Graduation Speech

Good evening.  

My name is Matt Gehrman and I am the principal of High School.  I want to welcome you to tonight’s commencement ceremony and it is with great pride that I present to all of you the senior class.

Before I get to these seniors sitting before me, I’d like to welcome two of our honored guests this evening.  First, Dr. Debra Duvall, Superintendent for Mesa Public Schools and her husband, Charlie.  We are honored to have our superintendent with us tonight.  After her long career leading our school district, Dr. Duvall is retiring this year, making this her final graduation.  Dr Duvall, thank you for your leadership and thank you for sharing this night with us.


Tonight we also have one of our newest Governing Board members, Mr. Mike Nichols the Governing Board of the Mesa Unified School District .  Thank you all for joining us tonight. 

I also want to thank Senior Assistant Principal Dora Samson and her assistant Brita Beatty for coordinating and arranging the many details for tonight’s ceremony.  From the grounds crew to security to our students passing out programs, a lot of people have put a lot of effort into this evening’s ceremony.

 All right, Seniors, I want you to think back over your last 12 or 13 years of school and I want you to think about all that you have learned along the way.  You learned to ride bikes, learned to drive cars.  You made friends, made a few enemies, found your first love and many of you have experienced the agony of your first love lost.  A lot has happened.  As you have grown up, some is good, some not so good.  Heck, in one years time Dobson broke with tradition and held a graduation indoors – by the way, aren’t you glad you are here?  And the other big event – and this is something for which I am happiest for you – you are the only class to say that during your senior year, the president of the United States came to your campus.  What an amazing day for Mesa, Mesa Public Schools, and for our Dobson community.  I’m still planning on getting that t-shirt that says President Obama likes Dobson better than Mt. View.

As you have grown up, times were great for some of you.  For others, life has been a curvy crazy path.  Parents have lost jobs, families have lost homes, some of us have even lost family members.  Day after day the news is full of stories about the economy, budget cuts, two wars and most recently, a flu that has scared us into closing a few schools.

            And yet there is something to smile about.

The best part is, the sun always comes up the next morning, giving us a new dawn, a new chance, a new day.  You sitting there right now, this is your new day.  Tonight, 665 have earned the right to call yourself a graduate of Dobson High.  Some may have done it faster, some have done it more successfully, but regardless – you are all here and we are all celebrating your new day.  So with this new day, I want you to do a few things.

            The first thing I want you to do is Vote.

Many of you are 18, the rest of you will soon be.  Please, register to vote and continue the trend seen over the last three general presidential elections which was an increase in your demographic of voters, the youth vote ages 18-24.  As our nation gets older, your vote becomes more prescious.  Those who are elderly outnumber you 2-1 so you will need every single vote to get what you want.   It’s free, it’s yours, it’s important, so use it!

Get Engaged

Now this isn’t what some of you are thinking.  You are way too young for that.  And plus, you haven’t even spent your graduation money yet!  I want you to get engaged in what you do.  Wrap yourself into your studies, your job, your relationships.  Find a career you love and invest your professional life in becoming the best in your field.  If you love art, make a point to immerse yourself in the quiet of a museum and simply react to what is on the walls. Find a cause and make a difference.  When you have a child, work to be the best parents you can be so that your children will be as lucky or more so as you all seem to be right now. 

The third thing I want you to do is Be Courageous.  Speak loudly and let the world know you are here.  You will let the world know that you matter.  One of my favorite poets is Walt Whitman.  He was a spirited, gray bearded old man who loved the most common of things in the world.  At the end of his famous poem, Song of Myself, he writes, “I sound my barbaric yawp across the rooftops of the world.”  In a way, he is talking about you.  It is this that I hope for you.  Keep trying new things, keep learning from your mistakes, find your voice and let it rip.  Starting tomorrow, take risks to do something big.  Go to college, start a company. Be a participant, not a spectator.  March in the band instead of clapping when they go marching by.  Coach soccer.  Hide eggs for the neighborhood kids.  Tutor. Mentor. Donate. Volunteer.  Do something instead of watching it get done.   Don’t follow the path ahead of you, choose instead to blaze your own trail.

All right, enough from me.  It’s time to talk about you.  Seniors, we are here today to celebrate the one commonality that you all share.  Today is the one and only day you will ever graduate from high school.  Today, you and your 665 classmates have all done the same thing at the same time…you have earned the required 21 credits and have passed all three AIMS tests.  Some may have done it faster, some may have done it better than others.  Some may have earned more awards, scholarships or recognition than others…but tonight none of that really matters.  Tonight is a night that recognizes your common achievement…and it is this achievement that you should be very proud of.  I know I am.

Parents and family members, let me share with you what this class has accomplished. 

To start with, Dobson shares a strong relationship with our armed forces.  We have a stellar Air Force Junior ROTC program, and we have a great set of recruiters from the various branches of the military.  But as we sit here tonight, please think about the thousands of young men and women stationed in this country and abroad and know that tonight we have 10 seniors who upon graduating will join all of them in serving our country. 

Athletically, our Dobson Mustangs earned three region titles and had 1 individual State Champion, two  individual state runners up, 5 coaches named region coaches of the year, and we had four individual students earn either 1st or 2nd team All Arizona Athletic honors.

In the performing arts, Dobson had roughly one third of all spots in the regional band, orchestra and choir.  Dobson also had 35 students earn all state honors, the most of any high school in the state, with five of our students earning first chair honors. 

In the classroom, our students excelled, earning over $7 million dollars in scholarships.  Sitting with us tonight are Five National Merit Finalists, three Woods Scholars, a Merchant Marine academy recruit, and an Earthwatch honors recipient.   243 of you have earned scholastic diplomas, while 84 of you just finished taking 172 AP exams in 16 different courses.

Our Speech and Debate team finished 3rd  in state and will be sending an impressive 25% of all of Arizona’s delegates to the national tournament this summer. 

In the workplace, the students in our HERO/DECA/COE programs worked over 35,000 hours and earned almost $270,000.  They also raised over $2500 for scholarships and charities.

In addition to the monetary awards, our giving didn’t end there.  Dobson’s seniors accrued over 28,000 SERVICE LEARNING HOURS bettering our community, leading to 103 of our graduates to earn the service learning seal on their diploma.

Seniors, on behalf of the staff at Dobson High School, I want you to know how proud we are of all of you.  You have been a memorable group of seniors, and now that we have given you the tools for your future, it is time for you to go and do something with it.  Show your mustang pride by really being a part of the future.

And so, Dr. Duvall, Mr. Nichols, and most importantly friends and families of the Dobson community, it is with great pride that I present to you the senior class.

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