Cary Christian School’s class of 2020 graduated on June 11. This year our salutatorian was Sua Cho and our valedictorian was Ryan Bishop. One of the highlights of every CCS graduation is the privilege of hearing the wise and eloquent words delivered by our valedictorian and salutatorian, and this year was no exception.
Well guys, we made it. And I know that we didn’t expect to be graduating a month late in June, or under the front portico or wearing these masks, but nevertheless we’ve made the best of it, and I’m incredibly grateful and humbled to be standing up in front of this class of 2020, rain or shine. If you had told me, back when I was a barely 5 foot, awkward freshman, that I would eventually be giving a graduation speech in front of this whole class I probably would not have believed you. I would have been terrified of even setting foot in this gym to do so. But somehow here I am, still a little shorter than I hoped, and maybe even a little more awkward than I like to admit. While these words will in no way do justice to the love I have for this class, I’ll give it my best shot.
As I began to think about what I wanted to say tonight, I recalled a prayer I had learned as a child. I had forgotten the exact words but I remembered it was called the Serenity Prayer, and had to do with change. I remembered how simple it was: “God grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” And as I thought about those words, I could think of no better charge, no better prayer, that sums up who we are as a class and how we should move into this next phase of our lives than those simple words. In the past four years, we have endured changes, some good and some not so good. We have had some of our highest peaks this year, from our football team finally breaking a three-year losing streak to growing closer as a class in those 7 days we shared in San Diego. Yet, there have also been a decent share of valleys. We have seen beloved teachers leave, sports teams lose at the buzzer, physics quizzes kick our butt, and perhaps the greatest valley of all, the fact that we were unable to finish our senior year together in person.
There are many things I thought could derail our senior year, and a pandemic was nowhere on my radar.
Yet, God has shown us time and time and time again that he often places trials in front of his people to lead them to him and to grow them stronger. In Philippians 4, Paul says that “I rejoice greatly in the Lord, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” While in prison Paul learned that he had to “accept the things he cannot change,” and realized that he couldn’t do anything on his own without God and his fellow brothers and sisters.
For most, I imagine the closest we have been to a prison is being quarantined at home for these past two months. While our trials may not rival Paul’s experience in the slightest, we have all endured our share of struggles, and have faced them together. We have learned to lean on each other. We have shed tears on Mt. Soledad. We laughed as we watched Luke and Tim dismantle a 1,000 pound baptistry. We have spent excessively long amounts of time making Greek movies and created some pretty sick Ivanhoe Cup armor. The point being: The fifty-four of us have bonded in an unprecedented yet truly beautiful way. And through these bonds, through these relationships, we have been able to weather this storm and be resilient to whatever comes our way.
After today, after we walk across this pavement, this chapter of our lives will come to an end. There will no more “get out your prayer sheets” or “math talk only.” There will be no more “pop-up presentations” or “la cita del dia.” We will all go our separate ways, some of us going as far as Alabama and Tennessee and some of us—a lot of us—just 20 minutes down the road. For some of us here tonight, this class is all we’ve ever known. There are relationships in this class that have lasted 13 years or more. We were together when we had penmanship homework, and on field days, from crabbing at Fort Fisher to running across the Bentonville Battlefield. There are also relationships that maybe just began, and people who may only recall Protocol or Knights’ Fest. Yet regardless, we have all shared a common experience as one class. And while only some of us may retain the friendships we’ve built, I hope none of us forget the lessons we’ve learned, or the people that have supported us along the way. I hope all of us carry the gentleness of Mr. Bates, the drive of Mrs. McDonald, the humility of Mrs. Roseborough, the passion of Mrs. Ficken, and the love shown by every member of the CCS family. And above all, I hope all of us learn to accept the things we cannot change about this world, things like the weather, but that we have the courage to change things we can, and most importantly, the wisdom to know the difference as we step out into this big world. I love you guys. And so the only thing left to say tonight is, “Thank you, class of 2020.”