Commencement speeches often use familiar quotes of inspiration from famous people.
Platteville High School senior David Ababio put eight of them together in five sentences of his speech during PHS’ Commencement Sunday.
Addressing his classmates as “juvenile delinquents” to get them to laugh, Ababio said, “Four score and seven years ago, I had a dream that one day in this decade we would do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Having partially quoted Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, Ababio went on: “The only thing we had to fear is fear itself, and through struggle we learned that perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Moving on from Franklin D. Roosevelt and Antoine Saint-Exupery to Ambrose Redroom, Dwight Eisenhower, Morgan Freeman and Bill Cosby, Ababio added, “For courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit. In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”
Then Ababio quoted his uncle: “But remember this: The complacency of success is the first step of mediocrity.”
Ababio’s speech started amusing, then turned thoughtful.
“As most of you know, I lost my mother in sixth grade, and it’s been hard, but I’m so grateful for the guidance and the support that I have received from all of you,” he said. “… People in here, the Platteville School District’s teachers, secretaries, parents, janitors, bus drivers, lunch ladies, counselors, the IT guys and Mrs. Weigel, administrators, coaches — all these people and more have made a difference in your life.
“How many of you have taken the time to stop and think about all the things that have been done for you on a daily basis? When was the last time you said ‘thank you’ to any of these individuals? All of these people are doing all these things because they are here to help us. The faculty isn’t just here to teach you, the cooks aren’t here just to feed you, the administrators aren’t just here to discipline you, they care about each and every one of you and want you to be the best person that you can be.”
Sarah Loring recalled her first day at PHS with classmate Julia Lawinger.
“I was terrified of the upperclassmen, and every high school scene of ‘Lizzie McGuire’ and ‘Even Stevens’ came into my mind,” said Loring. “To my pleasant surprise, I wasn’t stuffed in a garbage can or beaten up by a senior, thank goodness.
“Four years from that day, we aren’t the same 13- and 14-year-olds who stepped through those doors, worried of getting lost in between classes. We leave this school today state champions and musical award winners and published authors and fearless leaders and working students.”
Minjoo Son quoted from the Sandra Cisneros short story “Eleven,” about a girl who wakes up on her 11th birthday, who doesn’t feel like she’s 11 until she “realizes that although she may be 11, she’s also 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1.
“No matter how old we may be, we are also all the years that have passed behind us. Some days you may say something really stupid, and that’s the part of you that’s still 10. Some days you may feel like you want to crawl up in your mom’s lap, and that’s the part of you that’s 5. Other days, even when you’re all grown up, you’ll feel like you just want to break down and cry like you’re 3, and that’s OK.”
Son talked about moving to Platteville before fifth grade.
“The thing that surprised me about Platteville is the people’s openness and friendliness,” she said. “Every single person here has affected me in some way. … It might sound a little silly, but there is something about being a Hillman, and each person really does make a difference. I am so grateful that my family moved to Platteville.
“The high school and everyone connected to it has allowed me to discover myself, realize I enjoyed things I never even thought about, and made me really want to pursue my dreams. Later, when we are 25, 40 or 60 years old, we will still have those moments of the teenage years we spent here.”
High school math instructor John Sponsler told the story of his getting an engineering degree, then deciding he didn’t want Los Angeles corporate life. His three years of traveling around the world led him to Chechnya to work in humanitarian aid.
“Whatever your dream is, you’re not a loser; if you achieve your dream, you’re not a winner,” he said. “In my experience, you will serve only what you love, because service is a form of love.”