Lead by example as women of character and dignity

Lead by example as women of character and dignity

Studio Artistry, Tampa

“We also thank the Sisters of the Holy Names for all of their support and kindness. Your humble example as confident, faith-filled women will always be a part of us.”

Lindsey Hahn, Valedictorian of the Class of 2012

On behalf of the Class of 2011, I would first like to thank everyone who has helped make this ceremony possible.  Firstly, this year’s graduating class thanks you, Bishop Lynch, for sharing this special evening with all of us.  Thank you, Dr. Purpur, Mrs. Jowanna, and Mr. Mullarkey for your outstanding leadership this year.  Your patience and understanding has not gone unrecognized, and we genuinely appreciate your faith in our class as well as the freedom and dignity which were given to us. 

We also thank the Sisters of the Holy Names for all of their support and kindness.  Your humble example as confident, faith-filled women will always be a part of us, and we each greatly admire your exemplary conduct—excepting, of course, Sr. Mary Patricia Plum’s terrifying ultimatums and Sr. Mary Glavin’s tendency to try and steal babies or other adorable children. 

Next we thank the faculty, especially our teachers, the brave men and women that have put up with emotional meltdowns, incessant whining, and general second-semester apathy. 

Not only have you prepared us for college academically, but many of you have given us valuable life-lessons on peer-pressure, boys, and fashion, including (but not limited to) Ms. Kearney’s endless supply of history-themed T-shirts and the way that the ladies of the English department always seems to match perfectly.  We will miss you all more than most of us care to admit, and we hope to make you proud in all of our college classes. 

Finally, we thank the parents of the Class of 2011.  Words cannot express our gratitude for all you have done and all you continue to do for us.  We love you more than you know (mostly because we don’t tell you enough) and are grateful for so many things, but most of all for the opportunity to attend the Academy of the Holy Names.  Though we may have resented the first few weeks, some of us even the first few years, of life as an Academy girl, we can now appreciate the full value of the high school experience you envisioned for us, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

And now, as valedictorian, I have the privilege to address my fellow members of the Class of 2011.  Believe me when I say that writing this speech is without a doubt the single hardest assignment I have ever been given as an Academy student—yes, harder than AP Bio, the Chapter 8 Calculus test, and all four English research papers combined.  The difficult thing about speaking to you, my Academy sisters, lies in that I respect all of you so much (to be clear, I respect my teachers and administrators as well, but for some reason it is easier to write for people that I am not on a first-name basis with). 

For one, with all of your academic prowess and achievement, a sample of which was acknowledged at Honors Convocation, I cannot help but hold you all in high esteem.  When I heard girls debating between going to Duke or Georgetown, Notre Dame or UVA, and so many other great schools, I could not help but marvel at the enormous potential of our class, and I am confident that each and every one of you will succeed in whatever field you pursue.  But as we all know, academics alone do not distinguish an Academy graduate so much as character and a sense of community, and these also do the members of the Class of 2011 excel.

We are not only a class of respectable women, but a class of respectful ones as well.  Despite yearly changes in administration, our class remained poised, gracious, and upbeat, and we took all of our setbacks in stride.  For instance, instead of whining about restrictions on the last day of school, we bound together as a group, worked through the night, and pulled off what was (in my humble opinion) the best senior prank day ever.  The creativity and organization required to turn an all-girl Catholic school into a penitentiary complete with jump-suited inmates, wardens, and legitimate criminal charges definitely sets the ladies of 2011 apart from their peers. 

However, the thing that I most respect and admire about you, my classmates, is your unparalleled ability to lift the spirits of everyone around you just by being yourselves.  Even when I was at my lowest—be it performing an embarrassing Elle Woods impersonation for Speech class, losing a big game, or coming to school without half of my homework—just seeing you ladies made me feel like a rock-star.  This year especially, I left school every day thinking, “I’m awesome,” and it is because of your infectious enthusiasm, compassion, and support that I still believe this about myself and each one of you.  As we go our separate ways, I sincerely hope that you retain this fearlessness of self-expression and unconquerable self-confidence that has inspired me to reach my own potential here at the Academy.

As we stand here on this stage, together for one last time, I leave you with a final thought: “Happier days are definitely ahead of you.”  Though I do not usually trust the messages inside of fortune cookies, this one seemed appropriate; I encourage all of you to hold your heads high and look to the future with excitement and joy rather than mourn over the passing of our time at the Academy.  We must not let the glorious memories of the past four year prevent us from making new happy memories as we grow as women of faith and dignity. 

Though the world has many problems, some of which seem insurmountable to us now, I truly believe that we are “sisters forever, stronger together,” and if we work for change and dedicate our skills and qualities developed here at the Academy to improving the lives and dignity of all, we can ensure happier days for ourselves, our community, and our world.  And so I challenge you, the members of the Class of 2011, to uphold the values of the Academy, to work for justice, and to lead by example as women of character and dignity, “to be rather than to seem.”  Thank you.