DON GROVES/Albany Ledger
Albany High School's 2013 graduates listen as they hold roses for their parents during commencement exercises May 19 in the high school gym.
By Don Groves
The Albany Ledger
Inspired by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, commencement speaker Teresa Long shared 12 Things Every Student Needs to Know with the class of 2013 May 19 during Albany High School’s graduation ceremony.
Long, the school’s English teacher for the last seven years, said she and fellow teacher Jennifer Coburn had come up with their own 12 Things Every Student Needs to Know on their way back from the state track meet in Jefferson City after hearing Gates’ Rules Kids Won’t Learn in Schools.
As Long took her place at the lectern she pulled a tall file folder from beneath and said, “Just a moment, I have to get my speech.”
She joked she was told she had about an hour to deliver her speech but said it could go as long as two hours. Following her joke, Long told the 39 graduates that by receiving their diplomas they are achieving another milestone but reminded them it wouldn’t be their last and started her list of 12 Things, which include:
No. 1 — Remember to use manners, Long said. She told the graduates they should say please, thank you and especially “I’m sorry.”
No. 2 — “Remember where you’ve come from,” Long said. She said it’s important to remember that people here in Albany have helped the graduates become who they are.
No. 3 — Graduates were told to look forward to where they are going and encouraged to try new things. Long challenged them to try a new hobby, take a new class they are interested in, meet new people and do something new every chance they get.
No. 4 — Long told the graduates it’s OK to fail and reminded them they’ll often learn more about how to solve problems by failure than they will by success.
No. 5 — “Accept people for who they are,” Long said. She said the graduates will meet people with different backgrounds, experiences and beliefs. “Don’t judge, just accept,” she said.
No. 6 — Long told the graduates to realize and appreciate what they have. “The grass on the other side of the fence has been treated with Roundup,” she said. “It’s not greener.”
No. 7 — “Smile,” Long said. She said they should be glad they have work to do, that their parents are calling, that they can get out of bed and other things many others may not be able to do. “Don’t overlook little things,” she said.
No. 8 — “Remember to call your mother,” Long told the graduates. “She will have many questions. … But here’s what Mom’s really saying. ‘I love you.’”
No. 9 — “Never forget you are loved,” Long said. She said as the graduates look around at the others celebrating graduation they should always remember that “somewhere someone loves you.”
No. 10 — “Eat chocolate,” Long told the graduates. She said it’s scientifically proven that chocolate is healthy. She said chocolate can boost one’s mood, can reduce the risk of stroke and it has caffeine, which can help with concentration.
No. 11 — “Choose a career you love,” Long said. She said the most important thing the graduates can do is find something they can sink their souls into the rest of their lives. “Money isn’t everything,” she said. “Love is.” Long said Mother Teresa chose to do what was in her heart and found riches beyond compare.
No. 12 — Love, laugh, be thankful, argue and read, Long said. “Love others but most importantly love yourself,” she said. Long said it’s OK to argue, to disagree with others and agree to disagree.
Long said as an English teacher, though, graduates should already know reading was especially important. She said reading opens many worlds and helps people better understand. Reading opens minds, she said, “So open your minds to the possibilities.”
Long ended her speech by quoting from Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
“You may never have proof of your importance but you are more important than you think,” Long quoted Fulghum. “There are always those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who.”
AHS salutatorian Hannah Payne congratulated her fellow classmates, telling them that while many times high school was easy there were also times when school became a struggle. But with high school behind them, she told the graduates to be true to themselves.
“Become the person you want to be,” Payne said. “Don’t try to just fit in. … Stay positive in hard times. Think of all the good things.”
Payne also said that even the graduates will no longer be together as they had in high school they and those who helped them complete high school will always be there for them no matter what.
“Seize opportunities that come your way,” she said. “I’m proud of each of you.”
Valedictorian Macyn Gillespie expressed amazement at the commencement exercises.
“I can’t believe I’m up here at my own graduation,” she said.
Gillespie said none of her classmates would be receiving diplomas without they help they received from their teachers, coaches and parents who prodded them along.
“We’re here today because they believe in us,” she said.
Gillespie said in a few minutes the graduates and the audience would hear the band Green Day’s song “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” which says “I hope you have the time of your life.” She said that while those lyrics represent the graduates high school career she hoped high school wouldn’t be life’s peak for them, that they will continue to take on new challenges.
“What a waste if we allow ourselves to be content with this,” she said.