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ECHS Valedictorian Waya Locklear’s Speech

Good evening to all, and congratulations to the Class of 2018! I am proud and honored to stand with you and to call you my classmates and friends. To all the parents, grandparents, families, board members, administrators, faculty, and staff – welcome to East Columbus High School’s Commencement Ceremony. Thank you for not only sharing in this moment with us, but for all of your encouragement and support on our educational journey.
Today marks one of the greatest milestones in our lives, as we are thankful that we have survived the journey, and at the same time, we are inspired as we look toward the future and the challenges that await us. In doing so, I want to share with you a few life lessons that can be simplified in small rhymes by the great Dr. Seuss.

The first lesson is: Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. – Always be true to yourself. We have completed the first step to growing up, and it is now time to go out in to the world and blaze our own trail. We have applied to colleges, enlisted in the military, and chosen to enter the workforce. We have studied for tests, completed assignments, and secured our place in our class; now it is time to secure our place in the world. It is time to stand on our own and find our own place in this great big world.

The second lesson is: Why fit in when you were born to stand out? – If we were all made the same, life would be boring. We each have our own gifts and talents; it takes us working together to make the world go round. Often times, we get so caught up in wanting to be a part of the crowd that we stifle our lights. We either just blend like a chameleon or try to be someone we are not just to fit into the crowd. Be a beacon of light and let it shine; we never know who may need to see that light as guide.

Lesson three: You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. – It doesn’t take standing on this stage giving a speech to prove that you have a brain. Each of us has been given this gift, but how we use it is up to us. Make good choices that will guide you through your life in your future. While our parents may always consider us their babies, we are maturing and are blessed with the tools to direct our own paths.

Lesson four: Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Don’t ever be afraid to say what is on your mind for fear of rejection. If the people you associate with truly have your best interests at heart, they will care about your thoughts and feelings; if they don’t, then they really should not matter to you anyway.

And the last lesson is: Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered. – Always carry yourself in a manner that you would not be afraid to leave as a legacy. Treat others with kindness and respect, as you would not want to be remembered as the person without love or compassion for his fellow man. Carry yourself with honor and dignity, as you would want your future children to come to know you as a person that you would want them to be some day.

It has been quite an adventure Class of 2018. Some of us thought we would not see this day come and others fought several different types of adversity to get here today and be a part of this momentous ceremony.
Being a cardiac patient since I was in the second grade, I sometimes struggled to balance school, sports, dual enrollment, and many other outside commitments, but I set goals for myself and was able to reach each one with hard work, faith in God, belief in myself, and a desire to make my MaMa proud. Although she isn’t here with me physically today, I can feel her smile beaming down from heaven, as I know it does with each milestone of my life. I challenge each of you to do the same; have faith and believe in yourself in all that you do.
We’ve had many teachers or mentors throughout the last 13 years. Each of us has at least one special teacher who saw us as a raw, but precious jewel that, with encouragement, guidance, and structure, could be polished to a sparkling shine, and that special person has helped prepare us to face life’s important lessons, as well as its challenges. He or she has given you the meaning of independence, encouraged your creativity, recognized your individuality, and by example, has shown you the true meaning of friendship. As we embark upon this new journey, I encourage each of you to find that person and thank them for empowering you to achieve your goals and accepting yourself as you are.
Parents, grandparents, and guardians, I commend you for your help in molding us, the Class of 2018, into the young men and women we are today. Without your physical support, financial support, willingness, and devotion to our need to earn a diploma, we would not be able to cross this stage with a sigh of relief, and also a heart of gratefulness. You are the backbone of our accomplishments, and we recognize the importance of your roles in our lives.
It is with a heart full of gratitude and fulfillment that I leave each of you, with this poem by Dr. Seuss:
Oh, the Places You Will Go!

Today is your day!
You’re off to great places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets.
Look them over with care.
About some you’ll say
“I don’t wish to go there.”

With your head full of brains
and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there, in the wide open air.
Out there things happen, and frequently do,
to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew.
Just go right along, you’ll start happening too!