Friday, June 13, 2014

A Valedictory Message from The Shire

Mercury Photo by John Strickler

Pottstown High School's 2014 Valedictorian Nicole Grassi gives her speech.
Blogger's Note: Wednesday night was Pottstown High School's graduation ceremony. What follows here is the speech given by the 2014 Valedictorian, Nicole Grassi.

I want to speak to you today about a man -- but he isn’t a man, really; he’s a relative of man in a smaller package. I hope at least some of you know who I’m talking about. 

His name is Bilbo Baggins, and for those who don't know, he is a hobbit with adventure in his blood who accepts the opportunity to join a group of dwarves on a quest to reclaim their treasure from a dragon.

In the beginning, Gandalf, the wizard, says: "I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone." 

Graduates, don’t be just another person afraid to say ‘yes’ to adventure. Had Bilbo refused to go as he was so inclined to do, he may have lived in comfort, just like everyone else, but he wouldn’t have done anything. 

He would have been an average hobbit with hobbit friends and a normal hobbit life.

But Bilbo said yes. 

Bilbo said yes to the adventure and he gained friends because of it. He gained friends, he gained wealth, and upon returning, he was much happier. 

So graduates, say yes when adventure knocks on your door. You don’t have to settle for being average.
Dust jacket from the first edition of The Hobbit.

While on their quest, Thorin, leader of the dwarves, tells the young dwarves: “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something.” 

Not every adventure and opportunity will knock on your front door; sometimes, you need to find them yourself. 

If you want scholarships, look for them. 

If you want a job, look for one. 

If you want happiness or love or more friends, you need to get off your couch and look. 

None of these things are going to come to you without any effort on your part.

When their quest finally leads them to Lonely mountain where the dragon resides, Bilbo creeps down into the mountain and talks to Smaug, the dragon. 

It was at the end of this conversation, as he ran back up the slope inside the mountain with flames chasing him, that Bilbo said: “Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo, you fool!” 

So graduates, don’t laugh at live dragons, either. Danger is danger, and it’s best not to underestimate it. 

Be safe and be wise on your adventures.

Towards the end of the book, Thorin said to Bilbo: "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." 

He, of course, refers to the dwarves’ greed and Bilbo’s immunity to that greed. Greed led them to war, while all Bilbow anted to do was settle the conflict amicably. 

We could all take a lesson from Bilbo here: money isn’t everything. 

The dwarves went on a quest because of money; they went to war because of money (and a troll invasion); and people, elves, dwarves, and others died because of money.

And why? Life isn’t supposed to be about how much money you have. It’s supposed to be about what makes you happy. 

Why spend so much of your life motivated by money and wealth that you forget to actually enjoy yourself? Why can’t beings learn to just be happy?
Mercury Photo by John Strickler

Among the teenagers receiving their diplomas Wednesday was one of
the biggest teenagers I know, John Armato, who received an 
honorary diploma, an honor well-deserved and 
one which I know
he appreciates deeply. Congratulations Mr. Armato.

Gandalf once said to Bilbo, “Home is now behind you; the world is ahead!”

Pottstown High School has become our home over these four years, but with this ceremony and our diplomas, we will be stepping out of our front door into our next adventure. The world is truly ahead of us, whether it’s in the form of college, the workforce, or the armed services.

I would like to leave you with one last quote from Mr. Bilbo Baggins that I hope we will all take to heart tonight: “‘Go back?’ he thought. ‘No good at all! 

Go sideways? Impossible!

Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!’" 

As students, we cannot go back; we cannot go sideways; we can only move forward into our future, and that begins tonight.

(If you would like to see a slide show of more than 150 photos from Wednesday night's graduation, click here for photos by Mercury Photographer (and PHS alum) John Strickler.)

No comments:

Post a Comment