One hundred twenty-six Wiesbaden High School graduates were left with the following words of wisdom during a commencement ceremony June 11 at the Wiesbaden Kurhaus: reach out and connect with others, value yourself and above all, honor and be thankful for your Family.
“You begin a new chapter of your lives today,” said Greg Hatch, WHS principal, at the start of the Class of 2017 Commencement. “But I want you to think back now on your favorite memories of high school. Cherish them, hold onto them, visit them in your minds from time to time; for you will never be here again.”
Valedictorian Chad Thomas spoke about his WHS “Family” and his most difficult class, AP World History. “We have endured the stresses, joys and hardships of high school. Together we have completed high school—a gauntlet of reading, lectures and tests. We completed it together, supporting, helping and encouraging each other. We have spent four years becoming a Family,” he said. And even those who did not attend WHS all four years were able to become part of the Family because of what Thomas said he considers to be the greatest accomplishment of the Class of 2017—acceptance.
“You have the power to practice that acceptance, to encourage people to feel welcome. Acceptance may seem like a very passive word, but I want you to practice it with vigor… Show them the warm embrace of your acceptance.”
Salutatorian Patrick McGuire, in his address to his fellow graduates, explained his propensity for high fiving his classmates, who laughed knowingly when he brought it up. “I high five because it is a remarkably simple and effective tool for connection,” he said. “High fives require you to recognize someone and to respect them.
“Today more than ever…we are called to reach out to those with whom we might not always see entirely eye to eye. We are called to lend a hand to those who are less fortunate and less privileged and we are called to reach out despite the pain and consequences that may result.
“I have never regretted reaching out to another human being and attempting to connect with them and lending a hand, and I doubt that you will either,” he said.
Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Addington told the seniors not to think of graduation as an end, but rather a beginning. “Whatever you choose to do next in your life—whether you’re going to attend college, enter the workforce or join one of our great military services, I encourage you to keep doing your best and striving for excellence.”
Addington thanked Hatch for his service at the school and presented him a garrison coin, “from one Sergeant Major to another.”
The inspiring story of the afternoon came from Michael Lattimore, a Wiesbaden Child and Youth Assistant for 16 years, known to students as “Mr. Mike.” The father of four, who had one of his children graduating that day and was able to present her with her diploma, was chosen by the Class of 2017 to speak at their graduation.
Before taking the podium, Lattimore took his cell phone out of his pocket for a group selfie with the graduates and guests on the stage. “This is something I learned from you all—the millennials,” he said.
During his address, he impressed upon the young people the values of Family and self-worth. He called graduation a Family achievement. “While you may have done the majority of the homework, carried the heavy books and attended the classes, your family was there the entire time. Your Family and foundation will always be a pillar of support, regardless of where you go in life. If there is something that you want to do, and you feel uncomfortable doing it in front of your Family, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.
“As a young man growing up, I was told I probably would not graduate from high school; I graduated. That I could not make it in the Army; I’m a proud Army veteran. And recently someone told me I would never be able to speak in front of a graduation class; I proved them wrong as well.”
Lattimore encouraged the graduates to have self-confidence and to use that to help others.
“Do you believe in who you are as a person? Because I do. This is why I have continued to support you all over the years, unwavering. And I will continue to do so. Embrace the person you are and know that every day that you are given is meant for you to make a positive impact on someone. Embrace your worth, embrace your value.”