By Richard L. Gaw
Last Saturday morning, soon after the Kennett High School Band began the first notes of "Pomp and Circumstance" and the procession of students descended the front steps of the school, the rainclouds that postponed the commencement the night before gave way to a brief appearance of the sun. If that wasn't enough inspiration, four addresses given by members of the graduating class sealed the deal.
Before a gathering of more than 600 family members and well-wishers, the 309 graduating members of the Kennett High School class of 2013 - the school's 122nd commencement - were led by inspirational addresses given by graduates Alexandra Brooks, Connor Roth, Krista Lafferty and Nupur Parikh. Introducing the speakers, class president Carl. O. Lowe, Jr., extended his congratulations to his entire class. "My friends, my bros, my girls, mi amigos," he said. "Our years at Kennett High School have been a journey that has taken many twists and turns to lead us down the road that we head down today -- the future, and it is a bright one."
In her address, "Leaving the Shadows," Brooks compared her fellow graduates' four-year journey to that of the United States' upswing from economic downturn to recovery, from a war on terror to the capture of Osama bin Laden, and the election and re-election of the nation's first African-American president.
"The class of 2013 is a class full of colorful personalities, diverse cultural backgrounds, and vast talents," Brooks said. "Academically, musically, artistically, and just as importantly, while working our way to the top, we have continued to work with those at the bottom, reaching out with our community service, our generosity and our kindness."
Roth's address, "Grasping the Torch," focused on the journey of his great-grandmother, who was born on a small island in Ireland, one of 13 children. As a woman, Roth said, she was expected to take a job as a domestic servant overseas and send the money home. She found work with a family in Scotland. Her sister, who had found work in America, eventually bought Roth's great-grandmother a ticket to the United States.
"Regardless of how our ancestors arrived in this nation, they held in their hearts a burning desire for a better future for their descendents," Roth said. "Through their sacrifices and toil, they built the foundations upon which we now stand. As we prepare for a new chapter in our lives, we all should be mindful of the fact that we are the continuations of dreams -- dreams passed like a torch from our immigrant forebearers."
In her address, "Sharing the Light," Lafferty asked her fellow graduates to consider a good life as more than just accomplishing superficial success.
"For far too long, we've been throwing around the word 'good,' when really we only mean 'personally agreeable' or 'selfishly enjoyable,'" she said. "In order to be truly be good, we need to stop looking at our own interests and start looking toward the interest of others. True goodness is not measured by income, GPA or bank balance. True goodness is a moral and therefore relational concept, measured by the impact you have on others and the contribution you make to the world."
Declaring that "leadership is inside everyone," Parikh defined a leader as someone who pulls the light while walking down a dark path. Her address, "Illuminating the Way," called upon her fellow graduates to inspire others -- either a whole country or just one person.
"Our guiding light has been growing, day by day, since we started," Parikh said. "The world needs new leaders, and I think you can find some of those right here today. We are a class of doers, and we will succeed."
Remarks were also given by Dr. Barry W. Tomasetti, superintendent of the Kennett Consolidated School District; Douglas B. Stirling, president of the Board of School Directors; and Michael A. Barber, Kennett High School principal.
In addition to receiving diplomas, nearly 100 graduates were the recipients of 82 scholarships and awards.