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Literary references inspire at Merrimack Valley High School’s Class of 2014 graduation

  • Merrimack Valley High School Class of 2014 Salutatorian Brooks Kimball takes a "selfie" prior to delivering his salutatory address during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 21, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Merrimack Valley High School Class of 2014 Salutatorian Brooks Kimball takes a "selfie" prior to delivering his salutatory address during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 21, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Friends and family of MVHS Class of 2014 graduate Kerry-Lee Michelle Fedion hold up a sign and cheer as she recieves her diploma during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 21, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Friends and family of MVHS Class of 2014 graduate Kerry-Lee Michelle Fedion hold up a sign and cheer as she recieves her diploma during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 21, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Mortar boards go flying at members of the Merrimack Valley High School celebrate receipt of their diplomas during commencement exerises on Saturday, June 21, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Mortar boards go flying at members of the Merrimack Valley High School celebrate receipt of their diplomas during commencement exerises on Saturday, June 21, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Merrimack County Deputy Sheriff William Dexter pipes the Merrimack Valley High School faculty and Class of 2014 onto the athletic field for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 21, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Merrimack County Deputy Sheriff William Dexter pipes the Merrimack Valley High School faculty and Class of 2014 onto the athletic field for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 21, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • MVHS Class of 2014 Commencement.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    MVHS Class of 2014 Commencement. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Merrimack Valley High School Class of 2014 Salutatorian Brooks Kimball takes a "selfie" prior to delivering his salutatory address during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 21, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Friends and family of MVHS Class of 2014 graduate Kerry-Lee Michelle Fedion hold up a sign and cheer as she recieves her diploma during commencement exercises on Saturday, June 21, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Mortar boards go flying at members of the Merrimack Valley High School celebrate receipt of their diplomas during commencement exerises on Saturday, June 21, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Merrimack County Deputy Sheriff William Dexter pipes the Merrimack Valley High School faculty and Class of 2014 onto the athletic field for commencement exercises on Saturday, June 21, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • MVHS Class of 2014 Commencement.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

As the members of Merrimack Valley High School’s Class of 2014 dispersed to celebrate their graduation with full plates at backyard cook-outs or restaurant buffets, surely the words of class President Emma Hamilton echoed somewhere, eventually, in the back of their minds: “You will never have more energy, enthusiasm, hair or brain cells than you do right now.”

Or maybe it was the words of Principal Mike Jette, who is also leaving after this year, his 23rd with the district: “Llama llama red pajama . . . stop all of this llama drama.”

That part of Jette’s speech – a line from a children’s book he reads with his kids, he said – earned him a laugh, and helped him remind the graduates that “attitude is everything. What you make of life is up to you. Become the happiness you deserve.”

And noting the death in Afghanistan of a Marine from New Hampshire, Jette told the eight graduates enlisting in the armed forces, “keep your head up, stay proud of the choice you’ve made, and come home safe.”

Salutatorian Brooks Kimball began his speech by taking a “selfie” with his classmates, and then framed his message to them with a quote from rock musician Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes your book longer,” Kiedis wrote in his autobiography.

“Now, I know sitting on the couch all day won’t kill you, and I know some of you will argue that’s the key. But the risks, the challenges, the scary moments in life are the ones that will lead to your success,” Kimball said. “I hope to see you all back here in 20 years for a school reunion, each of you with a full-length novel.”

Valedictorian Meghan Booker also urged her classmates to venture boldly into the unknown and be active protagonists in their own life stories.

Too often in graduation speeches, people forget the end of a scene from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, she said.

Yes, Alice does tell the Cheshire Cat she’s lost and doesn’t know where she’s going, and the cat responds that it doesn’t matter which road she takes.

But Alice adds, “as long as I get somewhere,” Booker said.

“We all want the same things. We want to be loved, we want to make money, we want to succeed,” she said. “We can only get somewhere if we walk long enough. . . . Some of us will walk slowly, and some of us will get distracted and take other paths. It doesn’t matter. As long as you start walking.”

Many graduates said after the ceremony they weren’t quite ready to look ahead just yet.

“I’ll remember being able to share this moment with all the people in my class,” said Alain Authier of Boscawen, who’ll be spending his summer working and plans to study criminal justice at NHTI.

“Today was about how big the world is and how much everyone is going to accomplish, but it was weird to realize looking around, this will be last time I see a lot of these people,” said Charlie Wright of Loudon. He’ll be working this summer, too, and playing baseball, and heading to the University of Connecticut to study biomedical engineering in the fall.

When Devynne Dlubac of Andover looks back on yesterday, she’ll remember the roar as the class threw up their caps. She’ll remember the funny moments of some speeches and the poignant pauses in others.

But mostly, she said, she’ll remember her mom.

“She was an emotional tornado,” Dublac said. “I’m the first in the family to graduate. . . . I could see a lot of pride on her face. She had dimple creases because she couldn’t stop smiling.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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