PRESIDENT RAYMOND NELSON: Greeting the graduates with a joke about having a “short, half-hour speech,” Board of Education President Raymond Nelson spoke briefly so that Vice President John Verdone, whose daughter Amanda was among the graduates, could give the actual address instead. Mr. Nelson admitted, however, that the Class of 2012 was a special graduating class, for him. “The year I entered the Board, was the year you entered kindergarten. So I got to see you full circle...The Board of Education is extremely proud of your academic accomplishments, and even more proud of the fine men and women you have become.” Then he suggested that the parents, guardians, and grandparents of the graduates give themselves “a rousing hand of applause for what you have accomplished!
VICE PRESIDENT JOHN VERDONE; Recalling the sense of wonder at his Graduation 35 years ago, John Verdone expressed a mix of emotions, and concerns. Happy for his daughter, “Amanda, somewhere amongst you—I happen to see her and have a smile on my face right now.… Each one of you is wondering how long this is going to take and what am I going to say?"
Uncertain which words would prepare the graduates for a future of new challenges, new beginnings, and even some failures, Mr. Verdone instead offered a vision of hope.
“As I stand here in front of the Class of 2012, ...I see the next Bill Gates, I see the next Steve Jobs, I see the young men and the young women leaving our safe harbor to protect our freedoms. I see the next Robert Jarvik and instead of helping develop an artificial heart, you will bring sight to those who cannot see or hearing to those who cannot hear.”
“I see the teachers who will teach our young to read, and I see the plumber who will finally fix my sink. I see the actors who will bring tears to our eyes and joy to our hearts. I see you filling the years with world peace, curing hunger, solving our dependence on fossil fuel, and finding a cure for all those illnesses that affect so many lives. I see the generation that will see things differently. Soon, each of you will move your tassel and toss your cap and enter an ever-changing and challenging world.”
“But regardless of any path you take, and whatever challenge you face, always find the time to sing, laugh, dance, and spend time with family and friends. Whatever happens to the Class of 2012 is entirely up to each of you. And in the words of Helen Keller: ‘Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.’”