In addition to a light-hearted suggestion that he might one day avenge a college setback by becoming president of the United States, Glen Rose High School valedictorian Harrison Hawkins had some wise words for his fellow graduates last Friday evening during the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2019.
The ceremony for the 123 graduating seniors, held in the GRHS Auditorium before a packed house, also featured a speech from salutatorian Laura Ogletree.
After the “Star Spangled Banner” was performed by Emma Sheffied, Abigail Johnson gave the welcome and invocation.
Superintendent Wayne Rotan then introduced the 2019 Tiger’s Eye recipient, Sharon Lawler.
After junior and senior class officers completed the traditional transfer of the GRHS Gonfalon, senior class President Westen Halcom delivered the class history.
The GRHS Choir under the direction of Samuel Teal performed a modern-day inspirational song, "You Raise Me Up,” which was made famous by singer Josh Groban.
Glen Rose ISD school board trustees took turns handing the diplomas to the graduates as they proudly walked across the stage to be congratulated by Rotan along with GRHS Principal Kelly Shackelford.
This fall Hawkins will be enrolling in Dartmouth, a prestigious Ivy League school. He unexpectedly had to change course only recently after suffering from a collapsed lung. He had been on track to be formally accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy based on his impressive scholastic resume. But when he submitted the required medical records, those plans were rejected.
On the day of Senior Recognition Night, Hawkins received the U.S. Navy’s official letter stating that he would not be able to attend because of his lung condition that had required surgery.
Hawkins, who has previously stated that he might be interested in getting into politics later in life, showed his sense of humor when he told the commencement crowd, “I giggled when I read it and thought, ‘That’s okay, I’ll just direct the Navy as commander-in-chief one day.”
He continued, “I firmly believe all things happen for a reason. After my lung surgery, I found myself on a different path from what I had planned over the past six months.
“Some of us don’t yet know what we are going to do with our lives once we leave this auditorium, and that is perfectly okay. One good quote that I think says it best is “sometimes when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place.”
He said that each of the graduates will experience challenging experiences, “but each of these moments comes together in the end to create God’s plan. It’s fate.
"We will be left stronger individuals for the challenges we have had to face. That’s why we must always make the decision to enter the path of most resistance. When we stand triumphant through the grinds and struggles of life, we will be left the better if we went through a path that did not want us to succeed, instead of through an easy path that would have only brought easy gains and worthless efforts.”
Ogletree acknowledged the major contributions from parents and teachers of the graduates, but also noted that results come only from hard work, and that “nothing is given to us.”
“I feel like a lot of people are starting to think that things should just be handed out because we participated or showed up, but that’s not the case,” Ogletree said. “We can change our habits and try to better ourselves, or continue them into this next chapter. And I think that’s what is really awesome about this next part of our lives. We get to determine how it goes.
“Every word we say and every action we take will have an impact on someone else or ourselves, and I challenge this wonderful, strong, smart class to be an uplifting, motivating and hard-working group of men an women.”
She also added the forever-relevant thought, “the only time we’re failing is when we stop trying.”
Editor's note: Speech excerpts were provided courtesy of Harrison Hawkins and Laura Ogletree.