MANATEE — While preparing his speech for his commencement ceremony Friday night, Southeast High graduating senior Stephen Suchy tried to avoid cliches, and listed several of them for his audience.
“‘Be true to yourself,’ and my personal favorite, “spread your wings and fly,” he said. “But my goal here is to inspire and slightly entertain the graduates.”
Suchy and his fellow speakers did just that. The ceremony was formal and emotional for most, yet it was also tinged with realism.
Faculty speaker John Hardy, voted by the graduating class to speak at the ceremony, drove home the sort of world the graduates will be facing.
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In their senior year, majority of the country voted for the nation’s first minority president, he said. Then there is economic instability.
“You learn the word ‘recession’ in high school,” he said.
He cited a survey that revealed that many Americans felt that they would never be able to surpass the successes of the previous generation, or could never attain middle class status no matter how hard they work.
He then told them his story: the son of a truck driver and a waitress who attended college, who was expected to fail but persevered. He failed and had to retake geometry, German and chemistry. He went on to graduate school and then taught for 36 years.
He reminded them of what the American Dream is about.
“I live the American Dream,” he said. “I want you to live the American Dream.”
In another speech, graduating senior Aberlyna Jones rallied her classmates.
“Everyone of us here has the drive in us to be what we want to be,” she said. “We are the generation of change.”
Though many of them are excited to be done with high school, she urged them to pause to think about what exactly they are waiting for.
“Superman is not coming, the Flash would have been here, and the Incredible Hulk is scared,” she said. “It’s our time to step up. The adults seriously need our help. Let’s be the spark that ignites the world.”