Start Every Morning with a “Thank You”

May 23, 2019


Photo Credit: Emily Wise/Used with permission

Taulbee will be attending the University of Virginia in the fall.

Good evening. I would like to welcome President Raimo, Principal Nitchals, Assistant Principal Krukar, faculty, staff, family, and friends to the graduation ceremony of the Class of 2019. We are thrilled you are here with us as we take our final steps at Academy. My name is Katie Taulbee, and I am truly honored to have the privilege of speaking to you tonight. I want to first congratulate both Sydney Lowman and Lauren Dingle on amazing academic careers.

Four years is a long time, and it seems hard to condense these four years into five minutes. Looking back, though, I realized that the time I spent at Academy is much more than just four years of my life— it’s the sum of many individual moments, most of which only take a few minutes or seconds. 

Some of these moments are big: arriving for the first day of school freshman year, Junior Ring Ceremony, Silver Coffee, and, finally, graduation. Others, however, are small, maybe even routine, but I believe that sometimes these moments are the most impactful. 

One such routine, something that only takes me about 15 seconds, is making my bed before school. I’ll admit: for a while, I didn’t like making my bed. That changed, though, when I discovered a book which has since become one of my favorites. 

Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven is the most influential book that I have read. Admiral McRaven, 37 years a Navy SEAL, wrote this book listing the 10 things he learned during Navy SEAL Training that applies to all stages of his life.

So even though I am not aspiring to be a Commander in the Navy, much to my dad’s disappointment, I have decided to give my own brief rendition of Admiral McRaven’s Make Your Bed. It’s called Start Every Morning With a “Thank You” by Katie Taulbee, the four critical lessons I have learned over my past four years at Academy of the Holy Names.

Lesson #1: Start every morning with a “thank you”. 

I cannot stand here and act like I know everything about your lives. But here is one thing I do know: none of us on this stage or in the audience got where we are today without two groups: our family and our teachers and I doubt we have thanked them nearly enough. 

From all of our mothers and from my mom, we have learned the importance of unconditional love and sacrifice as we watched you sacrifice many things for your family. From all of our fathers and from my dad, we have learned the importance of hard work and dedication and that going the extra mile always pays dividends. From all of our siblings and from my sister Miles, we have learned how to fight and forgive, cry and laugh, and most importantly how to be a friend and role model. 

From all of our teachers, administrators, and counselors, we have learned how to be critical thinkers, how to love, and how to lead. You have watched us grow just as much as our own families, and you have bestowed upon us an education that goes beyond textbooks. You have shown us how to engage in independent thought and lead culturally aware, spiritually rich lives. Your compassion and composure is something we will carry for the rest of our lives. 

I think we all have a habit of believing that it is our own work that advanced our success. But that is only partially true. The majority of our success depends on others. Just as making our bed takes around 15 seconds, starting each morning by thanking those who have helped us along the way takes the same amount of time and is just a small way we can show our appreciation to the ones who mean the most.

Lesson #2: Bet on yourself. 

I actually have my uncle, Bill Taulbee, to thank for this lesson. Over the past four years, my uncle has placed bets with me that I will, in fact, achieve the goals I have set for myself. One such bet he made with me was that I would in fact be standing on this stage tonight speaking to all of you. Clearly, I owe him a hundred dollars. 

He has helped me realize that in order to succeed you have to first be willing to bet on yourself.  Academy has taught us the importance and principles of being empowered and how to empower. Ambition and success are not out of reach and our class is here to break glass ceilings and inspire those who come after. Academy places the odds in our favor, and it is our job to trust in ourselves and always take the bet. 

Lesson #3: Live in the moment.

At Academy, we begin each class with intentions and prayer. Many of you may recall that my intention everyday was to “Finish the week out strong while living in the moment”. The more routine it became to recite, the more it became reality. My senior year, I learned to appreciate the first day orientation games, the retreats, formal dances, our in-depth lectures in AP Gov, our laughs in AP Physics, the jagball tournaments and pep rallies, the morning masses, Cats the Musical, and watching our sports teams at Spike and Splash, Senior Nights, and State-runs. As I reflect on all these events, I am keenly aware of the deep appreciation for the memories Academy left me. 

As Andy Bernard from the Office said, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” So as I conclude the third lesson, I have realized that by living in the moment you are able to enjoy each minute.

Lesson #4: To be rather than seem.

It may seem rather cliche that my final lesson is the Academy motto, so I am going to try to explain it a little differently. The Latin phrase “esse quam videri” is first found in an essay by Cicero, a famous Roman orator and philosopher. He states, “Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so.”

I can name a multitude of women on this stage who live up to this motto everyday. If there is one moment I visibly remember from senior year where our class embodied “esse quam videri”, it was on the Senior Retreat while we were reviewing the most impactful moments of our day. Natalie Smith stood and said, “I was praying to God during the reflection time and thinking about all the times He hadn’t answered my prayers, all the questions He never responded to, all the times I asked for help and it was never given. But then I paused, looked around the room full of my 102 classmates and realized I was wrong. God has answered every one of my prayers thanks to all of you.” 

As Natalie pointed out, God has been with us these past four years, molding us into the women who stand on this stage. As Academy women, soon to be graduates, it is our duty to be the answer to as many prayers as possible and help those in need.  Just as so many have lent us a helping hand, we need to reach out to others. And in order to do that we first need to be rather than seem. 

I cannot stand here and tell you that my high school experience was perfect. But it has been the most impactful four years of my life. I will never forget DJ Bucky’s commanding presence in the lounge, Hira Khan’s leadership witnessed in all endeavors, or Sydney Lowman always having a tissue at hand when an Academy girl is in need. Academy has been our security, the place we aren’t afraid to take off our shoes in class, not brush our hair, and laugh at just about everything. However, college might be a wake up call for us that we are not all as funny as we think. 

Class of 2019 you worked hard to get here, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. By starting every morning with a “thank you”, betting on yourself, and remembering to live in the moment, we are able to live out what Academy has taught us to become and has inscribed in us these past four years, to be rather than seem. Congratulations on everything you have accomplished. You deserve the world.

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