Real lessons in achievement, disappointment

We go to school to learn, and learn we do.

School is much more than multiplication tables and spelling tests. It’s a place to learn how the world works, how decisions are made and that, sometimes, life isn’t fair. What may be among the toughest lessons to learn is that, sometimes, circumstances are beyond our control.

Last year, according to Lisbon High School Principal Kenneth Healey, in response to his concern that “really motivated parents” and “artificial competition” among the school’s top-tiered students was damaging to the Top 10 student selection process, he recommended a shift in how Lisbon’s graduation speakers were chosen.

In the past, speakers were chosen based on grade-point average. Four of the highest-performing students — valedictorian chief among them — were asked to make graduation speeches.

But, Healey said, sometimes these top-performing students didn’t want to speak.

“I have had to convince, to twist arms, to try to convince kids to make speeches,” he said.

So, rather than force the top four into crafting speeches, the teaching staff decided to ask the Top 10 students, along with cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude designees, to vote on their choice of graduation speakers, and that’s how it was done for the first time this year.

Next year, only those students in the cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude pool will be asked to select speakers.

Unfortunately, not all of this year’s affected students were aware of the change, including the valedictorian.

This girl, a high-achieving student and athlete, had already started giving some thought to what she might say to her peers as they embark on the adventure that is life-after-high-school. Several weeks ago, she learned that she wasn’t scheduled or chosen to speak.

On Monday, we published a critical letter from Lisbon parent Laura Campbell, calling on the school to reconsider.

Healey said that won’t happen. The decision has been made, the process in place.

Healey is not sure why this year’s valedictorian wasn’t aware of the change, which was announced at several class meetings throughout the year. “If, for some reason she wasn’t aware of it,” then it may have been because she didn’t attend a meeting in which the change was discussed, he theorized.

The change is not reflected in district policy, and “there’s no right to make a speech at graduation,” Healey said.

He’s correct that no valedictorian should ever presume they have a right to speak, but if that’s been the decades-long practice at the school, it certainly is a fair assumption to make.

And, it would have been appropriate for the district to make an effort to be clear on the new process with individually affected students, instead of making a generalized announcement at a class meeting. Even the principal doesn’t know whether all students attended.

This year’s valedictorian has told her friends over the years that one of the reasons she was working so hard was to assure her spot at the graduation lectern.

That’s not going to happen, and we sympathize with this student’s letdown.

However, after winning more than a handful of academic and other awards at Thursday morning’s senior assembly, including an award for community volunteerism, she must carry satisfaction in knowing that she worked hard in school, she has helped the people living in her community, has prepared herself for college and has developed skills to succeed.

There may be disappointment, but the real lesson here is true achievement.

We urge this exemplary student to record her message to her classmates. Using today's social media sites, such as YouTube, she could be assured her message would be viewed and heard not only by those she knows but by others far and wide. This would ensure that her message to the Class of 2012 is preserved for decades to come, and many would likely turn back to it for inspiration in the future.

Congratulations to this hardworking valedictorian, to the rest of the graduating class at Lisbon High School and to graduates across Maine for their accomplishments. They have earned it.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Jason Theriault's picture


Ok, accordin to the Sun Journal article about the Graduation, the Superintendant, Mr Green, yeilded his slot to her so she could speak.

Well Done Sir.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Real lessons in achievement, disappointment

Ms. Meyer, 12.06.01 14:50 hst • ?
. .Dumb question : How many speakers are there going to be ? Add an other one (1)
" Several weeks ago, she learned that she wasn’t scheduled or chosen to speak. "
Can't one of the sceuduled speakers get sick or defer to some one else ¿
i certainly had butterflies in my stomach the l a s t time i gave a speech to the UNDP in Geneva CH ( Switzerland )
One thing i ialso learned over the years is to think out side the cubicle . ...
/s Dr. Dosh , Bates '78 GWU '86 , PWU '99

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

That's the problem. Everyone

That's the problem. Everyone is constantly being urged to 'think outside the box', but everyone forgets what's in the box....common sense.

Andrew Jones's picture

Graduation is supposed to be

Graduation is supposed to be good times for all. Why does the administration insist on treating it like a funeral? I graduated from Lewiston in 2004; we had a beach ball flying around for all of 2 minutes before a staff member took it away. I understand that they probably don't want an obscene distraction, but come on... Lighten up.


Jason is right. Claiming that your decision is final and that someone has no right to make a speech just makes you sound like a power-hungry ass. But hey, you're already a principal, right?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

We are so screwed up as a

We are so screwed up as a society in trying to fix everything that isn't broken, we can't even put on a routine High School graduation without it being turned into a freakin' circus of controversy. Shame, shame, shame.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

We squabble over this crap

We squabble over this crap while the big problems, like borrowing $0.40 of every dollar, go unaddressed.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Could not agree more. Our

Could not agree more. Our sense of priorities is laughable.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Paul , 3 pm HST Hawai'ian

Paul , 3 pm HST Hawai'ian time ƒlyday
Shame sorn and pity huh ?
E Z to point fingers and blame
What's your solution again ¿

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Very easy...If it isn't

Very easy...If it isn't broken and it's working properly; leave it the hell alone.

 's picture

I have a confession.

I was valedictorian of my HS class and I really, really did NOT want to speak. But I did, because I thought it was my duty to observe tradition. Nearly 50 years later, I still cringe at the memory, especially because of the nonsense in the speech. Thankfully, all copies have been destroyed - I hope. If there are any remaining, each should be stamped with the obvious: Warning! Product of an immature, uneducated mind.

From then to now, on the few occasions where I had to speak in public, I never again had the same dread. I have to believe it was because I knew the audience so well back in HS.

Since then I have attended about a dozen HS graduations. Not a thing has changed. HS seniors still suffer under the delusion that their excrement is the sweet smelling variety. It's an immutable law of nature which certainly can't be repealed by some school board.

Jeff Johnson's picture

The valedictorian wants to

The valedictorian wants to make a speech... so she extends the graduation by a total of 10 minutes... Let her speak. Simple solution.

Jason Theriault's picture

It's stupid

The valedictorian should always have the option of speaking, and being the head student speaker. This solution sounds dumb. If you're sick of twisting arms and trying to force people to speak, make it voluntary. If #1-4 make speeches, and #2 doesn't want to, then #5 gets to make a speech. Keep going until you have 4 speakers.


That way, those who deserve to make speeches get to. By the way, Mr. Healey, saying “there’s no right to make a speech at graduation,” makes you sound like an ass. Make an exception and do the right thing.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Stig, Ayuh ? The avg IQ is

Ayuh ?
The avg IQ is 100 ,,by definition .
This mean that 1/2 the kids are smarter than 1/2 the teachers , educators and administrators
She'll speak •


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