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SHS class faces ‘challenges, choices’

ADDRESSES 2018 SHS CLASS — Phyllis Speedlin, a former Alikanna resident and Steubenville High School graduate, addressed the graduating Class of 2018 Wednesday at Harding Stadium. -- Amy Neeley

STEUBENVILLE — Phyllis Speedlin spoke to the 2018 graduating class of Steubenville High School, Wednesday about “challenges and choices.”

Speedlin held up a kaleidoscope and explained how it was a metaphor for life. She said the eye piece represented the beginning of your life, the tube represented the middle and the end, “with its rainbow of colors,” is the future.

She told the audience there always will be times when you tell yourself, you’re not good enough.

“You can listen and be discouraged or you can be encouraged,” she said.

As one of five children, her mother raised on a waitress’ salary, Speedlin, who grew up in Alikanna, originally chose to go into nursing after graduating from Steubenville High School. She said she enjoyed helping people and a nursing degree was affordable.

Speedlin volunteered to serve in the Army Corps of Nurses during the Vietnam War.

She later earned her master’s degree in hospital administration, becoming the administrator of the Audie Murphy Veterans’ Administration Hospital.

“I probably never would have gotten out of nursing, but I contracted systemic lumps.” she said.

At that point in her life, Speedlin asked herself what she wanted to do next and law school was the answer, though she was reluctant at first.

“It was 1979 and I thought to myself only guys become lawyers,” she said. “Then I told myself I can do anything I want to.”

Speedlin completed law school and has been an attorney for more than 34 years. She spent 13 of them serving as a judge. She is now a senior associate with Dykema, Cox, Smith, Speedlin.

She is a New York Times best-selling author. In her second year of law school, while raising her two small children, Speedlin wrote “Dear Birth Mother,” a book that helped change the way adoption is handled in the United States.

“In 1983, adoptions were 99 percent closed and now it is the opposite,” she said.

Speedlin told the class that as she now plans her retirement, she still “doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up, and that’s OK. I am ready for the next chapter.”

“When you come to a turn in the road, you can go right or left, it doesn’t really matter. You can make either the best road ever traveled.”

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