A Crucial Definition

-Lucas Steven LaFreniere-


Welcome, friends and family, educators and schoolmates, to the “commencement” ceremony of Negaunee High’s class of 2009- to our graduation. 

I would like to take the honor of being one of the very first to commend you, my classmates, on all of your life’s accomplishments and on achieving this day of success,  Graduation, and everything that that means, whatever it is. 

You see I have been overwhelmed with that little afterthought, the question of what graduating truly means.  See, everything signifies something, especially such a monumental date as this.  We progress through our senior year wading through the thick anticipation of looming changes and unfamiliar pressures knowing full well what the “end” result will be.  It is this day.   About you now enfolds a patchwork tide of tassles, sashes, and gown wreathed embraces, an almost tangible mist of pride, the fading tremble of a symphony that has cried victoriously from its many strings that we have escaped the wretched clutches of Ellerbruch’s red pen.  But are those things, this ceremony, all that today is?  I think it’s safe to say that it certainly is not.  At this very moment we are propelling through a symbol, a ceremony that is not just a “commencement”- the period plotted so boldly at the finish of our childhood- but the inception of a booming, lasting echo, the ignition of something much greater.  So if it is not simply the wave of a class ring garnished hand goodbye, what is this graduation? I think that we, my friends, should know what graduation is before we attempt to embrace it.  We should define it.

Because you see, when we define something, when we actually understand the entire spectrum of an idea, it becomes a part of us, a fraction of our knowledge and insight without assumptions or falsities, and that’s what we’re here today to do, right?-- to let Negaunee High School , if not our entire town in all its comfort and peculiarity, solidify as a foundational stone in our existence-to-be.  Today our time at NHS becomes an unalterable facet of our history, a limb in the web of our lives that we cannot delete or amend.  If we can define graduation and disintegrate any ignorance about the day, then we can rejoice in a true understanding of our accomplishments as we grab that diploma with full confidence and say “I am ready.  I comprehend who I have become.  I want this history that I have been given, that I have partially forged myself.  I want this to consume and refine me, temper me.”  We have been preparing for this consciously or unconsciously for a long time, the reach and grasp of that vital little folder, but are we ready?  I suppose my tragically tangled mind would say that we must define “graduation day” to find out.

“Tradition never graduates”  I have carried that iconic phrase across my chest every couple of weeks since basketball camp in 2002.  You’ve no doubt witnessed the maize t-shirt that I’m talking about.  It’s no secret that Negaunee values tradition, and I think that often that is a good thing.  But, for us, for the class of 2009, traditional definitions of graduation simply will not suffice.  I would venture to presume that tradition would say that today, the day of graduation, is defined as a moment for crossing thresholds in ourselves to become something greater, for looking back on our past with all its joys and tribulations, and for embarking into something wild and new with the goal of self progress or at the very least the fulfillment of  a little bit of our potential.  Well yes, all those things are wonderful and true, But, if that is all that graduation is, then how can we say that is it different from any other day?  The acts of growing, remembering, and fervently anticipating our future are not exclusive to graduation and they shouldn’t be-

No, it is separate.  It is the chance to sum up all the events, thoughts, and relationships of our past and smile, and shed an infinite tear, and love something lost yet perpetual.  A landmark chance to say “This is who I am, thus far”.  Have you asked yourself who that person is?  It’s not the same person that donned those awkward ancient frosh football pads, not the same person who rapped together their stinging palms at their first winter carnival talent show, not the same person that tried to approach our beloved shawn connery wannabe Mr. Robert Bonetti only to find that he doesn’t talk to freshman.  No, we’ve mixed and matched relationships and skills, intensified certain passions and let others expire, enhanced ourselves.  We’ve learned, especially things like when, while demonstrating literally, Mr. Marana taught us that we must chew up our own miner stadium turf, even if it needs a little ketchup, to never let anyone take us in our own yard.  No, we are not the same as we once were.    Graduation is the greater-than-grand total of these foundations and lessons within us.  It is feeling content about how far along the renovation and most likely re-renovation our interior selves has come.  It is the spyglass through which we can see, in every one of us, our success. 

And yeah guys, I honestly believe that each person before me is blooming with success.  I believe this because I have experienced your significance.  Everyone here today has captured a fragment of another’s being.  I know that over the past twelve years each and every one of you has had significance in my life, some minute and some monstrous, but some none the less- I have no doubts about that.  And for this, for our significance to each other and to ourselves, we walk here today as successes. 

We’ve made it this far haven’t we?  Why would anyone even think to congratulate us if graduation from high school did not take a certain perseverance, I mean, do you remember having to endure the movie “HOOK” three full times during KJ’s health class?  Graduation from that sort of thing brings success with it like a tailwind..

And you see, success can be looked at in many ways, but this is the way I see it:  Success is the summation of potential and determination.  There’s no GPA, no monetary value, no university-emblem emblazoned words in that definition- just potential plus determination.  I say without hesitation that every person breathing in the class of 2009 holds potential.  We may make mistakes, like backing up into buses and earning the titles such as Leander “Buslicker” Johnson, but they do not weigh in to such a naturally granted thing as capability.  The second, Determination, is determined by the individual..  Success, determined by the two of these.  I believe whole-heartedly that, despite the light-hearted cynicism of certain Government teachers, our class as a whole is successful.             Because success should be, if not already, determined not by statistics and numbers, but by the quality of your relationships, the abundance of love that you have dealt and have received, the dreams you have realized, the weight of your laughter, and the volume of your happiness.  What would you call fighting your way to a admirable 8 and 1 football season, transforming an almost ecologically impotent school into an official Michigan green school, or regularly demolishing four 18 inch pizzas in under twenty minutes as the fine fellows of Casual Pizza Wednesdays so often do, if not success?  What I truly want to say guys is never, for a moment in your life, any of you, think that you have never been a success, because I know, and these supporting, pride-beam reaming people around you know that you are today, if not forever.

            But the truth is, our worth is not determined by whether we have graduated or how many white spaces there are on our red-ink dripping math tests—measure your worth rather by the people that you have become, the values you hold and how you’ve managed your life by those ideas.  I see men and women gathered here before me today not as college applicants or students, sons, daughters, or graduates but individual souls each with worth and with something to offer.  Graduation is when the whole world gives a pleasant bow to the person you have grown into, and looks ahead to the person you will become.  I understand that none of us are images of perfection, but we are certainly visions of progress—that is what I see before me today.  Class of 2009, my friends, if you continue to grow as you have, if you can find the worth in identity and in union, then I know that you can accept that diploma today and not wallow in a stagnant life that rebounds in a circle but enjoy one that, in an ascending line rather, will grow, will prosper, will flourish.  That is the definition of graduation, a day to realize to yourself that you are something more than the sum of your statuses or a clothes rack for a cap and gown that has jumped the appropriate hoops.  The definition of graduation is the definition of your own selves.  

            You are exuding potential and hopefully you are searching for determination.  Now, my friends, go forth and be successful.  God bless.