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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 25, 2006

Graduates, you are now ready to go forth

By Betty White

For the high school graduates of the Class of 2006, it is a time for great personal joy and pride in the milestone they have reached. And, for parents, family, friends, teachers and the community, it is a time to share in the celebration of their accomplishments and aspirations.

We live in interesting, yet very disturbing, times. Today, here in Honolulu, we share in the prosperity of a high standard of living with a beautiful world at one's fingertips.

But with a push on the remote channel changer, we are transported to war, hunger, poverty, despair and anguish. We know that a child born in the United States has a life expectancy of 78.6 years and a child born in Sierra Leone has a life expectancy of 38 years.

In some African nations, 40 percent of the people are HIV-positive, a situation perpetuated by the absence of affordable medications and a suitable health infrastructure. In approximately one-third of the world's nations, less than 50 percent of the women can read and write. Our 2006 graduates are among the world's elite, where elsewhere less than 40 percent have a high school diploma and even far fewer in number have a degree in higher education.

For Hawai'i's 2006 high school graduates, there is a sense of poise and determination that will help them succeed in the world they are about to enter. They stand tall and are resilient and talented. Many have developed an inner strength by helping less fortunate people in their Island communities through their volunteerism in high school.

For the past four years, their teachers, families and friends have helped them to stay the course through both good and difficult times; through poor judgments, anger and disappointments, as well as success; and through physical ailments and disagreements, learning day by day that a better tomorrow was always on the horizon.

Now they are prepared to make a difference in the world as local and as global citizens. Our fervent hope is that some will be investigating the cure for diseases, some reaching out to space exploration, some solving energy and environmental issues, some helping feed the hungry and caring for others and that all will strive to be conscientious and honorable employees who will build the foundations for strong and loving families.

Our graduates have been put through the academic paces and they have labored through Shakespeare's dreams, Emily Dickinson's poetry, Euclid's geometry and the mathematical principles and physical laws of Newton and Einstein. They have studied the Constitution and learned foreign languages. They are the heirs to a wonderful and fabulous cultural heritage founded upon the wisdom of our country's forefathers and the wisdom taught by Hawai'i's history.

In the magic of their special graduation day, let us celebrate with our graduates the love of their family. Many of them are thinking about leaving home, being on their own, but at some time, contrary to what Thomas Wolfe has written, they can come home again and they will want to do so.

Celebrate their teachers and the schools that have provided them with outstanding academic, athletic and artistic opportunities while encouraging their independence, confidence, leadership and spiritual growth.

Celebrate all they have accomplished both individually and collectively. They are extraordinary young men and women who have won trophies in team competitions; recognition at forensics festivals; medals at math meets, and national recognition on standardized tests. Their thoughts and ideas have been published, and their musical and artistic talents applauded. Their labors have earned them a high school diploma, and for many, they have been admitted to many outstanding institutions of higher education. They, indeed, have earned the right to be proud.

Finally, celebrate the precious gifts of caring, loving and learning that they bring to their graduation ceremonies. And, may they always listen and think with their heads and their hearts and in all their endeavors, yield to the passion of their hearts and souls. May they sing with all the strength in their lungs and listen with a joy that knows no bounds. May they always focus on their fellow human beings and give of their talents to others and touch others' lives by sharing their gifts with them. Even now, on their happy day of graduation, may they think constantly about what they can give back, especially to their country, their church, their family, their friends and their God.

With their eyes on the future, let us encourage our 2006 graduates to take some time to reflect on the school communities of which they have been a part and take with them the enduring friendships they have made with their classmates, teammates, fellow performers and teachers. May they carry these memories with them in their hearts and in quiet moments, re-create similar communities of faith and love wherever they go by taking the spirit of their school in their backpacks and in their hearts.

Godspeed to our 2006 graduates as we send them into the world with our best wishes, our deep admiration, our heartfelt mahalo and our fondest aloha.

Betty White is principal of Sacred Hearts Academy, an all-girls school in Kaimuki. She wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.