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08 February 2006 @ 06:07 pm
Dr. Connell, Mr. Lee, members of the board of trustees, administrators, faculty, and staff of Moreau Catholic, family, friends, and fellow graduates of the class of 2004,

If you even thought for one moment that I would be afraid to deliver this speech, I am here to tell you now that you were so right.

However, many of you may share my fear, for according to The Book of Lists, people declare fear of public speaking, or glossophobia, as their biggest fear. Mark Twain once said that “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” The ranks of the fearful may seem curious. Harrison Ford may be one of the most successful blockbuster actors of our time, but when faced with a podium, the big fear of the man behind heroic Indiana Jones turns out to be public speaking, not snakes. In the role of President James Marshall in his 1997 film Air Force One, he filmed a scene giving a presidential address, and he was terrified, despite the fact that it was movie. If a fake speech scares Harrison Ford, where does that leave me?

Perhaps you may not share my fear. I’m sure there are other fears that plague us today, fears that range from the common fear of heights to the less common fear of wax statues. We live in a country where it is extremely common to have multiple locks on the door, for fear of anything happening. But there is perhaps one fear that is especially relevant today, that is perhaps the most paralyzing at such a time of celebration, and this is the fear of the future.

Fear of all things new is neophobia, and fear of change is tropophobia. Both are likely to apply at this time of transition in all of our lives. Thirteen of our eighteen or so years of life have been spent in mandatory education. We have seen friends come and go, waiting for our own turn to cross the stage. Now that day has come for us, and our days of mandatory education are over. The options are as numerous as one’s imagination can create. Aside from college, there is marriage, volunteer work, and multitudes of employment opportunities. Despite all the preparation Moreau has given me, I still don’t feel like I know the best path that I should take.

The world today is a complicated state of affairs, filled with increasing tensions and conflicts, but we have been privileged to be able to attend such a school as Moreau. Our families have allowed us all the opportunities possible by sending us there, that we might be able to give something back to those around us. It is something grand we are charged with, the responsibility to better ourselves and others. But how? The task is daunting. We are not so sure of the path to take, and we may hesitate, uncertain.

Fear often follows uncertainty. How do I accomplish my goal? How do I make the right choice? How do I even know what the choice is? We are graduating, becoming adults. We are supposed to let go of the hands of our parents and walk on our own. Is this frightening? Absolutely.

And yet, somehow, we made that transition, that first independent step without that guiding hand. We let go and alarmed our parents by walking on our own. We alarmed them by riding our bikes around. Now we alarm them with driver’s licenses. We find that it is easier to let go of the fear and to be independent. But is that guiding hand still there? Yes, it was in the background, and it will always be. Without the help of those around us, we might never be able to overcome fear. Who do we have to thank? No one knows our deepest fears better than family. They scared away the closet monsters when we were afraid to sleep and kept it a secret that we were afraid of the dark.

They weren’t the only ones to help us overcome our fears, though. Moreau has definitely been a guiding hand in facing another of my fears. I’ve been shy since childhood, meaning that coming to Moreau was not my favorite idea. I came from a public school and knew all of two people, whereas all the other students seemed to know everybody else. I’m sure many of my fellow students felt the same way. But Moreau drew us in, turning us all into integral parts of the Moreau community. It turned into another family, another guiding hand to help us as we grew. We all grew together, and now it’s time to leave this comfort zone. How does one not fear the uncertainty of the future?

Luckily for us, there is always a guiding hand in the background. Along with family and friends, the Moreau Catholic community has welcomed us in and, though it may fade into the background, it does not take its hand away. We have been given the tools and the support necessary to go forward, and now that they trust us to do so, it is time to trust ourselves. When asked why he chose the profession of acting, Harrison Ford answered, “Failure in all other fields.” Success does not mean perfection, and failure does not mean defeat. We are not expected to make all the right decisions. We are expected to make a decision to let go of the fear.

We have worked so hard these past four years, and Moreau has worked hard to bring us to this stage. This is our moment. Cherish it. At this graduation, our class meets as a whole for the last time. It is not a time for fear! Look around. We have become each other’s guiding hands. We are here for each other now, and we will be there for each other in the years to come. Thank you, Moreau Catholic, for this fellowship. It is stronger than fear. My fellow graduates of the class of 2004, I wish you all the best of luck.

Written by Bernadette Valdellon, MCHS Valedictorian of 2004