WELLSBURG - Courage was a recurring theme among those who spoke at Brooke High School's 42nd annual commencement exercise May 26, with speakers drawing upon the wisdom of English prime minister Winston Churchill, Kermit the Frog and others, including a Brooke High School alumnus who fought bravely in the face of both war and disease.
Jacob Robey, the Class of 2011's valedictorian, noted Theodore Roosevelt said, "Some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them."
But Robey said he believes everyone can achieve greatness if they have the courage to pursue it.
LOOKING?AHEAD — Samantha Alkire was among several Brooke High School graduating seniors who reflected on the need to have courage in living one’s life to the fullest during the school’s 42nd annual commencement program.
Noting that Shakespeare wrote that "All the world's a stage and men and women merely players in it," Robey said when we fail, the spotlight may be upon us but the rewards of success are far greater than the risk of failure.
Salutatorian Derek Wayne told his classmates they must have the courage to be what they are meant to be, not what others expect them to be.
He said that can mean stepping outside of one's comfort zone.
Wayne, who with Jacob Harrick was named Most Valuable Player of the school's swim team, said he's told very few people that when he was small, he was terrified of water but he overcame that fear.
He also encouraged his classmates not to give up if they fail initially.
"If you stumble, have courage to get back up and on your feet again," Wayne advised.
Graduating senior Samantha Alkire noted Churchill said, "Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others."
Alkire said the world after high school can be a scary one but the graduates' education has prepared them well for the future.
Fellow graduate Alexis Haught said courage can be picking yourself up after a disaster or admitting you're wrong following a fight with a friend.
She added it takes courage to choose one's path in life and courage also to embark on a new one when circumstances call for a change.
Haught encouraged her classmates to try new things and to offer encouragement to their peers, as their parents had encouraged them through school.
"A little encouragement goes a long way," she said.
Graduating senior Lauren Sole encouraged her classmates to look back on their past accomplishments while setting their future goals and pursue them with courage.
Fellow graduate Taylor Stuck advised them not to be discouraged by failure. She noted basketball star Michael Jordan didn't make the basketball team the first time he tried out for his high school basketball team in Wilmington, N.C.
"We must all lean on our faith, whatever it is, to have the courage to follow our paths," she said.
Stuck quoted Kermit the Frog, from "Wisdom From It's Not Easy Being Green And Other Things to Consider,": "As you start traveling down that road of life, remember this: There are never enough comfort stops. The places you're going to are never on the map. And once you get that map out, you won't be able to refold it no matter how smart you are.
"So forget the map, roll down the windows, and whenever you can, pull over and have a picnic with a pig."
Toni Shute, the school's principal, quoted author C.S. Lewis, who said, Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."
She said, "The ultimate act of bravery is not on the battlefield but in your heart when have the courage to follow your conscience. Go take a leap and have the courage to be yourself."
Kathy Kidder, in her first commencement address as Brooke County's superintendent of schools, offered the advice of her former student, Joseph Cullinan.
A 1997 Brooke graduate and captain with the West Virginia Army National Guard, Cullinan logged 540 hours of combat flights and was involved in rescuing five U.S. soldiers, for which he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal of Valor.
After returning to the U.S., he became an assistant military science professor and ROTC instructor at West Virginia University but lost a battle to cancer on May 4 at the age of 32.
Kidder shared a list of Cullinan's own rules of life, which he had given to his sister.
Cullinan's many pieces of advice included doing something kind for someone every day, being "kind to your body," laughing "with all of your heart and soul," being "proud of your country even when you disagree with its government," telling loved ones you love them and hugging them often, and being proud of your accomplishments.
Cullinan also encouraged everyone to enjoy such pleasures as a funny movie or shopping for new clothes and finally, to "Enjoy life. Every day on this earth is a gift. You never know when you will be called."
Also participating in the commencement were Brent Kimball, senior members of the school's madrigal choir and members of the band's brass section, who provided music; Junior Class Vice President Rachel Richard, who delivered the welcome; Kayla Waite, who offered closing remarks; and the Brooke County school board and the school's assistant principals, who presented the diplomas.