'The Middle' Jacque Smidt, with diploma in hand, races down the steps of Slagle Auditorium to receive congratulations from a classmate following Sunday's commencement exercises. By David Lias Beginnings and endings.
Those are the usual topics of commencement speeches, said Douglas Peterson, an assistant professor of psychology at The University of South Dakota and the keynote speaker at Sunday�s Vermillion High School graduation ceremonies.
�What I want to talk to about is much more important. I want to talk to you about what�s in between � the middle,� he said.
One could argue that the new graduates, having freshly cleared a major hurdle, are moving closer to the �middle� of their life experiences.
�The middle,� Peterson said, gets a bad a rap from American society.
�We talk about things like a mid-life crisis, or mid-sized autmobiles, or middle school or the 180 miles between Mitchell and Kadoka,� he said.
Peterson asked students to remember how the middle makes an important difference.
�Remember that mountain climbers, when they reach the summit, the peak of the mountain, it�s not at the end of their journey, it�s at the middle,� he said. �The reward of the summit happens at the middle.�
The middle determines what type of sandwich one is about to eat, and it�s also the best part of an Oreo cookie.
He warned the graduates that the middle is also difficult and challenging.
�Motivation tends to fall off and diminish near the middle of your journey,� Peterson said. �In the beginning, you are filled with anticipation and excitement for what�s to come, and it pushes you to go, and in the end, you�re so close to your goal you can see it, and you�re pulled to that culminating event.
�But in the middle, you have nothing to drive you but your determination; your own will,� he said.
As members of the Class of 2005 reach the middle of their life�s journey, many of them may be presented with opportunities that might change their world.
�I say might because it�s up to you,� Peterson said. �You�re not an observer here; you�re a player, you�re in the game. You have to decide what you are going to do in that second half.
�It�s about responding to
the big things, and the little things and everything in between,� he said.
Peterson reminded the students that they won�t be changed by receiving a high school diploma that afternoon.
�But how you feel and how you act and how you think about receiving a high school diploma will,� he said. �An education is just like everything else in the middle. It requires you to act to receive the fullness of its benefits.�
Annie Carlson, one of five members of Vermillion High School�s Class of 2005 who spoke at Sunday�s commencement exercises, summed up her classmates� feelings well.
�Sitting here today, most of us are a little scared and nervous, because we don�t really know what�s coming next in our lives,� she said.
�It�s difficult for me to comprehend that in a few minutes we will no longer be VHS seniors, but VHS alumni,� added Michelle Rydell, who spoke following a musical selection performed by the graduating seniors. �Growing with all of you in knowledge and friendship for the past four years has truly been an honor. Every day, I�m amazed by the abundant talents that our class possesses.�
She urged her classmates to utilize the gifts they have given through the years through the help of their teachers, parents and peers. �We need to remember that how we use those talents which we�ve developed can show what kind of a person we are,� Rydell said.
�Never sell yourselves short,� student speaker Chris Jensen told his classmates. �I�ve seen what you guys can do; you set huge goals for yourselves and you always meet them.�
He also urged the Class of 2005 to always remember all of the great things they�ve learned at Vermillion High School.
�I also want you to never live in the past, but always learn from it, because we always have those bad days,� he said.
Jensen also thanked his fellow classmates for the wonderful memories. �I�m proud to be graduating with you ? you open your minds to everything you see � to new ideas, to new students and to new cultures. You let them become a part of your life.�
�You should take a look back at what your priorities when you were younger, and what they are now, and then establish a set of priorities that best fit you and those you love,� student representative Matt Preszler said.
He urged his classmates to establish who is important, to establish what they enjoy to do, and to establish morals.
�I believe if we do this, we will set a precedent that will make us successful in all facets of our lives,� Preszler said.
He encouraged his classmates to strive to meet their full potential, and to also listen to advice offered by families, friends, teachers and parents.
�Step out of your comfort zone, and try new things,� Preszler said. �Take risks and jump out of your shells. Great things can happen as result. Start small and gradually move forward and you�ll see yourself develop into a person you really love and enjoy.�
�The unique people and situations that we�ve all dealt with for the past four years are truly accomplishments to be proud of,� Jacque Smidt, vice president of the senior class, said at the close of the commencement ceremony. �Please remember to never give up by letting others hold you down. Be everything you want to be because you all have the potential to be anything you want to be.�