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Morris Area seniors receive diplomas

From left are Valedictorian Matthew Cotter, Valedictorian Sarah Kuhn and Salutatorian Rory Anderson. The three seniors presented addresses at Morris Area's Commencement Friday. Photo by Katie Monroe.

MORRIS -- Morris Area High School conferred diplomas on 84 seniors Friday night at the Morris Area Elementary School gym.

Twenty two students received recognition as Honor Students, and Valedictorians Matthew Cotter and Sarah Kuhn and Salutatorian Rory Anderson delivered graduation addresses.

Here are the students' speeches:

Valedictorian Speech

Matthew Cotter

I would like to start by offering some words of thanks. Thank you to all of the people who have devoted their time, efforts, and resources towards making this commencement ceremony possible. Thank you to all the faculty and staff of the Morris Area High School for a wonderful six years. In addition to the strong education and unforgettable experiences I have received, I have been shown great kindness, respect, and sincerity at personal levels. Thank you to my parents and my siblings for their endless encouragement and support and for their undying faith in me. And finally thank you to the graduating class of 2011. I have shared memories with you that I could never forget, and it is with great honor that I address you this evening.

Having shared countless events in our high school career, our class has grown in many ways to become the scholars present this evening. I recall how we started as incoherent first graders attempting to speak Japanese. We were soon confused third graders, unable to comprehend the teachers' euphemisms for the September eleventh attack. Later we became sixth graders fighting our way through the infamous Minnesota History Projects. We graduated from elementary school to become junior high kids envious of the younger children in the brand new building. A few years turned us into ninth graders who were only just beginning to know what responsibility and real work were. Recently we were juniors, excited and empowered with the thought of being upper classmen. Now we are at a commencement ceremony waiting to receive our diplomas.

We have all endured and enjoyed close friendships, persevered through difficult work loads while juggling extracurricular activities, cheered proudly for our teams and classmates in their various areas of success, and, most importantly, been there for each other whenever we were needed.

Many of us have been together for the overwhelming majority of our lifetimes, and now we must begin to look forward. This evening marks the closure of a very long journey for every graduate. It is a very emotional occasion. However, it need not be seen as a means to an end, but as a facilitation of a new beginning. In truth, for many, it is a time of parting - I myself have already shared teary-eyed goodbyes and undoubtedly anticipate more - but we part in the good faith of a bright future and in the optimistic hope of reunion. I hope everyone takes this new beginning as an opportunity for reflection and self-improvement and comes out a better person.

As we now leave our world of high school, I must share with you a few words of advice. First, I entreat you to all live by the guidance of your foresight. My intention is not to dissuade you from taking risks, for little is gained otherwise. I do, however, want you all to embark on journeys feeling that you are well prepared.

Next, I implore you to foster all the ambition you may muster. To the ambitious belongs the world. At this age of our lives, we are poised for opportunities, and to not reach for your dreams is to surrender them.

Finally, I ask you to hold in your minds one more item. Keep as many doors open as possible. We are all still very young and inexperienced, and regardless of what we have figured out, the future is not solid and definite. Make goals and hopes, but not plans. Be open to change, as the world is malleable. Never let past practice prevent you from future success.

With all of this said, I conclude this valedictory with its aim: to say farewell. Wherever your paths lead, may they end in prosperity and most importantly happiness. Once again, thank you all very much, and I wish you the greatest fortune in your future endeavors.

Valedictorian Speech

Sarah Kuhn

Jim Valvano, a coach who won the 1983 NCAA Basketball Tournament against tremendous odds at North Carolina State University once said, "If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do days a're going to have something special."

I think he's got it right. Spend time laughing, thinking and crying everyday... you know you will have a heck of a life. As I think back on our high school careers, I know there have been many times when we, as a class, have laughed together, thought together, and cried together.

A day rarely passed throughout high school where I didn't laugh at something or someone and I know that we can all remember what has made us laugh. We can even remember when other's laughs have made us laugh. Some of the best memories I have are those that everyone was laughing together. Times like when Mrs. Riser would yell at someone and be smiling the entire time. Who knew that it would actually be effective? Or when we would swear, to our substitute teachers, that our normal teacher would always let us out early for lunch. It never really worked, but we all got a good giggle from it. Don't even get me started on dress up days ... guys in pink dresses, girls in outrageous heels, and Spirit days where we all together looked like a sea of orange and black. The day after the Faith Lutheran Church Rummage Sale was always a big fashion event, seriously guys you really do have great legs for women's shorts.

And then there are the times that we thought together, starting out with our first essay tests in History that everyone dreaded, and always asked classmates where to find the answer,....even for the opinion questions. Take home tests in math would always be a group effort because, as always, the work gets done faster the more people working on it, well at least that's what we told our parents. Then, of course, the countless study groups before big tests that usually ended up being more of a social hour than a study session. When any of us were having problems, whether it was friend drama or that worksheet question that just didn't make sense, our friends and classmates were always there to help us think to find a solution or to knock some sense back into our brains!

Finally the times we have cried together. These are maybe not looked back on as fondly as the times we have laughed and thought, but they are the events that had the most effect on our lives and helped shape whom we have become. After losing those last big games in football by a touchdown, a point or two in basketball or gymnastics, a few seconds in track, cross country or swimming, one run in baseball or softball, or a single stroke in golf there was hardly a dry eyed Tiger to be found. It always seemed like the end of the world, but with the help of our classmates we always got through. We have all lost ones we love and had to fall back on our friends for support, and our class has always been there for us in those times and given us that shoulder to cry on. We've lost fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, through it all, when it really mattered we all bonded together to support each other. All of us have shed many tears over the years, but we all have grown from them.

So there it is. We have laughed, we have thought, and we have cried together. And guess what? Because of it all we have come out a heck of a class, a very special class, a class that will be remembered warmly, and a class that will be missed dearly. We have all grown up together in these past thirteen years and it is hard to think that after this we will be done with high school and moving into the next phases of our lives. But I know that we all are going to do wonderful things with our lives, because we are that special class. So class, our futures are all out there waiting for us. Make the best of them. Laugh, think, and cry everyday and you'll have one heck of a life.

Salutatorian Speech

Rory Anderson

Good evening. I clumsily stand behind this podium today, representing 80 young men and women, as we are finally able to call ourselves. These few moments are the accumulation of, in our mind, too many hours spent writing extensive English papers, implementing algorithms, memorizing historical dates, and whipping up last-minute science fair projects. I know, for a fact, that I would not be able to walk across this makeshift stage without the help and support of my teachers, coaches, friends, and as much as I hate to admit it... my family. On behalf of my classmates, I say thank you, and if we were still in high school, we all would give you a solid B+.

More than 84 percent of Americans hold high school diplomas, and for once during our 13 years of school, we can be glad to say that we were conformists. But, I must say that conformity is not what we are known for. At least a third of the grade was busted this year for having too short of shorts or skirts, and I am sad to say that not all of them were girls. Our grade has always been... different. I can picture Ethan, in Mrs. Gillis' class, standing under the mistletoe, hoping to smooch any innocent passersby; when we were twelve, everyone was afraid of playing dodge ball against Erin, especially the boys; and, most recently, Taylor was swapped for Sarah wearing a gorilla mask during the powder puff game for the easiest touchdown scored in football history.

The resemblance between this day, and the first day of kindergarten are striking. Little has changed in the past 4,659 days - posing for countless pictures with friends, parents dishing out unwanted hugs, flowing tears, from both parties, and most importantly, the daunting prospect of our unforeseeable futures. In kindergarten, it was spending a few hours without our parents that scared us half to death, but today, it is imagining the leap of faith we are about to take into the unknown.

Albert Einstein once said, "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." Crazy hair aside, Dr. Einstein realized the importance of challenges and a strong sense of self-assurance. Einstein's mistakes led to his phenomenal accomplishments - his theory of relativity, the Nobel Prize, and being credited with founding modern physics. He cherished mistakes for the ability to learn something new. They were hard, and they were disappointing, but they were absolutely worth the effort of trying.

As we get ready to leave the comforts of home, we need to remember that our mistakes are not what define us, although we will probably make many. Even in elementary school, we found a way to learn from our blunders. Riding the wrong school bus, forgetting to pack lunch on the days that the cafeteria served chicken chow mien, falling asleep in class, leaving our spelling lists in our desks, and even, a certain, unnamed salutatorian who, may or may not, have skied into a fence, and then was carried away on the snowmobile ambulance in fourth grade. Even though we were often horribly embarrassed, we discovered our own knack for resilience and resourcefulness.

So, rather than proposing that each of you embarks upon your life's journeys well-stocked, praying for smooth sailing, I leave you with a final wish. I hope that every single one of you experience both the bad and the good moments. Miss a flight, get lost on your way home, and test out a new restaurant. Mistakes are inevitable, but they make life entertaining. Live an electrifying and exhilarating life. But for now, savor this moment. Class of 2011, be proud, be confident, and most of all, be happy!