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Nate's Commencement Address at the Lynden Christian High School Graduation of the Class of 2004,
given 6/10/04, Lynden, Washington , to an audience of about 1500:
Jack Handey says that “before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’ll be a mile away, and you’ll have their shoes.
Well, it is my hope that as you listen to our memories and goals from the past 13 years, you will walk a mile in this class’ shoes.
As soon as I was selected to give this speech, classmates were telling me, “Nate, it has to be funny.” The pressure must’ve gotten to me, because when I sat down to write, I couldn’t think of anything funny.
So, I resorted to asking several teachers for help. First, I asked Mr. Ypma for some jokes. All he said was, “yah, you know, Gibson, um, think of your own jokes. Umm, yah, you know, I need my own jokes for my own uh, speech. ” Then, I asked Mr. Kredit, who said, “Mr. Gibson, if you want to keep a large audience entertained, simply direct their attention to the western sky and talk about the planet Venus. It’s simply phenomenal! And, tell them to keep their eyes open for a green flash at sunset!” It’s a little early for Venus, and as our Senior Biology class well knows, the green flash is a hoax. Finally, I talked to K-8 principal Don Kok, who gave me a long list of jokes to use. I was going to throw the list away, but I got desperate, so I will read one. What kind of car does Mickey Mouse’s girlfriend drive? A Minnie-van. HA ha, HA ha…All right… time to move on…
Who is this class of seniors? Who are we, the class of 2004? 84 soon-to-be alumni. A list, ranging alphabetically, from Beamer, Jana to Vos, David. Of our 84 graduates, 44 have been together at LC since kindergarten. Many new friends have come, many old have gone. Our class has had many unique experiences, such as in 2nd grade, when pop corn legend Orville Redenbacher visited our school. Even more unique was the sight of him sneezing repeatedly on several surprised 1st graders. Such an experience affected us in a meaningful way. For example, several people in our class cannot bring themselves to eat Orville Redenbacher popcorn ever again.
Then came our experiences in middle school music, which few can forget, though many have tried. There was that one concert in 5th grade, when we were forced to sing the infamously humiliating Dog Song, which went, “oh its rough rough rough rough bein’ a dog” and went on for like, 10 minutes. I recall seeing many audience members eyeing the exits anxiously during the 7th minute of the song, when we started singing the dog rendition of Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.
Then, came our 6th grade musical, Barbecue for Ben, a musical version of the parable of the prodigal son, set in the 1950’s. Our class learned three valuable lessons from participating in this torturous experience. The first was that the story of the prodigal son should not be set to 50’s music. Under any circumstance. Ever. The second was that even if the prodigal son was set to 50’s music, the real prodigal son would not have responded to his bankruptcy by singing Whoops, my pocketbook’s empty! The third and most important lesson was that even if your name is Little Augie Holtorf, God loves you. And that was the theme of the musical: God loves you, no matter what your life experience is.
Represented here today are 84 different lifetimes of experiences. Some include hardships and loss, the death of a loved one, a serious injury, illness and grief, and just this week, the loss of a much-loved 5th grade teacher. Among our numbers are people from around the world. Graduating with us are Tony and Harvey from Taiwan, and HaeJu from South Korea. In the past four years, we’ve also had classmates journey to our halls from Germany and The Netherlands. Represented here are also a variety of talents, including sports, academics, music, drama, FFA, cheerleading, and getting stuck in lockers.
As we, this diverse bunch, sit here one last time, before scattering to all corners of the earth, we cannot help but wonder exactly what it is that draws us together. We, the 56th graduating senior class of Lynden Christian, have been united by a common educational journey. Many different factors have made this journey possible. On behalf of my classmates, I would like to thank the following: our parents, our grandparents, our teachers, pastors, alumni, each other, especially Megan and Riley, who wanted me to mention them, George W. Bush, the movie Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Cocoa puffs, the late Mr. Rogers, the cop who sits on Drayton just waiting for someone to mess up, the guy on the Oatmeal Box, Jello pudding, Al Gore, who popularized the phrase ‘I demand a Recount’, the Bolshevik Revolution, and speakers who go off thanking random people and items ceaselessly, and show no sign of stopping, even though they should move on to the next point. Thank you all for contributing to a quality education.
From recesses to off campus lunches, from learning to read in Kindergarten using those cheesy inflatable letters to reading the Bible with enhanced understanding, what has been the point of this education? Our school mission statement says, “to help produce transforming influences.” This sounds like a lofty goal, but in reality, each of us has seen this message lived out by our teachers for 13 years, and we, ourselves, have been transformed by them.
But what about the future? Here we are, 17, 18, 19 years old, the rest of our lives stretched out before us. I’d like to share with you the words of an old preacher: “Everything you do today, or I do, affects not only what is going to happen but what has already happened, years and centuries ago. Maybe you can’t change what has passed, but you can change all the meaning of what has passed. You can even take all the meaning away.” This quote may sound confusing. Sure we can affect the future, but how do we affect the past? The answer lies in the vulnerable legacy left to us by our parents and teachers. If we treasure their words, remember their successes, and learn from their mistakes, their life’s work will increase in meaning because they have taught us well.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, if we don’t learn a thing from them, despite their attempts to teach us, their efforts will appear pointless. The past loses its significance and ability to transform us. So, what must we do to lend meaning to our parents’ and teachers’ life work? The answer lies in our class verse, Colossians 3:17: “…and whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
That is what Lynden Christian has taught us. That is the point of over 13,800 hours of education. That is what draws us together today. We have been called to live our lives in the name of Jesus. He is the one who gives and guarantees meaning in not only the life experiences of our parents and teachers, but in our own life experiences, as well.
I’d like to close with the last verse of a Korean hymn and may this be our hope and prayer as we leave this place: “Help us live in peace as true members of your body. Let your word dwell richly in us as we teach and sing. Thanks and praise be to God through you, Lord Jesus. In what e’er we do let your name receive the praise.”
To my fellow LC graduates, the class of 04: So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye, Ahn yawng hee kah seh yoh, Sanga'ay hanto, Git R done! and God Bless.
contact Nate at firstname.lastname@example.org