06/08/2013 02:25 pm ET Updated Aug 08, 2013

Class of 2013: We're Off to Great Places!


Today is your day.

You're off to Great Places!

You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself

Any direction you choose!

You're on our own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

Administrators, board members, family, friends, and Class of 2013, it is a great honor to speak in front of you today. As I began to write this speech, I was greatly inspired by Dr. Seuss's book Oh the Places You'll Go!, from which that quote was taken. I found that it applies very well to people at this stage in life: making the Great Transition.

My fellow graduates, today is our day, we're off to Great Places, we're off and away! Up until this point we were children; some more so than others. Some of us had it rough, and others had it easier: we all know what it took to get us this far. But this is a jumping off point; only the beginning of our journey. We have slowly learned how to make decisions for ourselves, and now we are to the point where each choice we make is all on us.

When we were toddlers, our parents choose what we wore most days. Now we go out and buy our own clothes.

Before we turned 16, we relied on our parents to get us where we needed to be. Now we take off on our own, sometimes not even telling them where we are.

All through our childhood, our parents have worked to pay for our food, clothing, and fuel. Now we have jobs ourselves and pay for those things, or soon will.

However often we have disagreed or fought with them, our parents, or guardians, have put about 18 years of their life and money towards our well-being. That deserves a thank you.

And our teachers! Whether they instructed us here at Wheatland on things like verb forms or the Revolutionary War, or in preschool on how to tie our shoelaces, teachers have had a large part in shaping who we are. Because not all of the knowledge that they teach us is in the curriculum. Some try to impart a passion for serving, or a hunger for knowledge. They know that they won't succeed with all of us, some will listen more than others, but the effort was there. And that deserves a thank you.

Class of 2013, we have been give all of the tools we need to succeed. That is what all of our lives up until this point have been about: preparing us for the future. I know all of you, and if all of us live up to our potential, then this will be the Class That Changed the World. In the words of Dr. Seuss:

Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.

Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.

Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so

But, sadly, it's true

The Bang-ups

And Hang-up

Can happen to you.

Things will happen on this journey that we couldn't prepare for with all of the planning in the world. Like a power outage during school, or a sudden stop on the bus late at night in the wrong part of St. Louis on Senior Trip -- they are unexpected events that can lead to sitting in the dark all day, or a couple of headaches and sprained wrists. But when bang-ups and hang-ups catch us up, we have to get back up, dust ourselves off, and keep going.

On you will go

Though the weather be foul.

On you will go

Though your enemies prowl.

On you will go

Though the Hakken-Kraks howl.

Onward up many

A frightening creek,

Though your arms may get sore

And your sneakers may leak.

We have already been through so much, but with so many people behind us. Now we must learn how to keep going even when everyone seems to be against us.

Step with care and great tact

And remember that life's

A Great Balancing Act.

We have already learned how to balance school with things like work and sports. That is just a glimpse of what is to come in our life.

Just remember that so many people believe in you and have invested so much in helping you succeed. Now it is up to you to take advantage of what they have given you. So I'll let my parting words be the final lines of that wonderful book:

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid, you'll move mountains!

So . . .

Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,

You're off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So... get on your way!

Given by Grace Gist at the graduation ceremony of the Wheatland High School on the morning of May 11, 2013.