Welcome. We’re here today to get approval to leave this place. To be told that we’re done, al fin, la fine. But if we were to place this summer, right here, on a timeline of the things that our class will create, the ideas that our class will manifest, the places that our class will go, you would find that we, the class of 2008, are not done.

As if it could ever really end, as if graduation were going to finish it, nothing ever really ends, but beginnings are imminent. If graduation is an ending, it’s an ending that is sending us forth, birthing our course. Letting us out into the world.

We, being teens, seldom seem to test the river’s depth with just one foot. I don’t know about you, but often I feel tossed in and never taught to swim.

That the 200 of us have worked over the past four years to become the high school graduates we are today is an amazing thing. We are athletes and musicians, artists and technicians, but we should never let what we have become block what we can be. We should never let our passions and accomplishments place us into a category.

I look at the faces before me and I’m distraught that there are so many of you who I don’t know. But I do know that all of us are people. All of us have individual hopes and aspirations and goals and I just want to say — don’t settle. Don’t think that the world is too big or that we are too small. Let us not be so concerned with what we are that we forget about what we can be.

As the poet Buddy Wakefield once said: “No matter where you go or how hard you try or what you do, the only person you are ever gonna get to be is you — and that is amazing.”

Friends and family of the graduates, you are about to see something incredible. You are about to see 200 people walk across this stage. Every single one of these people has had experiences that have made them cry, made them laugh, made them feel purpose. Everyone has had advocates and has had adversity. Everyone, above and beyond the categories we place them in, is a person.

And class, we have to be careful, because every one of us is going to walk up these stairs, and let me tell you, these stairs don’t have guard rails. Sometimes we can get so focused on the little piece of paper in front of us that we lose sight of how beautiful this world is, lose sight of the fact that the hopes and dreams of our neighbors can be just like our own.

We’re walking into a world where we place people into self-created classes and categories. We can be ranked or classified, but class does not divide us. we are a class. The class of 2008 — and we’re just getting started.

Ben Williams is master of ceremonies for the class of 2008.