This I Believe.
At the end of my senior year of high school, I was selected to present the valedictorian speech at the class’ graduation. In addition to being granted this honor, I was informed that the Valedictorian would be the first to receive the school’s certificate of completion, along with other small perks for leading the graduating class.
The day before the actual graduation, the school called for a rehearsal to practice the processional of graduates, work out any kinks in the sound system and to allow students leaders, including myself, time to voice their speeches. As we all sat in the field, and I at the head, we began practicing the order in which we would receive our diplomas. First, myself, then the second in class, and down the honors students, then the mass of students.
Now, in our class there is a young man in a special wheelchair. He has attended all of the classes needed to successfully complete the graduationg requirements, and has been deeply involved in school activities. This young man has the courage and bright spirit of any student. At prom, he extended the special wheelchair as to help him stand and danced around.
Either way – he sat three, maybe four rows behind me at graduation practice and when his name was called, he rolled his chair a good five minutes to the head of the ceremonial stage, then rolled back to his chair.
After the practice was completed, I talked to the principal about perhaps allowing this student to graduate before I did. As to facilitate his graduation, and to perhaps honor his continued efforts. She told me that something of the sort had been considered, and when this was recommended to the student, he turned down the offers. He wants to graduate like all the other students.
The morning before graduation, the princinpal called me as I sat at home, practicing my speech. She sounded agitated and excited. The principal quickly told me that I was an amazing young man, and asked if the offer I had made the day prior was still valid. “Of course!” I told her. Arrangements were then done to sit the young man next to me, at the head of my class, and to his surprise, let him be the first to graduate.
I believe that we are rewarded for doing what is correct. I am recognizing the young man’s actions, and not my own. I did what any decent human would offer to do. He did what any great human would do. Through adversity, he mustered courage and smiles, and is pushing on through to the college years. He conquered dispair and disability, he did what is correct and in doing so accomplished much more than I could. Much more than any special distinction could highlight. Much more than any Valedictorian could accomplish.
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