By: Connor Lenahan
Today was the day my younger brother Chase graduated from Abington Heights High School. It’s just two days over a year since I did the same. He wasn’t the only one graduating that I failed to see walk across the stage today. Many of my closest friends wrapped up their time as Comets today. A list large enough that it would make more logical sense to simply publish the entire graduating class of 2014 than try and remember everyone off the top of my head.
Sadly, I was unable to attend the ceremony. And by “sadly” I mean happily, as I got to watch the United States defeat Ghana behind the opening minute goal of the 45th President of the United States Clint Dempsey.
Due to an ongoing contract dispute, the teachers of Abington Heights did not attend the ceremony. This left an open discussion for a guid dal of time about who would be stepping up as the commencement speaker. The choice ended up being my former writing teacher Mrs. Lartz. She’s an angel, so I have no problem with this choice. In fact, I love it.
I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about offering my services as a speaker. I had, many times. Despite the fact that I did in fact give a speech at my own graduation a year prior and I had only been away from the school a year, I felt as though I had wisdom to pass along to the students of Abington Heights.
So tonight, I decided that I’d give my commencement speech here. Without further ado, the comments I’d like to make to the Class of 2014.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. If you have been a part of the Abington Heights community at all over the past decade and a half you have most likely encountered me at some point or another. I have most likely run over your toes with my wheelchair while making a mad dash to the nearest location of snacks. I would like to apologize for any damage I have caused, I was simply craving Twinkies.
My name is Connor Lenahan and one year ago I sat on this stage for my own graduation from Abington Heights. Many will remember that I was in my wheelchair for the ceremony due to a broken shin nine days before commencement.
I had made it my personal goal to walk across the stage at graduation from the time I entered middle school. I came tantalizingly close while falling just short of the goal last year. I can thankfully say now that my shin is stronger than ever before and I am able to walk tonight. It may not be the exact goal, but it’s certainly special.
I’ve spent the past year of my life away from Abington Heights in Boston, Massachusetts. I have loved every second of my time up north. I have just gone through the exact same scenario that the students in front of me are going to face in the coming months. My parents endured the challenges of sending their child away out of the home for the first time. Come August they will be sending two. This is a sentiment shared by just about every family here tonight.
I took a leap of faith by moving away from the family, friends, and community that supported me for my entire life as a Comet, and succeeded mightily. This is in large part to the school that you all are leaving today.
For as much as it is annoying, tedious, and tiring, Abington Heights will forever be one of the best things to ever happen to you. Having compared my experiences against that of thousands of kids from around the country I can promise you that this school has done everything in it’s power to get you prepared for life on your own. You will succeed on the next level, Abington has made sure of it.
The level at which you succeed is up to you. The message I’d like to pass along to the graduates of the Class of 2014 is simple. Get used to change. Nothing will ever follow the plan you set out. And this is a far better thing than you think it is.
I was set to jog my way up to Mrs. Murray last year to grab my diploma. I did not get a chance to do that. Instead I was back to the wheelchair I have fought my way out of plenty of times. My plans changed significantly. By being willing to accept the change and continue to push forward I was able to have a flawless freshman year and change my life forever. You can do the exact same.
You are about to move out of your home into a brand new world. You are going to be taking classes that you will have never heard of. You will no longer be around the same people you’ve known since your infancy. These are just a few changes you will encounter.
Changer will define your life for the next few months. Years even. You will change your personality. You might change your major. You will change your entire life. This is an amazing thing.
No one knows who they are at 17 or 18 years old. I’m turning 20 in August and I’m a globally different person than I was at 17. I’m also happier.
Take chances. Talk to people. Have the initiative to get your name into the world. Listen to new music. Watch new shows. Eat new flavors of Oreos. Do not be afraid of the changes. Let them in. Let your life and mind grow and evolve. I’m proof that this is a successful strategy.
I want to take a second to thank the community of Abington Heights for giving me the confidence to do anything I want to do with my life. It’s a large reason that I can live my dream that I know there are hundreds of people back home in Clarks Summit behind me. They’re behind you too. Make them proud.
Anything can happen to you in the future. I’m excited to see where all of you go and who you all become. I hope you are as well.
Ladies and gentlemen I thank you for your time and attention. Graduates, I thank you all for your kindness and support over the past few years. Again, you are the reason I have been able to become the man I have always wanted to be. I hope that I can help you all get there too. Thank you and congratulations.
Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.