Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Gifted Student

On Friday I read an article in the Saint Petersburg Times about a local young lady named Jem Lugo. She just had graduated from High School and was the class valedictorian. She graduated with an un-weighted 3.98 grade-point average and is going on to Harvard University on a scholarship.

Not many students from this neck of the woods will ever be going to Harvard, let alone on a full scholarship. This is a gifted young lady.

Valedictorians must give a commencement speech at the graduation ceremony. The School Administrators had informed her several months before, that she was graduating at the top of her class; so she did some research on the internet. She read some former Valedictorian speeches (High School, as well as College) to get ideas and found them all to be blasé and unmoving. She wanted to say something that made a difference to her classmates.

She, of course, had to submit her commencement address to the “powers that be” prior to graduation. These powers rejected the speech as being too realistic and asked her to tone it down. This she did, out of deference to the ‘powers that be”. Not only was she a good student, she also respected the system.

I have read both the original and diluted versions. You should also! - click here

Back in my day, our speeches were not censored or even read by the teachers or administrators before they were given. My class Valedictorian was a girl named Marie. She sat directly in front of me in many of our classes (we were seated alphabetically – for what reason, I never understood). When taking a test she would move her head to the side so that I could see her paper. This was not to cheat, but to see if my answers were reasonably correct.

Marie was a real Plain Jane and she was considered to be a Wallflower (what we irreverently called a mouse). She never went to High School Football games or came out for Pizza with the gang. She was always at home or in the library studying. We were friends in the classroom, but not on a social level.

Her commencement speech was excellent. She quoted and/or paraphrased some of the lines in John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier speech (when he accepted the nomination for President in 1960).
We can have faith in the future only if we have faith in ourselves.
Marie's own words were also very stirring; this I never expected from her, as she was never outspoken about anything. I sat entranced and wondered why I had never gotten to know her better on a more personal level. She spoke powerful words; spoken by a seemly un-powerful (but extremely intelligent) person. A Dormouse!

Recently, I spoke to one of my former High School teachers. Both he and his wife, who also taught at the same high school, remembered Marie. They didn’t remember me, only my name, although I finished in the top 12% (64th - probably thanks to Marie, and the class Salutatorian Mikki who were my study partners in several of my classes) of my class of 532 students.

You always remember the number one (student or athlete), and sometimes forget about the others as the years pass.

I was a good, but not an exceptional student. Marie was exceptional, and her commencement exercise words still ring in my mind to this day.

I hope that Jem Lugo’s teachers and classmates will remember her commencement address also.

The Beach Bum

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Blogger Steve Skinner said...

She hit a home run with the original speech. The only thing I might have added is to always use sun screen.

Mon Jun 08, 08:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don’t cut yourself short you were a great student at Harrison. You excelled at extra curricular activates. As far as addressing the student body, I’ll never forget when you read JFK’s Inaugural Address to the juniors and seniors in the auditorium. Not only did you sound like him, you rarely looked down at the speech in front of you. Marie was good but all she did was read with her head down the words that she wrote. There was no compassion in her voice. You received more applause than she did. Also I never understood why you and mikki never hooked up as a couple. You two were the best of friends and did a lot together at school and after classes. Eddie

Mon Jun 08, 09:16:00 PM  
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