'Be grateful': Vickrey offers advice to Vermillion graduates by David Lias Barry Vickrey, dean of The University of South Dakota School of Law, shared various tidbits of advice � some good, some bad, some humorous � with graduating seniors of Vermillion High School.
Vickrey shared quotes from the likes of Emerson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, and Twain, Bombeck and Miss Piggy.
Near the end of his keynote speech to the class, presented at Sunday's commencement exercises in Slagle Auditorium at USD, he injected a bit of personal, serious wisdom.
"I would like to offer you a little bit of my own advice. It is simple, and not nearly as profound as what I've quoted from others, but I hope you will still give it some consideration," Vickrey said. "My advice is just two words: Be grateful."
He noted that the American culture today glorifies the individual, placing so much emphasis on individual achievement that it is easy for people to believe that they are self-made men or women.
"Certainly all of you who graduate today are entitled to feel that you have made significant individual achievements," Vickrey said. "But none of you, none of us, has done it without the help of others."
He urged graduates to always remember what their parents or other family members have done to help them get through childhood diseases, the emotional trauma of adolescence and to support them as they have pursued their education.
He added that graduates should also always keep in mind the roles that teachers have played in their lives.
"They challenged you to do your best and comforted you when you did not," he said.
Vickrey urged the class to express their gratitude to everyone, from school secretaries and custodians, to pastors, Scout leaders and coaches who helped make them part of a larger community than their immediate families.
He also emphasized the fact that, no matter what challenges the future may bring to the graduates, they will be able to overcome them with the help of others.
"I trust that you will overcome the problems that you face no matter how big or complicated. I urge you, however, not to rely entirely on yourselves when you face problems," Vickrey said. "You will be much more likely to overcome them when you accept the help that your families, your friends and others can provide."
Trust does not correlate to age, race or gender he added, but to the quality of the character of each person.
"I believe that you will find that the kindnesses you pay others will be repaid over and over again," Vickrey said. "One of the most important things in real life is honesty. You will find some people in real life who will try to fake it, but they will usually fail."
Students address classmates
The graduates also heard comments from classmates selected to address the commencement audience.
"I know it seems to have taken forever for us to have gotten to this point, yet when we look back, we ask ourselves, 'How did those years go by so quickly?'" said Tabitha Hubert, co-president of the senior class. "As seniors, we didn't realize how quickly we were growing up and moving on.
"As we look around today, we begin to realize that we may never see half of these people again," she added. "We thank you for helping us get this�far and for sharing this special day with us."
Elly Kjose, senior class co-president, talked about her memories of playing games at recess with her friends as a young child. Conflicts on the playground were settled very simply, she noted. "We called a do-over. It was that simple.
"What a great concept," she added. "I want to call a do over. I want to go back and do it all over again. But this time, I will do it better. I will do it right. I will never say one mean thing to anyone about anyone. I would study for those ACTs."
Sunday afternoon, Kjose said, likely would be the last time that the entire class of 2001 would be together.
"After today, we part our ways and we move on. Some of us will go far away, some us will stay close by, but the game that kept everyone of us together for so long is coming to an end," she said.
Laura Wilson, student council president, noted that society gives the message that success is money, comfort, and piles and piles of stuff.
She noted that Ralph Waldo Emerson thought differently.
He said that to laugh often in life, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to learn to appreciation of honest critics and to deal with the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in the others, to leave the world a bit better, this is to have success, Wilson said.
The Vermillion class of 2001 has an uncommon opportunity to be successful, Wilson said, "because we come from a community that is caring, and a land of opportunity.
"Starting today, we have to the opportunity not to only better our own lives, but to help make the world a place of understanding, prosperity and peace for all the world's citizens," she added.
"Everyone today gets to start with a clean slate. Nothing can hold us back, and no one can stand in our way," said Sarah Mollet, student council president. "We have the ability to put ourselves out there in the world, and see what we can do.
She encouraged her classmates to always believe in themselves.
"Never forget where you came from and who are your friends. Never remember the things that make you feel like less than a person. They don't matter anyway. Always know exactly where you are, and never exactly where you are going, because the road you pick to get there is what really matters. Your life is your own. Make it amazing."