Dear (Father), Brother Andre, Professor Grinstead, Sr. Mary Peter, Sr. Maria Perpetua, Mom, siblings, Brothers, Sisters, and dear friends, I would like to express my gratitude to you all for joining Lucia and me in celebrating one of the greatest accomplishments of our lives. It means more to me than you know. Having achieved the second best grades in the class, it is an honor to stand before you as IHM’s 2017 salutatorian. Before I begin, I would like to give a special thank you to a few people who have had a profound impact on my formation.
Mom, what you have accomplished is astonishing. I have so much to thank you for and it’s hard knowing that anything I say won’t even come close to satisfactory. They say that people do the best with what they can. Well, you did better than the best. The situation you were dealt was nearly insurmountable and you somehow found a way to bring the best out of it. Everything that I have going for me, or that I am or will be, I owe it all to you. I know that raising me must have been no simple task and for that I am sorry. Some people will say that you did things over the top in certain situations or didn’t go about things the right way, but to that I say that you being hard on me was exactly what I needed. It helped me to get here today. It’s funny, whenever we had an argument, you would always say that when I grew up, I would realize that you were right. You were right about that, and everything else. You’re the most incredible woman I’ve ever met. If one day, I decide to go down the path of marriage, I can only hope to marry a girl who is half the woman that you are. I don’t say it nearly enough, but thank you from myself and my siblings. I love you so much.
Another individual that I want to give credit to, even though he doesn’t want it, is Headmaster Brad Grinstead. He has done so much, not only for me, but for this school, and this community. He has spent more time and effort on my education, now, and for the future, than I deserve. The advice he has given me, and the values of hard work and perseverance he has instilled in me, will never, ever be forgotten. If there was ever a father-figure in my life, you were it. Thank you.
Other people who especially deserve a big thank you for their sacrifice and kindness are: Mr. and Mrs. Wolfe and Zahakavitz, Mrs. Buzzell, Mr. and Mrs. DeLalla, Mrs. Villarrubia, Mrs. Grinstead and any others whom I may not have mentioned, especially those who prayed for me. Thank you all.
Mr. Chouinard, thank you for all the time and effort you put into not only the classes which you taught me, but all of your classes. I know they can be a handful. I can say with certainty that you are the best English and literature teacher that I have ever had. Thank you also from all of the boarder boys for taking the time to bring us out on fun and eventful expeditions. I hope that they were as enjoyable for you as they were for us.
Dear, dear Sisters, thank you for teaching, putting up with me, removing my teeth, cleaning up throw up, reprimanding, advising, cooking, giving rides, and just overall loving me. Your prayers, influence and cookies have been truly a blessing these past 18 years and are more than I deserve. Brothers, how could I ask for more than what you all have sacrificed for me. Brother Andre, the knowledge that you imparted in your Religion classes was illuminating and preparatory; I know it will be priceless, heading into the big bad world. I won’t forget the regalement I received from watching you laugh until you literally could not breathe. And I will not forget you. Brother Louis Marie, I cannot put a price on the brotherhood that I shared with you these past nine months and even these last 18 years. Thank you for that. Last but not least, Brother Joseph Mary, your piety inspired me greatly. It slightly outdid your homemade beer.
I have cultivated an affinity for a certain value over the past four years, and I would like to share it with you today. That value is hard work. Without hard work, achievement is deprived of sweetness. The great Roman poet Horace once said, “Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work,” meaning, the success we experience, is worth nothing if we did not put in the effort to get there. This is the reason receiving this diploma couldn’t be sweeter. Remembering having to adjust to a new environment, sweating over 2+2, all the long hours of studying, writing essays and taking tests makes it more than worth it.
Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 26 medals, 23 of which are gold, knows what it takes to be successful. He trains 6 hours a day, 6 days a week, and swims 80,000 meters or 50 miles a week. Picture the enormous difference between being handed a gold medal versus swimming 80,000 meters for it. I didn’t swim that far for a diploma, but I’ve come a long way since stepping into Sr. Mary Joseph’s class the first day of school so long ago.
Hard work is not just about doing well in school, or getting to graduation day, it’s a part of every aspect of life, whether it’s a sport, a job, or even your family. Nothing in life is given to us; we have to work for it. Once I realized this, my life began to improve in so many ways, and even though I still make many mistakes, I have begun to grasp the importance of responsibility and direct my thoughts toward the future.
I was recently awarded a full scholarship to the Williamson College of the Trades. I didn’t just get a letter in the mail saying I had been randomly selected to attend. I worked for it. I studied hard for the entrance test; I prepared for the interview. Professor worked hard to get me there, and IHM had to man the ship without him. And lastly, through no little effort from my teachers and supporters, I was able during my interview to articulate my sincere desire to enter the competitive plant management division. It took me a very long time, many years in fact, to realize that work is real, and it brings results, and it is from your support, and by the sheer grace of God that I embraced commitment, and now have been accepted into a school where only 25% of applicants are admitted. . . . and where, I am told, representatives from over a hundred companies are lined up after graduation ceremonies to hire new graduates. It is my understanding that they hire the men not for their skills alone, but also for their integrity and promise, similarly sharing the passion and purpose of our little school. I am so excited and thankful about this opportunity.
Thank you to all the people who sit before me, who helped me to get here. Those of you who prayed, who worried about me, (and especially those of you who listened to my mother weep and lament her wayward son’s actions), those of you who put up with me, taught me, and who sacrificed for me and my family. You worked too, and I will be forever indebted to you and will pray for you always. I will never forget this place and you all. God bless you and your families. Thank you.