When Hiland High School valedictorian Robert Beachy launched into Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, it took only a few lines before realizing it was not the graduation speech he was to deliver Sunday to his fellow seniors.
"Wrong speech," he said, shuffling the papers atop the podium and refocusing on the event at hand … "Graduation."
"It looks like we made it. I never doubted we would, it just always was so far in the distant future," he said of the moment that had finally come to fruition.
Thus said, Beachy took a moment to recall some of the shared memories of a class:
Stealing "Big Red from (Don) Blanchard's desk;
Going to someone's house with intentions of studying and never opening a book;
Breakfasts on Tuesdays;
Road trips to away games.
"We've had some good times, we've formed some great friendships. It's hard not to do. We've done everything for the last 12 years, some for the last 18 years, together," he said. "Graduation is not the end, it's the beginning.
"We're ready, class of 2012, to take on the world," he said, crediting not only his fellow students for trying and succeeding, but thanking the teachers who cared enough to push them to learn. He thanked the teachers who taught them that what wasn't taught in class would most likely be on the test, about financial statements and how they can "ruin a good game of Monopoly," and about life, figuratively and literally.
He thanked the teachers, he thanked the kitchen staff, he thanked the custodians, the parents and the community.
And despite the uncertainty of all the students' futures, he said, they share a common goal -- a desire to succeed. And, while Beachy said he had no more wisdom on the matter than anyone else, "If you believe in the Gospel and have faith in God, you have nothing to worry about.
"The only way we can truly be successful is to find our calling," he said. "I admonish you to find your calling, and just live."
As did Beachy, salutatorian Sarah Millage congratulated her fellow students for reaching graduation. "We did it," she said, noting their achievement would not have been possible without the support of many -- teachers, family and friends.
It was to Winston Churchill, who as the British prime minister during World War II, she turned to offer words of encouragement to her fellow graduates.
In the words of Churchill, Millage said, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
In applying that to the lives of her peers, she said, "Never stop. ... Always push yourself."
Again citing Churchill, Millage said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
"It's the half-full or half empty glass," Millage said, relating it to more contemporary phrasology, encouraging her classmates to "keep positive in your outlook on life" because "it will take you far in life."
Finally, she referred to Churchill's saying, "Never, never, never, never give up," adding, "Never give in, never give in. never give in."
"Never stop persevering. Always do your best, and I know we can succeed," Millage said.
The Hiland High School class of 2012 had 63 students. The class colors were red and clack and the class flower was the white rose.
The class motto was taken from Jeremiah 29;11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hop and a future.'"
Also addressing the class were Bria Coil who gave the welcome; Cameron Miller, who gave the benediction and Kammi Yoder, who gave the benediction. The senior soloist was Mason Yoder, who sang, "In My Life," by The Beatles.
Reporter Christine L. Pratt can be reached by 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.