What Lies Within

Dan Perucco

       What do you want to be when you grow up? Remember that question that your parents and teachers used to ask you? Suddenly itÕs changed to the present tense: what do you want to be? IÕm sure that most of you have some sort of plan: maybe youÕre going off to college, hoping to get a degree to pursue your dream job. Or maybe youÕll be going straight into the work force, or serving our country in the Armed Services. ThereÕs no doubt about it- graduation is a time when people tend to analyze exactly what it is that they want out of life. We look forward. We wonder what we will be doing in five, 10, 20 years. We feel as if the world is ours. We have a tremendous sense of possibility.

            But lately, I havenÕt been thinking about my career or future plans much. IÕve been asking myself a very different question: Who will I be in 10 years? Will I still be the same person? Will I still have a dry sense of humor and a love for music? IÕm sure IÕll still be a nerd, because some things never change.

            I believe that this is an important question. What kind of person are you? What kind of person do you want to be? You know, in our society; we tend to value people more for their achievements than for their good character. As far as I know, multi-million dollar corporations donÕt hand out medals to the kindest office workers. Pro football players donÕt get recognized for being patient or polite. Lawyers donÕt necessarily get ahead by being the most honest. But I think that knowing who you are, and being a good person is far more important than being rich or successful. Throughout your life, you may have dozens of different jobs, but your personality will stay the same. You can lose your money, your house, your career. But your character is whatÕs going to stay with you.

            The other day, I came to a realization about high school. I woke up halfway through Calculus, and tried to focus on Mr. Ellerbruch excitedly scribbling problems on the chalk board, and I pondered a question that many of you have asked in your high school career: ÒWhere am I ever going to use this in real life?Ó The answer came fairly quickly- IÕm not. IÕm planning on being an English teacher, and I see no possible use for derivatives or integrals in my career field. To tell you the truth, there are a lot of things that weÕve learned in school that IÕm probably never going to use again. But do you know what? I think that the most important knowledge that weÕve gleaned from our school career arenÕt the sort of things measured by standardized tests, or directly applicable to Òreal lifeÓ.

            What our teachers have been trying to do these past 13 years, in addition to teaching their subjects, is help us to find ourselves. To discover who we really are. They have been trying to teach us how to be good people. WeÕve been introduced to the expectations of society. WeÕve learned how to get along with other human beings- which is no small feat considering that we have been suffering from the raging hormones of adolescence. WeÕve learned the values of honesty and work ethic. And some of us have learned how to be responsible.

            When I think of what I have learned in each class that I have had throughout our public education, it becomes apparent to me that the most important lessons I have learned are not about the subjects themselves, but about my own personality. In Mr. GÕs class, I learned thatÕs itÕs okay to have an opinion that differs from your teacherÕs- even if the consequence is getting yelled at in Lithuanian. In Mrs. HeinleinÕs class I learned that Sarah Palin is the spawn of the devil, but more importantly learned to appreciate literature, and to enjoy writing. Way back in Miss GanfieldÕs music class, I learned to love music; despite the fact that to this day, I cannot sing ÒGood morning, Miss Ganfield.,Ó in tune. In Mrs. HoughtonÕs speech class, I gained the confidence to speak in front a group of people, without puking. (At the time, I never thought I would ever have to give another speech again- I was wrong.) WeÕve had some memorable teachers, havenÕt we? WeÕve all enjoyed Mrs. MoreyÕs eccentric costumes on homecoming week. WeÕve all been taught a thing or two about canoes by Mr. Landick. Many of us have learned math from Mrs. Whiig and have been serenaded by her and her keyboard on our birthday. Yes, as much as we tend complain about our teachersÉin retrospect, I donÕt think IÕd change any of the oneÕs IÕve had.

            And finally, and maybe most importantly, we have shaped each otherÕs personalities. Remember learning in Mrs. AlexanderÕs Sociology class that the people you spend time with affect the person that you become? Well, 13 years is definitely a lot of time to spend together, and each and every one of you has had an impact on the lives of your classmates. Look around you. We are a curious collection of people, arenÕt we? But each person has their own unique personality that has contributed to our class. Even though weÕve learned hundreds of thousands of quantifiable facts from our teachers, I can easily say that each of you has also taught your classmates things that are just as lasting and import. Brianna McMinn and Kayleigh Laitinen have taught us all how to be nicer people through there own quiet kindness. Luc LaFreniere and Helen Collins have demonstrated the true meaning of the word Òleadership.Ó If you ever had a technical problem, I bet Anna Nurmela or Jordan OÕBrien couldÕve helped you out. IÕm sure that all of you have had your day brightened by the Borsom twins- the most polite kids in Negaunee. Or maybe your walk to a basement classroom was made more pleasant by the artwork of Nate Francois and Jacy Harris. And personally, I know that Shawn Peterson and Ellen Lindblom have taught me a thing or two about the term Òschool spiritÓ. And of course, who could forget how much more interesting high school has been made because of Jake Jandron and Luke VanLandshoot? The point is- each of you has contributed in some way to making Negaunee High School such a memorable place. Each of you has made a lasting difference in the lives of the members of the class of 2009.

            So what has high school taught you? Many things, IÕm sure; but do you feel fully prepared to enter the real world? I know I donÕt. ThereÕs so much out there that we could never expect; that we couldnÕt possibly be prepared for. Life is not a smooth ride. There are twists and turns and bumps. Things happen that are beyond our control. But what we do have on our side is our character and the ability to learn as we go. We have our personality that has been directly shaped by our time here together.

            And on this evening- the last time that we will all be together, Negaunee High School has one last lesson for us. How to say goodbye. I know that change can be sad and exciting and terrifying all at the same time- and our lives are drastically changing. Maybe you may not be sure of where youÕre going in your life. Actually, I can quite confidently say that none of us knows whatÕs out there waiting. ThatÕs what makes life worth living- the fact that we donÕt know how itÕs going to turn out. But itÕs all okay, because as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ÒWhat lies behind us, and what lies ahead of us are small matters compared to what lies within us.Ó And so, as you leave this gym tonight to embark upon the journey of your life, as you leave your childhood behind and enter adulthood; go with purpose, and confidence, and pride. Because you have it inside of you, and thatÕs all that really matters. Congratulations, Class of 2009- WeÕve done it.