Randolph-Macon Academy’s Class of 2018 came into their graduation ceremony in Melton Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday, May 26, 2018, already filled with a sense of accomplishment. Each of the 68 seniors had earned at least one college acceptance, resulting in a total of 230 college acceptances to 139 different colleges and universities. Collectively, the seniors were offered more than $6.2 million in college scholarships. In addition, the seven Falcon Scholars of 2018 had all earned appointments to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
While the graduates were clearly prepared for college and ready to move forward, they enjoyed many moments to reminisce throughout the three days of ceremonies and celebrations during Senior Week. Throughout those events, the departing seniors acknowledged that they gained far more from R-MA than the subjects on which they had been educated and tested.
During Class Night on May 24th, salutatorian Ryan Latham recalled a band trip to Orlando during which the hotel lost power. The band members gathered in the hallway and played games, laughed and told jokes. “That’s one of the most important things I have learned,” he said. “It doesn’t take Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, or any social media to make friendships; real connection comes through interactions, not distractions. It comes from difficulty and hardship that bring people together, but also the fun and laughter had in remembering those times and the fun of being with one another.”
Valedictorian Kathleen Fedzer and Randolph-Macon College President Robert R. Lindgren spoke during graduation on Saturday, May 26th, and while they had not collaborated, there were a few common themes in their speeches.
Fedzer slightly paraphrased Abraham Lincoln, saying, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what we did here.” And the first thing she did in her speech was thank her family, then her teachers and her classmates, at the same time reminding everyone, “It’s not what we say, but what we do that counts.”
Moments later, Lindgren reinforced Fedzer’s comments with his own quote from John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
“I call that living by your gratitude,” Lindgren said. “And I trust that part of your living by your gratitude-now that you have reached this important stage-is that you will always focus on being grateful. You see, expressing gratitude regularly is, quite simply, a powerful way to keep yourselves mentally and emotionally balanced throughout your lives.”
Lindgren also quoted Mark Twain: “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born, and the day you learn why.”
“Discovering the “why” of our lives, indeed, our very purpose in life, defines us,” he told the graduates, “and ultimately gives our lives meaning and value and joy. And, most especially, it is the secret to how and why we keep striving to get better.
“One of the benefits of attending a school like Randolph-Macon Academy is that you have been at a special place that understands the power of purpose, and in turn, encourages you to find yours. This discovery does not happen in a day, but over months and years and even decades. It is sparked by moments of inspiration and opportunities for exploration, many that you have been given here at Randolph-Macon Academy, encouraged to find your inner ‘Power of Rise.'”
Fedzer spoke of “The Power of Rise” in her speech as well, albeit in different terms. “If you really work at something, you can achieve it,” she told her classmates. “Now, naturally this isn’t a guarantee. Sometimes, you’ll pour your heart into something and it still won’t work the way you want it to. This is a simple fact of life, but I think it’s a learning experience. The most important things one can take away from failure is how to be better the next time.”
Fedzer concluded her speech by challenging her classmates. “I know that the future holds many more triumphs as well as defeats, successes as well as disasters, and a whole menagerie of individuals to meet along the way. Whenever you feel discouraged, just remember all the things you’ve been through already. You’re stronger than you think, tougher than you know, and capable of more than you can imagine. So just keep moving forward, and keep your chin up. Remember, it’s not what we say, but what we do, that counts, so do something phenomenal.”
As he closed his speech, Lindgren again echoed Fedzer in the challenge to “do,” wrapped in the emphasis of gratitude. “I pray that you all go forward today knowing you have the Power of Rise, and with the resolution to live your gratitude. Gratitude for the loving support of your family and friends, gratitude for the excellent education you have receive here at Randolph-Macon Academy, and gratitude for the glorious opportunities awaiting each and every one of you to find your purpose, to do big things, and to make this world a better place as a result.”