Thelen gives TJCA valedictorian speech

Published 2:56 pm Friday, June 11, 2010

Editors Note: Mary Thelen, a resident of Tryon, was named the valedictorian of the class of 2010 at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy: A Challenge Foundation Academy. Below is the full text of the valedictory address that Thelen delivered at the ceremony June 10:

On behalf of Thomas Jeffersons senior class of 2010, I would like to thank you all, our families, friends, our teachers, faculty, and fellow classmates, for coming out this evening to celebrate our high school graduation with us. We are most grateful for your support and encouragement this evening and over the course of the past four years.

Class of 10, Quid debemus, cogitare? What should we think? I dont know, but Mr. Scruggs would say that we should always think for ourselves and get out of Platos allegorical cave that has been our childhood and into the real world.

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Now there is no way that I can possibly sum up each of our high school experiences, but I think that one phrase that encompasses our senior experience as a class is one that we heard on a daily basis as we rushed through life this year to write college essays, fill out tedious applications, get last minute recommendations from teachers, while also making time for our studieswell, maybe – but this phrase that I think captures the essence of our senior year is the brief command GO NOW. This command had numerous meanings and connotations for us as seniors, but setting all of that aside, lets look at how it can be applied to us as high school graduates:

Let us GO NOW to a final summer of living in our parents home.

Let us GO NOW and revel in the glory of our newly-found independence.

Let us GO NOW to an exciting new world of collegiate life experiences and all the potential debauchery that is to be had.

Let us GO NOW and continue to learn, continue to make life-long friendships, continue to grow.

But as we go, and go we must (as our parents will remind us), let us GO SLOWLY.

Yes, life is opening many doors to us and the world seems full of endless possibilities; and as we are still very much in the morning of our lives, it may become very easy to forget how quickly time passes when we are so accustomed to saying theres always tomorrow.

But in all seriousness, take your time with life. Smell the roses; do hard things; challenge yourselves; live a life of virtue doing, knowing, and desiring the good; or just simply do right; and all that good stuff weve learned here over the last four years. From our high school experience, I think its safe to say that we all know how to cram and make the most of the time given to us, and while this is a useful skill for school, college, and perhaps even our careers, we should not apply it to every aspect of our lives. Friends, family, personal and spiritual growth – these are important too, and while they may not always be a top priority as many of us have invested thousands upon thousands of dollars in our college education, we must remember that at the end of the day, Leo Tolstoy was on to something when he said that all man really needs is a six foot hole in the ground.

As we graduate, let us begin to seek out our purposes in this life and when we find them, fulfill them to the best of our abilities. Epictetus, one of the great stoic philosophers said that were he a swan, he would sing after the manner of a swan, and that if he were a nightingale, he would sing in the manner of a nightingale, but since I am a reasonable being, I must sing to the gods: that is my work: I do it, nor will I desert this my post, as long as it is granted me to hold it; and upon you too I call to join in this self-same hymn Booker T. Washington called for us all to do the same when he told the audience in Atlanta: Cast down your buckets where you are. Whether it be a four year university, nursing or technical school, the military, a community college, or a year off until the right door opens to you, wherever you are, make the best of what you are doing, always strive to improve yourself, and enjoy every day that you are blessed to live on this earth. I hope to do the same. Congratulations class of 10! GO NOW!