"This year began with great difficulty -- for our country, for our communities, and for our families. Yet this past year alone, the bonds we have forged have grown stronger. We realize that now is the time to build together, recover together, and focus on what we do share. The moments we share now may be the final moments we have with each other."
Kirsten Jackson finished by discussing the future:
"The Academy of Our Lady of Peace, our families, our friends, and our classmates have helped us to become a group of women ready to embark upon a sea of adventure. The unexplored territory we can claim! The new lands we will see! The unfamiliar people we will meet! The songs we will sing! The music that will ring! The occupations we will undertake! The families we will make! The things we know! 'Oh the places we'll go!' No matter what lies ahead of us today, we're all at a turning point."
Jackson then encouraged her classmates to stretch themselves and ended with another quote from Dead Poets Society:
"There are so many choices, so many opportunities, so many doors open to us. We should not close the ones that we can walk through. We have the ability to choose one, choose all, or even carve our own. Nothing is impossible. Plato once said, 'Men and women can become what they all really long to be, but most fall short because they fear that what they truly long for is illusory.' Know that not everything is going to be as easy as it seems and that the doors we open may not always reveal what we expect. Plans change, people change, obstacles arise. Despite this, we must not neglect our dreams. We have all that we need to make them happen. ''Tis only in our dreams that [we] truly be free; 'Twas always thus, and always thus will be.' "
A similar sentiment was expressed by Kamilah Hicks, 18, of Lincoln High School. Hicks, who plans to study molecular biology at Berkeley, quoted from another popular poem for commencements, "The Road Not Taken," by Robert Frost. After reading an excerpt of the poem, Hicks explained:
"We are embarking upon the journey of a lifetime full of many winding and twisting roads. Each one of us will travel a unique path. Are you prepared for the future? Are you ready to see what the world has in store for you? I know I am, I am also confident that you are too. My experiences at Lincoln High School have had a lasting impression on me and have helped to make me the person I am today. Memorable events and people have shaped my personality and beliefs. Lincoln has served as a strong support system for all of us. The principal, teachers, and staff alike all showed great interest in our success. They have provided us with a nurturing environment and have allowed most of us to realize our potential. I would like to thank them for preparing us for the future and disproving my preconceptions about Lincoln. I would like to give all honor and glory to God, my Creator, for giving me all that I have and making me the person that I am. I would like to thank my family and church family for all of their support."
After expressing her gratitude to specific friends and family members, Hicks offered her class some advice by quoting two figures of civil rights history:
"If I could give you any advice, fellow members of the class of 2002, it would be to take challenges. Don't be afraid of what others say you can't do or what seems impossible. As made clear by Frederick Douglass, 'It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.' "
In another of the shorter addresses, Leslie Chaney of West Hills High School imparted a sense of humility that was almost defiant:
"Besides the fact that we're all wearing silly hats, this is the funny part of high school graduations. A student like me stands up here to give a speech to all of you to impart some sort of wisdom. Well, what the heck do I know about life? I have the same amount of experience as all of you. But I guess that sums up high school pretty well. We came to West Hills apprehensive of the school, the teachers, and our peers, groping for a little reassurance because we were not only unsure of ourselves as students, but also as individuals. We came to learn, make friends, and...and what else? Well, don't look at me, I don't know what you've been doing for the past four years. But I do know what we should do now that we're adults. Move on."
Chaney then looked back and nearly contradicted herself by telling her classmates not to look backward, continuing her theme of moving on:
"We have thought that someone else has had control over us. Well, it doesn't matter anymore. High school is over. Move on. No one can control you unless you let them. So, with this in mind, take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. Climb that corporate ladder. Start your own business. Stay in college for five or six years. Do what is best and right for you. Our futures are undetermined. We will go our separate ways to do what we think is right for us. But whatever we do, it is important to remember that our futures are what we make of them. Some of us have not made the most of the past four years. Well, it's too late to change that. Move on. But don't disregard the experiences that have shaped you during high school. All that you have learned is valuable, whether it was academic or personal. We all have clean slates. Congratulations, class of 2002, we can now live our lives as we see fit. Welcome to adulthood."