La Grande High School’s graduates Saturday included foreign exchange students Valery Secaira, far left, of Ecuador and Tang Thonglinchee, far right, of Thailand. They are celebrating with three students who just completed their sophomore years at LHS — Becca Schoenfelder, second from left, the host sister for Secaira; Lia Norem, center, the host sister for Thonglinchee; and Andrea Lilly. DICK MASON / The Observer
A touch of Old English raised spirits and a wind storm briefly raised eyebrows at La Grande High School’s graduation ceremony Saturday.
The ceremony in LHS’s gym had a slightly jarring beginning when the building’s ventilation system was rattled by a wind storm, creating a curious banging sound.
Many people looked concerned, but they relaxed once La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze explained what was causing the noise.
Kaylee Gerdes, one of two LHS valedictorians who gave addresses, spoke not of the windstorm, but of a brainstorm during her presentation.
Gerdes recalled that when she was asked to speak, she pulled out a piece of paper “to brainstorm what I wanted to say.”
Gerdes said her paper remained blank for a long time.
“ Then it hit me. Our lives are like that blank piece of paper. As we leave high school and begin the various paths we will take, we all have a choice. We get to decide what words will be written in the book of our lives.”
Gerdes told her classmates that every choice they make, every person they come into contact with, every opportunity they choose to take or ignore adds another page to their life stories.
“Your book is blank right now, and you get to pick the genre. Will it be a drama? A tragedy? A success story? An adventure? Choose now what you want for your life, so that 50 years from now, when you reread your book, you won’t have any regrets.”
Gerdes also told the students they can boost the morals of America by treating those around them with respect.
“I hope the first chapter of the book of your life will consist of how you raised those morals.”
Gerdes is a one of four 2012 LHS valedictorians, all of whom graduated with 4.0 grade point averages. The others are Gwen Antell, Jordyn Roberts and Winston Hovecamp.
Hovecamp also spoke at commencement, giving advice for living in Old English. The tips, some of which sparked laughter, included:
• “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.”
• “Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for loan oft loses itself and friend and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry (thrifty management).”
• “Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.”
Hovecamp, who participated in theater at LHS, reverted out of Old English at the conclusion of his address, quoting a line made famous by President Theodore Roosevelt — “…Speak softly and carry a big stick and you will go far.”
Glaze also had words of advice for the Class of 2012.
Glaze, as he has at every LHS graduation ceremony since becoming superintendent in 2008, urged the graduating seniors to focus on maintaining a good attitude throughout their lives.
“If I might offer one piece of advice to each of you, it is simply this: attitude is everything. It is a little thing which makes a big difference in life. It can turn failure into success and success into failure. Most importantly, it is something you can control daily,” Glaze said.
The superintendent, in continuing with this theme, also told the students “Ten percent of life is what happens to you and 90 percent is how you react to it.”
LHS’s Class of 2012 had 140 graduates, many of whom played big roles in the many success the school enjoyed in 2011-12.
Glaze reviewed many of them during his presentation. They included state tittles won by LHS’s a cappella choir and its boys golf team and many Greater Oregon League championships.
LHS Principal Andrea Waldrop also spoke at the ceremony, encouraging the graduates to take in as much of the experience as possible.
“Savor the moments of today for you will never have a day exactly like this one,” Waldrop said.
Waldrop emerged from the ceremony with enough flowers to fill a small floral shop and enough candy to satisfy any sweet tooth.
Each graduating senior presented a flower to Waldrop as well as a small chocolate peanut butter cup, one of her favorite candies.
Waldrop said this morning she is putting the flowers in vases while making bouquets she will be giving to friends.