|Dr. Michael Gardner||Dr. Mark Cohen|
|2008 - 2013||2013-2016|
“Our mascot is a Phoenix, and many ancient civilizations had some variant on the theme of a bird being reborn in flames. There is even greater meaning, however, if we just look a little deeper.
First, the symbol of the Phoenix is a reminder that all things must come to an end. No one here can hold on to something or someone forever. Ceremonies like this are just one example of an end- today you have reached the conclusion of your high school career.
As you get older, you will have days that stand out in your memory as the best days of your life. Perhaps it will be the accomplishment of a lifelong dream, your wedding day, or the birth of your children. These times will be incredible, but they will not last. It is important to learn to be present and enjoy these moments as they happen. They go by so very quickly.
Just as your good days must have an end, so will your bad days. You will face setbacks in life. You will face pain. These days, too, will end. While the end of good times may make us unhappy, the ending of sad times brings hope. Tony Dungy, former coach of the Indianapolis Colts, said, “When a game ends, win or lose, it is time to prepare for the next one.” To be a Phoenix is to know all things end, to be thankful for the good times, and optimistic when things aren’t the way we want them to be.
As Phoenix, we also set our accomplishments on fire to remind us we cannot rest on our laurels. Yesterday’s victories don’t matter. Neither do yesterday’s defeats. Every day there lies in front of us important work to be done. We must be prepared to be our best selves, and put in our best effort. There is an old African proverb about a lion and a gazelle that illustrates this point. Every morning in Africa, the gazelle wakes up and knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it may be killed. Every morning the lion wakes up and knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it may starve to death. It doesn’t matter how fast the lion or gazelle were yesterday. In order to make it through today, both animals had better be running.
Finally, a Phoenix moves on from the past and looks forward. One way to do this is to forgive others, and ourselves, of the errors of the past. Just as we let go of the accomplishments of yesterday, we must also let go of yesterday’s anger. Holding a grudge will not make you strong, instead it makes you bitter. Demonstrating forgiveness doesn’t make you weak, it sets you free. Everyone deserves the peace that comes from letting go of negativity.
Graduates, as you continue along life’s journey, take these lessons learned from your time as a Phoenix with you wherever you go. Be thankful for all of the good things in life, and have faith in the future when you find yourself struggling. Be mindful that no defeat is ever permanent and no victory is ever final. Remember that no good is served from looking backwards in life. You should not dwell on the achievements, or losses, or wrongs of the past, but instead put all of your efforts into moving forward and focusing on what’s next.”