Bedard tells Class of 2003… Knowledge is key to deal with future uncertainties

Bedard tells Class of 2003… Knowledge is key to deal with future uncertainties Vermillion High School graduate Kayla Nelson receives a congratulatory hug following commencement exercises Sunday in Slagle Auditorium on the campus of USD. by David Lias The keynote speaker at Sunday's Vermillion High School commencement exercises told graduates that knowledge will help them deal with future challenges.

"The instrument of choice in dealing with uncertainty, and all of the fears it generates, is knowledge," said Dr. Brian Bedard, chairman of the English department at The University of South Dakota.

He told the audience gathered at in Slagle Auditorium on the USD campus that knowledge comes in many forms and in many sources. It's not limited simply to the classroom.

"You already possess a body of knowledge as valuable as the knowledge symbolized by your transcript, your GPA, your bookshelves, and your academic awards. To find these treasures, you need only look back into the past to find the resources you'll need for survival and success in the future," he said.

Vermillion High School's graduating seniors have learned human virtues simply by being a part of the community, Bedard said.

"You have learned them first and foremost in the families and homes you have grown up in," he said. "You have learned them in the lifelong struggles and achievements of your parents and grandparents, and in the sacrifices they have made for others, without pause or question, day in and day out, year in and year out.

"You have learned them in pain, suffering and deaths of family members and close friends. You have learned them in the service and repair bays at Bob's Amoco, in the late-night mopping of the Dairy Queen floor, and the two hours of homework you had to do when you got home," Bedard said. "You have learned them in the coolers and checkstands of Hy-Vee, in the fields and barns of your family farms, in the volunteer work you have done for hospitals and nursing homes. You have learned them on the basketball court, and on the auditorium stage."

VHS graduates have learned about life in their moments of glory, and in their moments of defeat, both public and private, he said.

"And you have learned them on those gray, rainy Tuesdays, when you felt like a no one, and a nothing," he said. "You have been learning these things your entire life, whether you recognize learning or not. They are the classes you have taken in living."

Bedard talked about the Vermillion Tanager football team's remarkable showing against a much larger and stronger team from Lennox last fall.

"This was not done with a playbook. It was done with pure courage and determination rarely seen at the high school level. In my eyes, it was an achievement on a par with winning a state championship, because of what it said about the young men who performed it," he said.

The spirit of the town of Vermillion was present at the game, Bedard said. "This is the spirit you have absorbed in your daily lives, and the spirit you will be compelled to call upon in the future � not in sports, but in life," he said. "This goes for all of you, and it can sustain all of you if you remember that you have Vermillion in the blood."

"Each and every one of us are proud of our accomplishments, and we owe a great deal of gratitude to our families and the dedicated staff at VHS," said Carly Bernard, student council treasurer, in the commencement ceremony's opening remarks. "This celebration marks the end of one chapter and prepares us for many to follow."

"Remember everything that we have accomplished while at VHS, because what we have done has far outnumbered the seconds that have elapsed

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while we we've been here," said Michele Morse, senior class representative.

Morse drew rounds of laughter from the audience when she predicted the fate of her classmates.

"In our midst, I see the first U.S. president from South Dakota. I see a professional football player, a renowned humanitarian, NASCAR pit crew members, a band teacher, a Nobel Prize winning author, a Harvard graduate, and a whole lot of psychologists.

"I know our class. I know we have more than potential," she said. "We have drive. We know how to do things, and thanks to our teachers, we know how to do them well."

Rob Schaack, senior class vice president, told a tale of two mice that fell into a bucket of cream.

"The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn't quit, though. He struggled so hard, that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out," he said. "As of this moment, we the class of 2003, are that mouse."

The mouse that survived had a goal, Schaack said. "Now it's our time to set new goals � goals and dreams that not only we have, but those our loved ones have for us."

He told his classmates to remember they aren't setting future goals for themselves, or accomplishing them on their own.

"There has always been, and will always be, someone behind us, pushing us toward our dreams," he said. "Through our efforts, and the support of those who care for us, our dreams can be our reality."

"Education is a priceless gift. May you always possess it, and may it always possess you," said Varsha Ramakrishnan, senior class president.

Ramakrishnan didn't pretend to possess a wealth of knowledge to share with her classmates.

"I can't tell you all how to live your lives, and even if I could, I really wouldn't want to. I can't give you any advice, because I'm traveling down this path simultaneously," she said. "I don't have the 20/20 vision of hindsight, so I can't share any jewels of wisdom. All I can do is wish you luck."

Ramakrishnan hopes her classmates have bright futures, but also learn the lessons that life will bring them.

"Good luck, but not the best of luck, because if you have the best of luck, you wouldn't recognize or appreciate the the good moments when they come," she said.

"I've watched many of these graduating seniors, including my own daughter Megan, move through the Vermillion Public School system for the past 12 years, so this ceremony has a great deal of personal significance for me," Bedard said. "It is truly an uplifting sight to see all of you gathered together in the Tanager red solidarity of this moment, and I urge you to treasure that oneness. At the speed we are traveling these days, such occurrences are rare."

Bedard said he agrees with the common wisdom of the day, which stresses the idea that the password of the future is change.

He also said that change is given an added bite becuase of speed.

"It is relatively safe to say that the changes you are about to encounter as the adults of the near future are going to be mind-boggling. They will occur with greater speeds than ever before," he said.

Bedard said there will be ever-quickening jolts and explosions in economic science, politics, religion and many other areas.

"Then, to make matters even more difficult, we must add change's twin brother, uncertainty, to the mix. Now you have a truly formidable opponent to face," he said. "And if you aren't sure what uncertainty can mean at its most formidable level, or how widespread it can be, you need look no further than Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City, and its aftermath."

Bedard looked upon the rows of graduates, dressed in bright red caps and gowns.

"Some of you are destined to become leaders � persons in positions of power," he said. "I hope you will always keep in mind that one of the keys to being a true professional in any field is to never forget what it feels like to be an amateur or a beginner."

Thomas Dendinger, student council president, told his classmates to follow their dreams and not become discouraged.

"When someone tells you your dream will never happen, or it's impossible, take it not to heart," he said. "Rather see it as a challenge and prove them wrong."

The Wright Brothers proved naysayers were wrong when their airplane took off at Kitty Hawk a century ago, he said. Magellan, in defiance of his church, set sail to circumnavigate the globe, despite the common belief at the time that the world was flat.

"Following a dream is never easy. Every one of these people failed for many times before having any glimmer of progress, and all of them, at one point, thought that what they were chasing was a foolish and impossible dream," Dendinger said. "Despite seemingly insurmountable challenges, what made them different is they never gave up.

"You cannot simply follow your dreams, you must hunt them down and beat them mercilessly into submission," he said. "For what life is really about is feeling someone pushing you from behind, and realizing that someone is you."

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