CAIRO HIGH SCHOOL Valedictorian Ian Batey spoke to his classmates and the large crowd of family and friends of the Class of 2019 on Friday night.
It may have been one of the warmest evenings of the year, but that did not deter family and friends of the Cairo High School Class of 2019 from coming out Friday night to witness the annual CHS commencement exercises at West Thomas Stadium.
A total of 277 seniors earned the right to turn their tassels and receive their high school diplomas last week. The west stands of the stadium were packed and a large number of spectators partially filled the seats in the stadium’s north end zone.
“It was a great evening for our graduates and we appreciate the large crowd that came out in support of our seniors,” CHS Principal Chris Lokey said.
Joining the Class of 2019 on the field were members of the Grady County Board of Education, Grady County School Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard and members of the CHS faculty.
Dr. Gilliard quoted the late Dr. M.L. King Jr. in his remarks Friday night.
“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve… You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love,” Dr. King once said, according to Dr. Gilliard.
Before declaring the 277 members of the Class of 2019 as graduates of Cairo High School, Dr. Gilliard said, “I hope that each of our graduates tonight has a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love so that they are ready and willing to serve our community, our state, and our nation as they enter the next chapter of their life.”
Student Council President Jalyn Ross called the class to order and Senior Class President Dakota Daniel introduced special guests. Daniel also recognized Senior Class Vice President Iris Brimm, Secretary Sierra Rosencrantz, and Treasurer Taylor Maige.
A moment of silence was also observed in memory of classmates who are deceased including Cameron Wooten and Emily Trejo.
In presenting his remarks, Salutatorian Thomas Myron Jones, son of Teresa and Myron Jones, acknowledged the impact of all of those in the stadium Friday night on the lives of the members of the graduating class of 2019.
“On the field, there are mentors who have guided us in academics, in the stands, there are people who have influenced our character, and before you, sitting in caps and gowns is the future. Future doctors, lawyers, nurses, electricians, farmers, and bankers, but none of us have reached these goals yet. It has taken resilience to get thus far, but this end is merely the beginning of our journeys,” Jones said.
In preparing for his address, Jones admitted he had difficulty deciding just what he would say.
“Honestly, I had no idea what I was going to talk about at graduation and what perspective I was going to take, so I began looking for inspiration. The first place I looked at was my old literary works and quickly came to the conclusion that a rhetorical analysis of Ozymandias isn’t the best reflection of high school, so instead, I turned to my old yearbooks. Flipping through the pages, I relived the experiences of high school and reflected upon the progression of our character. Oh, how scared we were to transition from middle school to high school in the fear of being shoved into lockers. However, we quickly learned that these fears had no precedent and continued on our Syrupmaker journey enjoying traditions like Friday Nights, Pep Rallies, and The Alma Mater.”
The salutatorian continued, “However, not all of these experiences were positive in nature, and there were trials we had to overcome and to even be able to walk across this stage and receive a diploma is a major accomplishment, symbolizing our entire academic journey in one smooth motion.”
Jones declared to his classmates that their journey is not over yet.
“Cairo High School has developed us into our own individuals through the guidance of mentors and has equipped us with the knowledge to be successful. Now it is up to our own accord to use these skills to the best of our ability,” he said.
“In the future, there will inevitably be obstacles. In these hard times, I hope our memories will turn back to Cairo High School and all the joyous times we had and that you may be comforted in knowing that there are individuals that support you and as long as we retain our integrity, character, and dedication that Cairo High School has taught us, we can overcome any hurdle,” the salutatorian remarked.
In closing, he said, “After we leave, we will scatter into all directions and may you carry the Syrupmaker pride and tradition in your hearts, so that people have to take notice that the finest young people in the world are no longer bound to halls, but are being productive citizens.”
Jones has plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall and pursue a degree in biological science.
Valedictorian Ian Batey told his classmates and the overflow crowd at West Thomas Stadium Friday night that the Class of 2019 had completed the 12 years of government mandated education and now they would be entering the fabled “real world.”
“Our country, and world, are undergoing tremendous changes. Just look back to third grade when your teachers made you do your math without a calculator because no one carried around a calculator in their pocket in the “real world”. They also told us never to talk to strangers on the internet or to get into a stranger’s car. Well, now I have a button on my cellular pocket calculator that summons a stranger from the internet for the express purpose of getting into his car,” Batey said.
In addition to a changing world, the valedictorian noted that the lives of the graduating class are also changing.
“Nevertheless, all these changes will be good because they will eventually turn us into ‘adults,’” he said.
Batey went on to say, “Personally, my favorite change will be the ability to CHOOSE what I want to do. In a couple weeks, my mom won’t be able stop me from going on a sodium filled 30-day Ramen binge, but she won’t be able to stop my kidneys from failing either. From now on, our choices will be our own, and the consequences to match them. Every person has a choice to make on what mix of freedom and security they are comfortable with.”
“It is impossible to have absolute security without having no freedom and on the other hand it is impossible to have absolute freedom without having a lack of security. Living in solitary confinement is as close to absolute security as we can get, but I think we can all agree the costs far outweigh the rewards. Then, on the other end of the spectrum is Forrest Gump on his run across America. Forrest didn’t answer to anyone, and could go anywhere he wanted, but he also went weeks without a bath, slept in the middle of nowhere, could have starved, caught diseases, been attacked by dogs, bears, or wolves, and honestly the only reason Forrest did survive is because the movie had to be more than an hour long,” Batey said.
The valedictorian wondered aloud who among the class may be entrepreneurs like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.
“Who is willing to sacrifice the security of a monthly paycheck to have the freedom to choose their own hours and build their own business, but also assume the risk of the failure, working out of your parent’s garage, 100-hour weeks, and little to no pay with no guarantee of success?” Batey asked.
“For the last 12 years, we have been living with the certainty and safety provided by our government sponsored education, but that certainty ends tonight. From now on, Mr. Lokey won’t be there holding your hand and walk you to class, telling you you need two more credits to graduate. There is no more extra credit, redoes, or credit recovery. What you do is your decision and yours alone,” Batey said.
The 2019 valedictorian told his classmates that if his plans for the future do not come to fruition he will simply make new plans and work hard to make them happen.
“No matter what happens to us, we must realize that WE are the ones who hold the ultimate responsibility. If you want the dice to fall a certain way, then YOU have to work, hope, pray, and weigh the dice to make it happen. From now on, your actions or lack thereof will hold consequences. No one but your mom will tell you to file your taxes, but if you don’t, the government will take away the freedom that you apparently cannot handle,” Batey said.
In conclusion, Batey said he hoped the years the Class of 2019 had spent at CHS had been good ones, but he adamantly said he did not hope that these were the best four years of their lives.
“There is so much more to look forward to in life than pep rallies and lunch in the commons. This freedom and uncertainty that we are about to experience has the potential for great failure, but even greater success, and personally, I’m looking forward to rolling the dice,” he said.
Batey, who was also STAR Student, has plans to attend Kansas State University in the fall to pursue a degree in animal science. After college, he says he will pursue a career in ranch management or veterinary science. He is the son of Nadia and Brett Batey.
Principal Lokey also gave special recognition to the members of the CHS faculty who are retiring at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 school term. Among those retirees are Kathy Hill – 29.5 years service; David Strickland – 32 years service; Rosa Langmaid – 20 years service; and Debbie Childs – 23 years service.
“This graduation honors the skill and teaching ability of our faculty and staff of Cairo High School as well as all educators of Grady County Schools,” Principal Lokey said.