Zoe Dongas, 2017 Valedictorian: Graduation Speech
Imagine the road leading into SCA. The second you drive onto campus, you are calmed by the scene: magnificent trees, rolling green lawns, a majestic stream. You can stay here, and admire the present sight, or you can drive a little farther, and encounter even more beauty within the walls of Saint Cecilia Academy. Because as nice as the entrance is (it's quite breathtaking), something even better lies just a little farther down the road. Today we are encouraged to look a little farther. We are encouraged to take the long-view.
Author Matthew Kelley recently wrote a speech about the long view, something he defines as follows: the long view is a particular brand of wisdom that takes into account the effects that something will have not only in the present but also far into the future. The amazing thing about the long-view is that as you contemplate the present as well as the future, you can actually become a better person. I think it is our time here at St. Cecilia that has prepared us to fully adopt the long-view, for it has helped us to grow in generosity, patience, and perspective. Class of 2017, we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs, but what made it all worth it is that we did it together. But now, as we are about to go our separate ways, how will we take our SCA experience with us? How do we keep what we have learned, and build on it in the future?
By looking at life through the long view, you first learn generosity. I’m sure we have all noticed how we have gradually become more generous with our time. As much as we might like to go out every weekend, see a movie with friends, or just sleep all day, the long view teaches us that we need to prioritize what is important and what is necessary for the future- that include not only thinking of ourselves, but also thinking about others. We have projects to finish and tests to study for. We have people who rely on our help at Second Harvest, Ronald McDonald House, and at our own homes. Over the years we have learned how to be more charitable with our time and how to not only find time to help others, but also how to make time. Doing this, we have come to realize what is truly important to us.
Second, following the long-view approach also makes us more patient. For example, Senior religion and the dreaded circle points, when everyone just sort of says the same thing but in a different order. First person- God is really awesome. Second- Awesome is really God. Third- Is God really awesome? As much as some of us may like to stand up and shut down the conversation, the long view mentality causes us to relax in the moment and take the opportunity to truly understand the situation. By taking a step back, we see that this dialogue is actually a necessity- different perspectives, beliefs, and views all wholeheartedly questioning together. Patience, it’s a virtue. Adopting the long-view helps us to take a breath, and realize that life is more than just the present situation with its worries and frustrations. It helps us see that how we act in the present can have lasting effects on the future, and we need to be aware, so we can act with virtue and patience.
When we take the long view, we not only become generous and patient, but also gain perspective. For example, I readily admit that I used a short view mentality in preparation for Spirit Week our Junior Year. We were the Journey Juniors and felt sure that we had a chance at a 1st place. PS we won powderpuff. My short view understanding consisted of frantic planning, frustrated decorating, and of course, a dissatisfaction with our 2nd place. I actually left school crying, got in my car, rolled down the windows, and played Don’t Stop Believin at the loudest volume possible driving home. I was so concerned about my present situation that I disregarded all of the good things that came out of Spirit Week: we made a giant bus out of butcher paper. We had an excuse to sing Journey songs all day, every day. Again, we won powderpuff. Taking the long view would have allowed me to put this loss into perspective, and realize that we actually gained valuable organizational and leadership skills. With the long-view, Spirit Week was not really a loss at all! In fact, looking far into the future helps us stay focused on our final objective: Heaven. The long-view allows us to see our whole life in perspective; it causes us to pause and ask the question, how are our actions right here, right now, affecting not only our goals for the next few years, but also our ultimate goal of salvation?
Now, Seniors, before we think the long-view is too daunting a task, I invite us to look around at our friends, who have changed us for good. This bond we share with one another is the result of long view thinking, gained through generosity, patience, and perspective. We have learned to prioritize these friends (hopefully) over any fleeting, short-term gratification, because we knew these friendships were more important and lasting. Because ladies, that glorious chicken biscuit is not what will remain after your time at SCA; it is your friends. We can’t call up a chicken biscuit if we’re feeling down, but we can definitely call the loving, intelligent, and caring girls with whom we have lifelong friendships, one year, five years, or ten years down the road. We can use the long view because we already have practice doing so.
So Seniors, we have successfully gotten in the fast lane Freshman year. We were able to sock hop it through Sophomore year. Junior year was definitely a journey. And now we are at the end of our Senior Year about to leave Andy behind. As we will soon leave for college, we are faced with this decision- will we take the long view way of thinking with us? Will we see things solely in the present, or will we see past the present into the future? Get it! Past, present, future? Because I know what the past was like. I was blessed to learn, cry, laugh, pray, and just be with all of you I know what the present is like. We’re currently sitting out here in our white caps and gowns, loved ones in the seats, wondering when my speech will end so they can congratulate their babies. And maybe I know what the future will look like, at least in the short term. In about a year, we’ll be at or nearing the end of our Freshman year of college. We’ll be chock full of new experiences, new friends, and new ideas. If we try and project further down the road, maybe we’ll see ourselves as we’d like to be: women who possess the long view, because we realize that despite all of the ups and downs in life, we have learned what is truly important and lasting. We know that our friends and family are more important than any fleeting award, title, or job. We know that God is our ultimate goal. And, we know that our future is infinitely bright.
I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives, for a reason bringing something we must learn, and we are led, by those who help us most to grow, if we let them, and we help them in return; well I don’t know if I believe that’s true but I know I’m who I am today, because I knew you; Class of 2017, I think we can all agree that our 4 years at St. Cecilia Academy have changed us for good.
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