2018-06-09 / Viewpoints

Together we embrace our future

By Rylee Hooftallen

(Rylee Hooftallen, daughter of Bob and Britta Hooftallen, spoke at commencement exercises for the Austin Area High School Class of 2018. Her excerpted remarks fol­low.)

For the Class of 2018, it has been a long road -- and, at times, a road we thought would never end. But, for you, we know that our years at AHS have gone by in a flash and that this moment for many of you brings as much sorrow as it does joy.

I believe I speak for the entire Class of 2018 when I say you are the most important people in our lives. That may change some as we walk down the aisle this evening, but for the past 18 years you have been the foundation on which our lives have been built.

You have been the people who have invested your time and energy in the Class of 2018.

You are greatly responsible for the people we have be­come and who we will become.

You are the people who held our hands and wiped our tears in our earliest days in education in the other wing of this building that we all hold so dear.

You -- the administrators and teachers, the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends -- provided the love and support we needed to excel through the growing pains of elementary school, the awkwardness of puberty and the educational and social challenges of high school.

It is you who for the last 18 years have put our lives before your own, helping to pave and unfurl the winding road to the future for the small, but awesome Class of 2018.

So tonight as you celebrate us and recall the times that have led to this day, know that we are celebrating you, the people whose love and devotion built the Class of 2018.

And to my classmates, I love you all and wish you a lifetime of happiness. And I want you all to promise me something. Promise me that you will commit to the journey that life takes you on, but not to the outcome, because the outcome is never certain.

The time has come for us to say a good-bye, of sorts, as we barrel head-long into that mysterious place we’ve been dreaming of: adulthood.

Let us do it with conviction. Let us do it with pride. Most of all, let us do it together -- even though for the first time in almost two decades we’ll be apart.

There is no distance too great for togetherness, and no obstacle too great for our combined efforts. Let us all learn from that.

And let us all know that when we work together, we succeed; and that, together, those things we pursue we can attain.

To my friends in the Class of 2018, know that we can make a difference in our world by being different in our world -- by seeking solutions, rather than confronta­tions and pursuing inclusion rather than exclusion.

To those of you who helped us get here, know that we’ll need you tomorrow as much as we did today and every day before, even though at times it may not seem that way.

The Class of 2018 thanks you for giving of yourselves and in doing so teaching us that unconditional love and unending devotion to one another is what creates life’s greatest treasures.

We will carry that lesson of unity with us because I can’t change the world. And neither can you. But, together, we’ve got a shot.

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