Twenty years ago today, I graduated from high school. And, yes, that makes me feel old.
Graduating from Pembroke Academy was a big deal to me, for reasons that I gave in my very short valedictory speech, but also because I was the third generation of my family to graduate from PA – and the second to graduate with the highest GPA in the class. I did feel a lot of pride on that day… although, I admit, I also had the sense that, perhaps, I didn’t really deserve to be valedictorian. After all, I hadn’t even attended classes in the high school, instead, the public school teachers came to my home to teach me, due to my physical disability. It wasn’t that I didn’t think that I was intelligent – I have quite high self-esteem, so I knew that I was intelligent – but I felt bad that I didn’t have the opportunity to fully test the depth and breadth of my intelligence. In a way, I almost felt too normal to be valedictorian.
Thankfully, I was not chosen because I was in a wheelchair and seen as “special”. In my school, it was all about the grades. So, I did, as I have reminded myself many times, earn the top spot with self-discipline and devoted studying, fueled by my love of learning. All made possible by an understanding public school faculty and administrators, generously supportive parents, and the mysterious gifts of God.
In commemoration of this glory day of mine, I’m sharing with you my graduation speech. As you read it, picture a tiny body swallowed up by a white robe, with a graduation cap fitting snugly on her head. And when you’re done reading, listen for the standing ovation – yup, I got one. With a body like mine, it doesn’t take much to move people. 🙂
My Valediction to the Glory Days of High School
“Many people have asked me the common question of what I plan to do after today. The truth is that I haven’t made plans for the future because I never thought that I would have one. You see, when I was diagnosed with my disease at the age of two, the doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t live to the age of thirteen. My parents never thought that I would be a teenager, let alone a high school graduate. But I always dreamed of graduating. I even planned on being at the top of my class.
Today is a great day. For here I am, standing before you, graduating from high school, and realizing my dream. And all of the challenges that I’ve faced and the obstacles that I’ve hurdled have made today the most satisfying and thrilling day that I have ever known.
Now I have this chance to speak to all of you and I don’t want to give any advice. I just want to say that, today, we are all victorious. Whether graduation means fulfilling a dream, accomplishing one of many goals, overcoming obstacles or exceeding expectations, for each of us it is a mark of success. It is a testament to our perseverance.
The future lies before us, holding different paths for each of us. For me, the future itself is a wonderful gift. It is an open place for fulfilling more dreams.
Tomorrow may be an unknown. But, today, we are being recognized for our commitment to succeed and reminded that we are all worthy of our dreams.”
© 2017 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.