Students, faculty, and families, it’s my honor to speak for and on behalf of such a wonderful group of young men and women. I’m confident that I was selected for my oratory skills and general likeability, and not because Ellen Degeneres, Kanye, and all of our living Presidents declined to answer their invitations.
I have always been told that the best speeches open with a joke and have the few words, and I have chosen only a few to say here tonight.
I can say with confidence that Morgan County has the best students. I’ve worked both here and at Paw Paw, and I am in awe of in general how kind, reasonable, empathetic, and honorable our young people are. I am thankful for the parents, grandparents, extended families, and guardians who have instilled these values in our students, and I’m thankful for a community who for decades has offered consistent financial and moral support for education, and recognizes that learning is the antidote to poverty and hopelessness.
When I was in elementary school, my mom was a dishwasher and my dad gathered trash bags for Morgan Sanitation. My clothes came from yard sales, and my toys from discount chains. But my parents, and other great people in my life recognized the importance of learning. No matter how strapped for cash my parents were, anytime I asked for a book, they dropped everything to run me to the library or bookstore. I graduated from this high school in 2007, and I attended Shepherd University as a Promise Scholar. I’m here because Morgan County, West Virginia, and individuals both great and small invested in education and believed in the power of mentorship.
Morgan County’s greatest resource is its young people, and the best thing we can do for our collective future is provide education and opportunity. When our children thrive, we all thrive and when they suffer we all suffer. Our society, its present and its future, will come to depend on, at least in some small part, many of the young men and women in this room.
The motto of this organization is “nobility obligates.”
When you were confirmed for this organization, you were believed by the selection committee to be a young man or woman of noble character. You have conducted yourself with honor, integrity, and truth in your interactions, earning a favorable reputation. You have cultivated unique gifts and skills over the course of years, and you have freely given those skills to people and organizations that need them. It is these traits of scholarship, leadership, service, and character that the National Honor Society hopes to make use of.
You each have special gifts, and you are obligated to use your talents for the betterment of those around you. I believe deeply that everything a person does matters, and that is a grave responsibility. It is a responsibility to not frivolously waste time in endeavors that do not improve your lives or the lives of those around you. You have been gifted with intelligence, work ethic, and a heart for service, and you have a moral imperative to use those gifts for the benefit of others.