Congratulations to Manatee County's Class of 2013

June 7, 2013 

With today marking the end of another year in Manatee County public schools, the Class of 2013 enters an exciting time of fresh challenges and opportunities. From the private and charter schools and the home-schooled graduates, our congratulations to one and all.

Many are eager to meet the future head-on with eyes wide open. In embracing the number 13 in her graduation year and after 13 years from kindergarten though high school, Lakewood Ranch senior class president Danielle Zarella captured the enthusiasm for the future we hope all graduates hold: "I can't wait to see what the next 13 years bring."

Yes, indeed. Commencement season brings out high hopes and excitement.

Two of the more remarkable statistics about the Class of 2013 reflect a dedication to others and to learning: Lakewood Ranch seniors completed 43,000 hours of community service, and Southeast graduates earned some $10 million in scholarships.

Those commendable accomplishments set a high bar for other schools to emulate.

While the future is now the focus, one part of the past will remain forever in the hearts of most -- namely, school pride. That was most vocally reflected when Sunday's Manatee High graduation crowd -- many alums, no doubt -- roared as students chanted "We are Manatee!"

Past, present and future met at that point in time. Now graduates have to begin proving themselves all over again at the next level, whatever that may be.

Commencement speeches on all levels bring sage advice, instructive inspiration and even incisive humor. Some of our favorites from over the years are:

• "Some of life's strongest bonds are the ones we forge when everything around us seems broken... We are stronger together than we are alone." -- President Obama, Joplin High School, 2012, a year after a tornado ravaged the city and destroyed the school.

• "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." -- Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005

• "There are many different ways of following through... Sometimes it's about going there, not getting there. Sometimes it's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination." -- rapper-actor Drake, Toronto's Jarvis Collegiate Institute, 2012

• "It doesn't matter that your dream came true if you spent your whole life sleeping. So get out there and go for it, but don't be caught waiting. It's great to plan for your future. Just don't live there, because really nothing ever happens in the future. Whatever happens happens now, so live your life where the action is -- now." -- Jerry Zucker, University of Wisconsin, 2003

• "The person who you're with most in life is yourself and if you don't like yourself you're always with somebody you don't like." Mark Lewis, University of Texas Austin, 2000

• "Follow your passion. Stay true to yourself. Never follow someone else's path unless you're in the woods and you're lost and you see a path. By all means, you should follow that." -- Ellen DeGeneres, Tulane University, 2009

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