Graduation speeches are only occasionally known for their creativity.
The Platteville High School Class of 2014 and their guests heard the usual themes at Commencement Sunday, but delivered in a more original form than is usually found.
Speaker Sumaia Masoom didn’t fight the commencement speech trend of clichés and platitudes. Masoom created a bingo card, projected behind her, with such phrases as “Don’t be afraid of failure,” “Be true to your self/passions/values/voice,” “This is only just the beginning,” and “The future is yours to shape,” with each square marked by an X when she used the cliché.
“Apathy is the most dangerous emotion, because it is no emotion,” said Masoom, using a phrase not found on the card. “Emption … is what motivates us to care and do better. So if you don’t care, do.”
To those guests of graduates, she said, “Much as we angsty teenagers pretend to not need you, we do.”
In contrast to class co-president Emma Gore’s warning that “I hope you all brought your tissues,” speakers obliged their inner wits.
Speaker Josh Beck began by asking the audience to laugh at his jokes, then thanked his classmates “for giving me material for this speech.”
Beck also exhorted his classmates to “keep your chin up, or your chins up, because you never know what will happen.” He then said, “My grandpa always told me, if you want to do something, don’t half … butt it. He uses different words, but you get the idea.”
Speaker William Cooley addressed “all you bozos I like to call my friends,” and thanked a number of people, including the PHS English department, since “This is a speech, after all, and without them I wouldn’t be able to speak too good.”
The subject of PHS’ unlikely state football championship game appearance was an obvious theme. Cooley mentioned teammate Jarred Herr, who was advised to sit out football because of previous concussions, but decided he would rather “play a sport he loved with a group of guys he’d come to love over the years.
“With every sort of failure, people start to doubt,” said Cooley. “When the going got tough, those seniors stepped up. … Adversity can very easily tear people apart, but it can also bring people together.”
Class co-president Logan Butson included a long list of state-level accomplishments beyond football to argue “We just didn’t coast through our senior year. The Class of 2014 has been surprising people since our beginning. … Striving for excellence is a daily occurrence for us. Success is in a Hillmen’s blood.”
The class-selected speaker was psychology teacher Garrett Jones, who started by quoting Aristotle and John Lennon on definitions of happiness. Jones said people are happiest when they are in “in flow,” or “totally absorbed,” so he advised students to “do what makes you lose track of time.”
“If someone says money can’t buy you happiness, tell them to give you theirs,” he said, adding that “how a person thinks about and spends money,” specifically “spending on experiences,” was more important than money.
Jones said that marriage “doesn’t cause happiness,” but marriage is “evidence of at least one strong social connection in a person’s life.” He added that children “can bring meaning in life,” though he got a laugh from the adults in the audience when he showed a graph that indicated that the low point of parents’ happiness was when they had teenage children.
Jones also said that helping others made not the helped, but the helper happier, which motivates people to help others.
The ceremony was the last for PHS principal Jeff Jacobson, who is leaving to become the Dodgeville School District administrator.
Jacobson noted that he started at PHS without reading glasses or hearing aids, and was leaving with “a tremendous amount of great memories, and I know I am much wealthier now as I walk out the door at Platteville High School.”
School district administrator Connie Valenza welcomed Jacobson to “the world of superintendency. It’s a world of fun … said no superintendent ever.”