On Tuesday June 20th, Roosevelt’s class of 2017 graduated. Before the shaking of hands, receiving of diplomas, and throwing of hats could occur however, the students need to hear speeches. Three in total, one from their principal, Mr. Vance, another from fellow students and valedictorian, Sage Bitter, and staff member, Mr. Montzingo. Each speech was filled with hope and a few bits of advice for the seniors who would soon be making their way out into the world. Here are the speeches.
I am Brian Vance, Principal of Roosevelt High School and I want to thank you for coming out
tonight to celebrate the Graduation of the Class of 2017
Before I make some comments to our graduates, I would like to recognize our special guests
Provide some logistics
Offer up some thank you’s.
And Share a few thoughts with our graduates
First the special guests.
Joining me on stage tonight is School Board Director Jill Geary
Exec Director Coordinated School Health, and 1967 RHS graduate, Pat Sander
The executive Director for the Northeast Region in Seattle Public schools, Kim Whitworth.
Our wonderful assistant principals, Juan Price and Mike Kelly.
Our next RHS Principal, Kristina Rodgers
our staff speaker, Darryl Montzingo
And some of our wonderful student leaders from whom you will hear from tonight.
Some logistics- Following the ceremony, our graduates will be exiting out the gates at the far
You the audience, will exit through the large garage doors on the concession level and you will
all meet up over at the fountain.
I would like to thank staff members, Kristi Barnes, Kara MacDonald, and Marjorie Gamble
for their work on the program and in helping organize tonight’s ceremony.
I would like to also thank our parent coordinators. There is a long list of parents who helped out
listed in our program. Thank you.
Class of 2017, you would not be here tonight if it was not for the support and encouragement you
received from your families and friends, so please join me in thanking them for all they have
done to help you get here today.
I would like all the Roosevelt High School Staff who are here today to stand so we can all
recognize you for the role you have played in each of our graduates’ lives.
Finally, none of us would be here today to celebrate this major life milestone if not for the
dedication, perseverance and hard-work of each and everyone of the graduating class of 2017.
Please join me in recognizing the class of 2017.
Well, Class of 2017, we get to go out from RHS together.
It took me 10 years to accomplish what you have in 4. Impressive
Sometimes, in writing a speech for graduation, Coming up with something interesting can be a
challenge. For the class of 2017, finding something interesting has not been a challenge,
finding only one or two of the most interesting things
has been the challenge.
From March of your 9th grade year and sending home a letter concerned about a spike in students making bad choices, to last week trying to deal with some sort of all out gladiator/capture the flag free for all, the class of 2017 has kept us on our toes.
However, all through these interesting things, the class of 2017 has always taken pridein being Roosevelt RoughRiders, Taken pride in creating an inclusive school climate
and Taken pride in making it right when things do not go as planned.
You brought your “A” Game and won some things.
You won state titles, Championships, recognitions as the best in music, arts, drama, DECA,
Newspaper, Yearbook, etc. the list goes on
You have also lost a few.
But, Through it all
You always impressed me with your concern for, connection with and care of each other.
That is what will stick out in my mind about the class of 2017.
My wife told me about a conversation she had the other day with a driver on an uber ride.
He told her that parenting is like preparing for a space flight around the moon. This also is a
good analogy for K-12 education.
When preparing for flights into space, there is a lot of planning, teaching, calculating, and
learning that needs happens on the front end to make sure that everything is set for the mission.
You check and double check that everything is covered knowing that once there is lift off, you
will not have many opportunities to change the trajectory of the flight.
In fact, there are times during a space flight where you lose all contact and you need to trust that
all your hard work is going to pay off and the astronauts will stay on course and return to earth
Your parents have done their work, your teachers, counselors, coaches have done their work.
And You have done your work to get you here today.
What you are to be, you are now becoming
As you take off into adulthood. You will run into turbulence, you might need to make a course
You may loose contact with ground control, your parents, your teachers
When that happens, have confidence in your preparation and in who you are
Know that you have a team supporting you and waiting to cheer you on.
I will sign off on your flight plans tonight with how I always do.
Make good choices
bring your “A” game.
And live by our Rider PRIDE values of Passion, Respect, Integrity, Determination and
Mission control reports that you are ready for lift off!!
Class of 2017:
Sage Bitter, Valedictorian:
How’re we doin tonight 017’?? I hope everybody is staying dry out there. They say rain on your wedding day is good luck and you know what they say rain on your graduation day is? Seattle.
My name is Sage Bitter, and here we are at the bitter end. But in all honesty, tonight is more bitter sweet.
I was a bit of a surprise choice for valedictorian, a common response I got was, really? But I think some of that is because I’m a real person, I’m flawed and I never tried to pretend I wasn’t. I might have picked out my graduation dress before I wrote my speech, I might have bumped a few cars in the Roosevelt lot, I might have knocked out Amy Alverson’s tooth sophomore year, but all faults aside our society needs to stop looking at the human experience so definitively.
The most dehumanizing thing we can do is reduce a person to the worst thing they’ve done or exalt a person to the best thing they’ve done. That ends a conversation instead of starting one.
But the class of 2017 is no stranger to missteps, and ‘017 is a class like no other. Yes, we have all made mistakes, we’re all still learning, and some of us have shown great courage in owning up to that. But the thing about ‘017 is that we are resilient. When we take an L, we bounce back.
And that brings me to the immortal words of one of my heroes. Brian Vance. So this year, Vance and I are both leaving, but along with his legacy he leaves behind his catch phrase, make good choices.
Make good choices. And no I don’t mean, what Vance usually means when he says this about choosing what you’re doing on a Friday night, I mean making choices that are good for you. Just as we took different paths in high school, spending our time in sports, drama, band, newspaper, ASR, or none of the above, we’ll all take different paths next. The choices we make for ourselves don’t have to be expected and they don’t have to fit some standard.
I have no qualifications to be giving advice, but when it comes to our future and when it comes to our present, every day we make choices. It’s up to us to make choices we can stand by in how we treat people, in how we treat ourselves, and in the examples we set or the barriers we break. Because that’s the only thing in the whole world we have any control over. We live in uncertain times from the cancellation of Pemberton to the presidency, and no one can say what tomorrow holds. That’s why today has to count so much, and why we shouldn’t wait to make those good choices.
So don’t let this night pass you by. Here we all are together for the last time. So breathe it in. Four years later, and we’ve made it. Tonight 0’17 is our night. And tonight is for everyone in this stadium, because if it weren’t for those people and the choices they made, we might not be here. This is for my mom and dad who made me bitter and made me sweet, thank you. This is for everyone who’s made our lunches, who’s helped us with math homework, taught our classes, coached our teams, for the friends we’ll have forever and the friends we’ll have for high school.
Tonight is for the taking and the good choices are for the making. So celebrate, and Roosevelt I’m so proud of us.
Colleagues, Guests, Parents and Families, Graduates: It is an honor for me to be here to share some thoughts with you tonight. Thank you for inviting me.
Graduates: Most of you started here four years ago. You came to Roosevelt as naïve, nervous, and for the most part, quiet freshmen. During your freshmen year, you went to classes, got to know your teachers, and started getting involved in sports, clubs, music, and drama. As you got involved, you started finding friends and making connections with people you enjoyed and activities you liked to do. By the end of your freshman year, you were beginning to feel at home. You understood the learning process and how to prepare and study for your classes. The teachers were no longer as scary as they had seemed at first. You began to see them as resources and allies, people who genuinely wanted to see you succeed, rather than as monsters waiting to trip you up.
Then came sophomore year, then junior year, and now you have just finished your senior year. By now I hope you understand some things, such as how to write, how to solve problems, how to run Greenlake without passing out, and how to interact well with staff and students. As you look back at your high school years, I hope you can see that you were a part of a community. The Roosevelt community.
I think I’m safe in saying that you did not get to the end of your high school career on your own! For instance, your parents, your guardians, and your family have been helping you out up until this point. They literally got you to school, picked you up, and made connections with other families to help you with all the other things you were involved in. In addition to your family, staff, teachers, coaches, and other parents have been helping you take next steps in your education. Besides helping you plan your class schedule, coaching your teams, and teaching your classes, many teachers have gone above and beyond for your benefit. They have stayed after school to help you understand your homework. They have given up their lunch periods to have important conversations with you about the things that are on your minds. They have found you in the hallways to make sure you have a missing worksheet from the day you were absent. And think of all the others who spend their careers making sure you have what you need at school: lunch ladies, custodians, office staff, counselors, and yes, even Mr. Vance.
All of these people are proud of you. They are proud of your achievements. They are proud of your hard work. They are proud of the way you have overcome your roadblocks and obstacles. Some of you have had unexpected struggles along the way, and you had to find ways around them. I hate to say it, but that’s life! Your struggles will change, but roadblocks do rise up now and then! It never seems fair, and the timing is never good. These obstacles can really throw your life off balance.
My biggest roadblock happened about six months ago. My physical ability to walk and move was declining. It got so bad that I had to use crutches or a power wheelchair just to get around school. Finally, my surgeon and I decided that I needed to have spinal fusion surgery, and it would need to happen sooner rather than later. I went into surgery on December 23, thinking I’d be in the hospital for three to five days. I figured I’d spend a couple of weeks doing physical therapy and rehabilitation at home, and I’d be back at school in time for the beginning of second semester. Instead, I was in the hospital for nine days, including four in ICU. I spent another full month in a rehab facility and three more months at home, managing pain and re-learning how to walk and function like an independent human being again. I was not able to return to work until spring break and even then I was dependent on a wheelchair.
But I did it. Or maybe I should say, my village and I did it! So many people were a part of my surgery and slow return to health that it would be wrong to say, “I did it myself.” I can’t even begin to name all the kinds of people who had a part in helping past my roadblock to good health. Obviously, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nursing assistants, and cabulance drivers. The cooks, the custodians, the social workers, the administrators. Also my pastors and church friends who prayed for me and visited me and brought pictures colored by their children and played cards with me during the long days of rehab. My fellow teachers who covered for me at school and subbed for me and donated sick days to me and even brought me meals. My family who kept in touch with me and listened to the details of my ordeal over and over. My wife who spent many hours at my bedside and reminded me to stand up straight.
I stand here in front of you today, almost six months after my nine-hour surgery, because my village, my tribe, my community did everything they could to make it possible for me to keep doing what God created me to do: Teach!
So, Seniors, think about all the people who have helped you over your roadblocks and obstacles. Find someone in the audience right now who has been a part of your journey—maybe a parent, a teacher, a coach, a sibling—make eye contact with them and let them see the gratitude in your heart. Do it! (PAUSE)
And now let me say this. You’ve conquered some roadblocks. There are more ahead. But just as this community has been there for you up until today, someday the people you love—your parents, your friends, your neighbors, maybe eventually your children—some day they will have some difficult obstacles of their own. You might be called upon to put aside your own desires for a season to help someone else deal with a struggle. On that day, I hope you that you will be the village that they need.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “The most important single ingredient to the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” And Coach Montzingo says, “The second most important ingredient to the formula of success is being part of the community that helps one another face life’s obstacles and roadblocks.”
It was my community of family, friends, church, and Roosevelt that helped me around this recent roadblock. Without my village, I would not have made it through the school year. We are made for community. We are made to be there for one another. We are a village. We are Roosevelt.
Now it’s your turn. Graduating seniors, go be the village!
Thank you and God bless you!