a speech at the 60th commencement on May 27.
Remember the four "B's"
By Ria Rebein, Valedictorian, Class of 2016
This speech was presented May 27, 2016, at the 60th commencement of Scecina Memorial High School.
"A wise person — Ellen DeGeneres — once said, “Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, and never, ever, ever follow someone else’s path...
Unless you’re in the woods...and you’re lost...and you see a path...
Then by all means you should follow that.”
It is in the spirit of staying true to yourself but knowing when you’re lost that I offer these thoughts on the occasion of our graduation.
Much of senior year is focused on the future. People ask, what are your plans? What are your goals? What are you going to do with your life? What are you GOING TO BE?
Well, I certainly can’t speak for most of my peers, whose plans may be clear, or, like mine, frequently changing.
Instead, I want to focus on a slightly different notion of what we might BE or BECOME as the Scecina Class of 2016. The four “B’s” I want to talk about are all things we know or have been taught during our time at Scecina that are truly worth remembering. Especially as we take this huge step and venture out into the wider world.
First "B" – Be Grateful
It's a common misconception that happiness brings about gratitude. The truth is that gratitude itself makes us happy, by opening our eyes to all the ways we've been blessed.
Not only are we blessed from a worldly perspective, as we have grown up in a country with access to clean water and air and healthy food, with roofs over our heads, in a place where personal freedoms and education are valued. We're also lucky compared to other people in the United States, Indiana, and even Indianapolis, and that is because we're a part of a unique community.
The Scecina community is supportive: In the face of tragedy, we come together. We mourn together and suffer together, as after the death of a teacher and coach. After a huge success or victory, we celebrate together, as after a sectional win.
For the past four years, we have been given the opportunity to grow in a place where everybody knows our name and our face, a place where values are such an important part of our school that they're engraved in its walls, a place that cherishes service and the importance of family as much as academic success. I'm so grateful for all the things that the Scecina community has given me, and I hope you all feel the same way.
But I think we should also BE GRATEFUL for all the things we haven’t been given.
When you pull into the Scecina parking lot, you don't see a bunch of expensive sports cars or a huge football stadium. When you walk through the halls, you don’t see a parade of designer clothes or expensive jewelry. I mean, you couldn’t anyway because we have to wear khakis and Scecina polos, but you get the idea.
The people who live, work, or go to school on the Eastside and in the Scecina community are humble. We're hard working. And we care about the other people in our community.
Each of us came a family that worked so hard to give us a great education and another family in each other. And I hope that's what we remember. I hope that will remain rooted in when we go out into the world. We may not be sure who we are yet, but as we grow and learn and change, we must never forget where we came from. We can't forget the teachers and the parents and coaches who sacrificed to get us where we are today, and the community that nurtured us and embraced us all the way.
In the future, there will be times when we'll struggle; we'll feel torn, unstable, and shaken to the core. But I hope we'll always know that we have good roots here, and a strong foundation to return to. I hope that I, and all of us, remember to BE GRATEFUL for both everything we’ve been given AND everything our parents and teachers were wise enough NOT to give us.
Second "B" – Be Present
This has been called—and I believe it is—the great challenge of our generation: To take our eyes off of the screen, to take our fretting minds off of the complicated past and the uncertain future, to put our energy into the people and places of here and now.
In a way, we are blessed to be a part of a generation that will be connected by social networks from the moment we step out of these gymnasium doors. But we are also a part of a generation where a tweet or a snapchat story may seem more enticing than a car ride with a parent or face-to-face conversation at lunch with a friend. Too often, we are drawn into a world of perceptions, worries, and speculations that is so much less important, and so much less REAL than the here and now.
Didn't the days of high school pass so quickly? It seems like last week we were getting lectured about the AIDS epidemic in Mr. Hawkins’s class, or listening to a "Man Advice Monday" from Mr. Maslar, and yet, somehow here we are now, in our caps and gowns, our time with them, and so many others, having come to a close.
When I think back over the past four years, I can recall so many happy moments with this class. We triumphed over the seniors on our field day sophomore year, and our boys conquered Ritter on the football field this fall. We cried more than I thought humanly possible on Senior Retreat, and pulled off one of the most successful senior pranks in Scecina history. (Still not sorry about that.) We’re infamous for being a little much for Catholic theology teachers to handle, and also for our fierce school spirit. Our high school memories happened when we couldn’t check our phones or worry about our mistakes or our plans. We were focused instead on each moment in time.
Life isn't gonna slow down any time soon. The family and friends we love, the places where we live, study, and work, even the people we are now... all of this will change. And it's up to us to be pay active attention to the little things, and take part in each moment moments. Let's be present.
Third “B” – Be Bold
I will be the first to admit that the future is scary. Despite all everyone telling us that “THE WORLD IS OUR OYSTER” and we can “TAKE LIFE BY THE HORNS,” we all know there are a thousand ways to fail. We all know that failure is inevitable, a fact of life. And if we’re not careful, the threat of ridicule, the threat of wasted time, and the threat of crushed dreams may keep us from taking risks or stepping outside our comfort zone.
But as Robert F Kennedy once said, only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
And as Caleb Baue '16 once said, you've got to risk it for the Biscuit.
Truly though, if Dr. Seuss hadn't continued to submit his first book for publication after 27 rejections, we may never have had green eggs in ham or the cat in the hat.
If Oprah Winfrey and Walt Disney had given up on their dreams after being told they were too emotional or lacked imagination, we may never have been able to binge watch Oprah or get songs from Frozen stuck in our heads. If our student council had given up after hosting a movie night which approximately 5 people attended sophomore year, or if we hadn’t shaken off losing campus crusade last year, maybe prom wouldn’t have been a success and we wouldn’t have gotten ice cream this Tuesday. Truly, the only way to make the most of our opportunities is resilient, bold and, above all, unafraid to fail to be passionate.
It's a tough world out there, and definitely not as safe and secure as our Scecina bubble. Not that I personally know that, but I’ve heard stories. Still, we can’t go forward with self-doubt. If it's a dream, if it's a life you want more than anything, it's up to you to work hard and go full steam ahead, despite the risks and the doubts.
So let’s make pact with ourselves, as individuals and as the Class of 2016. Let’s remember—and promise to encourage each other—to BE courageous, even in the face of failure. Let's hold each other to that. Let's be bold.
And that brings me to my fourth and final “B” – Be like Mike
No, I'm not talking about that cheesy Nike commercial featuring Michael Jordan, although if you want to be like Michael Jordan that fine too.
No, I'm talking about Michael Ruiz '16. I think Michael may be the most genuine, friendly, respectful, and truly kind person I’ve ever met. Every time I see him, he holds the door, asks me how I am, and greets me with a smile. And he treats others that way too. He will stop and talk to you about anything and everything, especially “Game of Thrones” or “Star Wars,” and I have to say I’ve never witnessed him utter an unkind word to anyone. Even when he is going through something difficult and painful, you would never know. Because he puts all his energy into being kind and friendly to the people around him. He is a great example of how we should leave this school and how we should go out into the world. Let's be like Michael. Let's be beacons of light and positivity, even in the darkest of times. Even if that just means holding the door for someone, and greeting someone with a smile, instead of just blowing past.
It would truly be in the Scecina spirit to enter the world in the spirit of Michael Ruiz. Let's be kind.
So many people ask us: What do you want to be? Do you want to be a lawyer, or a dentist, or a radio host? Do you want to be a reality TV star, or a chef, or a grade school teacher?
Well, the truth is we probably don't know yet. We don't know who we are yet, or who we will become. But we know where we came from. We know what we have learned here. Who are we?
We are grateful.
We are present.
We are bold.
We are kind.
We are the Class of 2016.