By Hahnville Class of 2014 Valedictorian Derek Walker
On graduation day, Friday, May 16, Hahnville High School Valedictorian Derek Walker received a standing ovation for a speech he gave to the graduating class of 2014.
Below is the speech in its entirety, which he dedicated to his grandfather Lawrence Baudouin Sr. who passed away on Friday, April 25.
“Because it’s there.” These are perhaps the three most famous words in all of exploration. It was George Mallory’s response as to why he wished to climb Everest, a feat no one had accomplished in 1924. Although it saddens me to say that George Mallory died on his journey up Everest, personally I’d like to think he made it to the top before he died, that for a brief moment he stood higher than anyone else in human history.
However, in the intervening 90 years not only have those 29,029 feet been scaled numerous times, but also we have descended some staggering 35,000 feet below the ocean, and most impressive of all we stepped foot on a giant rock roughly 1,267,200,000 feet, give or take a few, away. The moral of the story is that human beings have no barriers, not even the sky is the limit. Whatever we wish to dream, someday we, or our legacy, will fulfill it. Class of 2014, my message to you is to dream, and never stop. Shoot for the stars. Make your dreams like Everest, a mountain to scale; don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild. Einstein said it best’ “Imagination is far better than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” It doesn’t matter if you accomplish only half of your dreams. When you’re halfway to the stars, you are at the moon; a place far higher than anyone else.
Love your dream. Half-loved dreams are never accomplished. Make it “a good love” like the author Joybell said “one that casts you into the wind, sets you ablaze, makes you burn through the skies and ignite the night like a phoenix; the kind that cuts you loose like a wildfire and you can't stop running simply because you keep on burning everything that you touch.” We constantly see people who toil for years before they reach they top, but don’t ever tell them they toiled, it ruins the fun they had.
Be daring, take risks. A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are made for. In his career Jordan missed 9,000 shots yet he stands at the apex of his sport. What if he quit after his first miss? See the key to dreams is not traveling some well-worn path, or some messy untamed one. No, the real dreamer comes up with paths no one has ever seen before. Take no half measures when dreaming. It is childish and foolish of us here to stand and say we are going to be the best in the world, to fulfill our wildest dreams when we know only so little of it. But only those who utter these words have the conviction to see them through. George Mallory was an explorer, what all explorers loved the most is the journey. Don’t forget the journey. Neil Armstrong took a small step for mankind. The culmination of a country’s dream was a single step. But what that step represented was years of scientific progress that is still being felt today. The journey is what makes the dream worth it, but do not think it will be the easy. Failure along the way is inevitable. It’s not about how you fall; it is about how you pick yourself up. The phoenix rises from its ashes and iron is hammered into place. Do you think human beings would be graced with a path any easier? It is hard to fail, but it is worse to have never tried to succeed. Please don’t be afraid of failure, constantly pick yourself up and make failure afraid of you.
Even if you are daring in your dreams and your passion for them, they are still just thoughts. You are still missing the most vital component. Paraphrasing Coolidge said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Genius will not. Education will not.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” If you add in hard work Coolidge was right on the money. Hard work, determination, and persistence are the mechanisms by which dreamers make their dreams reality. Only through the furnace of hard work can the visions of our mind be distilled into success. Hard work can overcome anything; just ask Ben Hogan, a scrawny golfer who practiced his way to perfection. But hard work needs persistence and determination to function. One must be diligent to takes small steps each day. If you do, you will find those small steps add up to a journey.
Life is too short, too fleeting, you’re here one moment and gone the next. Do not sit idly around thinking about your dreams. Go out there, be bold, throw caution to the wind. TR said it best “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”If you listen to everything I’ve said so far, you’ll accomplish your dreams, I’m 98 and ¾ percent sure you will succeed.
Remember that guy from English class Robert Frost, he said Life, it goes on. Well so do dreams. They are like people; they only truly die when they are forgotten. Never forget your dream and it will never die. Class of 2014, my message to you is to be foolish enough to not know what impossible is, to be childish enough to dream big, to be bold enough to discover the undiscovered path, to be persistent enough to pick yourself up every time you fall and to be courageous enough to say I can accomplish anything I dream. I wish you all the best and I would like to offer you a traditional Gaelic blessing before you begin your journey.
“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
And until we meet again remember the words Nelson Mandela recited for 27 years while he toiled on Robbin Island. When he came out, he changed the world. Maybe we will to. Those words are a poem called Invictus by William Henley. It goes “Out of the Night that Covers Me, Black as the pit from to pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul, In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud, under the bludgeoning of chance my head is bloody but unbowed, beyond this place of wrath and tears looms the horror of the shade and yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how straight the gate how charged with punishment the scroll. I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul. So class of 2014, Be the captain of your own expedition. I’m going climb Everest, I’ll be at the top waiting, and I expect to see you all there.