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16,400

Salutatorian Leah Williams' speech given at the Oconee County High School graduation on May 22.

16,400.  This number represents the number of hours that we, as the Class of 2011, have spent in school since Kindergarten.  In hour one, our parents held our hands as we fearfully entered the halls of a brand new world.  We played name games and moved restlessly during nap time.  As we continued in the process of furthering our education, we struggled with the concepts of addition and multiplication, and we were overjoyed by the achievement of spelling words such as “curtain,” and “macaroni.”  We spent many hours on the swings, sports fields, and sand box – searching for buried treasures.  As we began to grow, we realized that the hours that we spent in school were starting to pass by quicker and quicker.  By fifth grade, we were already eager to grow up.  We could not wait until middle school! 

After nearly 7, 500 hours in elementary school, we moved up to the big world of middle schoolers!  I remember having nightmares about the prospect of getting lost on my first day, fearful of being unable to find my classes.  But as we entered the school, we were fine.  The idea of having a locker all to ourselves instilled a sense of excitement and maturity in us.  We began to build a sense of accomplishment in our activities.  We designed our own rockets and were able to be a part of something larger.  For some, that meant playing football or basketball or cheerleading, but for me, it meant band.  When I first learned to play a B flat note on my flute, I was captivated.  The ability to take an inanimate object and make life out of it astonished me.  I soon learned that everything that I did took work to improve.  In order to do well on a test, I had to study.  In order to get better at playing my flute or mandolin, I had to practice.  In order to keep my room clean, I had to clean it.  As Leonardo da Vinci stated, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” The simple aspects of life require intense devotion and hard work.

Thee years of sweating in P.E., dissecting fish in science class, and reading every Chronicles of Narnia book in middle school came to an end and we were up to roughly 11,000 hours spent in school.  That meant that we only had 5, 000 hours left- not that any of us were counting.  We went from being the top-dawgs in the middle school to being the low ones on the totem pole the minute we walked into high school.  We soon learned that everything that we did had a consequence.  We endured moments of frustration often followed by moments of excitement.  From time spent Friday nights at football games, to hours spent in driver’s ed, we strived to make the most our high school career.  Many of us endured losses and learned to grow.  From our mistakes, we learned what to do in order to be successful.  Although we often complained about the stresses of high school, we never thought that the day when we no longer would roam the halls of would arrive.  Surprisingly, the day came quicker than any of us could imagine: the day when we, like birds ready to fly, will leave the security of our parent’s home and begin our own independent lives.  That day is today.

So, as we sit here in our gap and gown, in our final hour of grade school, we must not focus on the present time.  Don’t bother planning out every step that you will take in the next few years.  Let life come at you as it pleases.  Enjoy your time and don’t let too many hours go to waste.  Good luck to everyone!  As Mark Twain once said, “Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.”  Congratulations !

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