By Timothy Soles
West Columbus High School
Good evening! For many of us, today is a day that has been long hoped for, prayed about, and one that we will forever remember. We all have been counting down the days until June 8th, waiting in anticipation to reach the end of our high school journey. Now, having finally made it to this moment, it’s almost impossible to contain all of the excitement. However, as graduates, we definitely did not make this journey alone. Whether you are here in this room today as a friend, parent, relative, teacher, or administrator, you each have made valuable contributions in our lives by guiding us when we needed it most, encouraging us to do our absolute best, and impacting us in ways we can never truly describe or repay. For this and so much more, we, as a class, are sincerely thankful. Finally, I want to give thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving us the privilege of reaching this accomplishment, because, without his loving and tender guidance, there is no doubt that we could not be where we are today.
Now, to the West Columbus Class of 2018, I would like to congratulate all of you on all of your hard work and the successes you have gained to get to this point. However, this is not the end of the line by far, and the job is not done yet. By receiving that diploma, we are just taking one more step toward what life has in store for each one of us.
Over these past four years, I have had remarkable experiences and made memories that I will cherish forever, and I am sure that you all have as well. When looking back at the past and then towards the future, one main theme comes to mind that I want to talk about tonight, and that is taking hold of opportunity.
I want to encourage you, Class of 2018, to make your lives count and to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Each one of you has received a quality education and learned things that many around the world do not have the chance to. Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, once stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” In today’s society, we have technologies and resources at our fingertips that allow us to have more capabilities that generations of people before us could never even dream of. With such advantages, talents, and privileges at our disposal, we have the opportunity to make a positive difference in this community, this state, this nation, and the world. Do not squander the opportunities that have been given to you. At times you may think that you are too small to make an impact or, when adversity comes, you may convince yourself that your goals are just too large to reach and fear of failure may overwhelm you. In these moments, you must believe in yourself and remember that failure is just a stepping-stone on the path to success. Also, remember to rely on God and to trust his promises. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” So do not settle for just skating by and just making a living. Aspire to be more. You have been given too many opportunities throughout your life to settle for less. If you don’t remember anything else I say tonight, remember this: if Jesus Christ, master of the universe, thought that your life was valuable enough to die on a cross for you, that means that your life is not worth wasting. I want to conclude with a poem called “The Power of One” and I’ll be finished. It states:
One song can spark a moment,
One flower can wake the dream,
One tree can start a forest,
One bird can herald spring,
One smile begins a friendship,
One handclasp lifts a soul,
One star can guide a ship at sea,
One word can frame the goal,
One vote can change a nation,
One sunbeam lights a room,
One candle wipes out darkness,
One laugh will conquer gloom,
One step must start each journey,
One word must start each prayer,
One hope will raise our spirits,
One touch can show you care,
One voice can speak with wisdom,
One heart can know what’s true,
One life can make the difference,
You see, it’s up to you!
So I challenge you, Class of 2018, to cherish and treasure each opportunity you receive and to make them count. Thank you!
Soles is the son of Teri and Jeffrey Soles. He will attend N.C. State University in the fall.