Class of 2021: On the brink of a new beginning

Class+of+2021%3A+On+the+brink+of+a+new+beginning

Sean Quinn, Member of Craig's class of '21

Sean Quinn is one of the members of Craig’s class of ’21 who will graduate on June 3, 2021. Sean is active in several clubs and will attend the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater at Rock County in the fall and will finish his college education at UW-Madison. His commencement speech was chosen among five that were presented to the commencement speech committee. 

Craig principal Dr. Bjoin, English teachers Ms. Begovatz and Mr. Holmquist, and the four senior class officers (Claire Kettle, Maddie Burrow, Aiden Murphy, and Emma Distefano) listened to the audition speeches. Sean’s speech was chosen for its inspirational and hopeful message. It is printed below:

My fellow graduates,

It’s a great joy to be here with you all on this special day. A day that we knew was coming for most of our lives. But despite the inevitability of this day, it still carries with it a somewhat surreal and indescribable feeling.

Here we are. This day has come. For real. We’ve gone through a lot together, especially in this past year, and we have a lot more life to live.

It’s crazy to think that it’s been almost four years since we began our time at Craig. I remember the week just before the start of freshman year I had a new dream almost every night about the first day of high school as thoughts raced through my mind: What will it be like? Will I make new friends? Will I get lost? Will I fit in? Should I fit in?

The classic questions of adolescence that I’m sure we’re all familiar with. But no matter how much you thought to prepare yourself, those conceptions started to fade away as high school became a reality and our routines began to settle in.

Our routines, with all their ups and downs, difficulties and successes, classes, exams, sport, clubs, friends. We had our first spirit week and homecoming. Things began to seem normal. 

“Okay,” we thought, “here’s my life for the next four years.” Little did we know that in the Spring of 2020 we would begin to face a global pandemic. 

We had no idea what was coming. We’d been hearing about this coronavirus spreading around the world, then, seemingly all of sudden, on Friday the 13th –of all days–we got a call telling us that we wouldn’t be returning to school for the next few weeks.

The next few weeks. I don’t know about you guys, but that was the longest “few weeks” I’ve ever gone through. Our lives were thrown completely upside down.

Perhaps it would have been nicer if we all could have avoided the pandemic, but that we’ll never know.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t decide when or in what circumstances we come into the world. We can only decide what we do with the life we’re given.

But things are beginning to look up. We should appreciate the fact that we’ve made it through, not just the pandemic, but we’ve made it through high school.

Of course, you and I–us–we never could have made it through alone. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those who have helped us, to those who have chosen to serve. Certainly, there have been actions of selfishness and greed during the pandemic, but never before in our lifetimes, has there been a greater display of human resilience and compassion.

We saw hearts in windows and singing from balconies. Many of us waited patiently in isolation, and when the time came to go back into the public, we made the little sacrifices we could to keep each other healthy. We saw the bravery of the frontline workers and the healthcare personnel, who risked everything to ensure that the country stayed running, and that those in need were cared for.

But let’s remember that there have always been people present willing to do what’s right. Just as we couldn’t have made it through the pandemic without the selflessness and generosity of those who sustained our country and our world, we never could have made it through high school without those who helped us along the way.

I know I never would have made it through the last four years without the constructive counsel and tremendous patience of my teachers, the stable camaraderie of my friends, and the support of my parents and family. I’m so grateful for everything these people have done for me, and I’m sure you have all had people like these throughout your high school career: a friend that stayed by your side in a time of crisis, a teacher that guided you through your struggle, or the kind words of a person you barely knew.

We all encounter someone with such empathy in our lives. I would encourage you to find one of these people who have helped you along the way and personally thank them. The people that are there for us deserve to know that what they do has a positive impact, and we should do all we can to imitate them.

All we’ve gone through in the past few years, the good and the bad; the experiences, the choices, the people. They all brought us here, now. We made it.

Our time as high school students has finally come to a close, but this is not the end for us. We’re on the brink of a new beginning, and many of us are feeling that similar nervousness with which we entered high school.

Nevertheless, we will adapt to the next phase of our lives just as we did the previous one, and we will continue to face each new day, remembering how far we’ve come, how far we have yet to go, and never forgetting that, just like during the pandemic, our lives could change in an instant.

We are gathered here to participate in this ceremony, a ceremony that far predates us and will long outlive us. Countless others have done this before, are doing so now, and will do so long after we’re gone.

With that in mind, we may feel like just another group of teenagers graduating high school, and maybe we are, but I know that we are so much more. I know that each and every one of you is filled with your own unique hopes, dreams, talents, and gifts that you can offer the world.

And that’s the message I would like to leave you with. Consider your skills, your aspirations, and your deepest desires; and then look at what the world is yearning for. We need not do extraordinary things; we only need to do what we can, with extraordinary determination.

We all have a share in the future, so let us strive with our full potential to build a better one. For us, for our children, and for all generations to come. I have great hope that we can, and we will.

So let us move forward. Let us jump into the unknown. We’ve faced high school. We’ve faced a pandemic. It’s time we face the world.