Oxford Hills graduation speakers urge gratitude, love

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PARIS — The sound of bagpipes and a warm, sinking sun set the scene for 207 young men and women to graduate from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on Saturday evening.

Both the graduates and those in attendance were treated to some insightful advice from speakers.

“The sheer act of gratitude causes happiness and social bonding,” said Salutatorian Sydney Rowell, who added that a senior picture should not be a portrait but a “collage of people who shaped who (you) are.”

She reminisced about the class’s final English assignment, which was to write letters to two staff members, thanking them for their support.

“I couldn’t believe how happy it made me to tell them how thankful I am,” she said, and cited the lesson in the book, “The Alchemist”— “the journey is the greatest treasure.”

“I thought the treasure of high school is today — graduation — but it’s not. It’s the journey,” Rowell said. “It’s all the moments over the years.”

Class Valedictorian Haid Tanous received a standing ovation for his speech, which caused both laughter and tears.

“I need you all to peer inside yourselves and search through all the confusing, intrusive teenager thoughts,” Tanous said. “Behind all the bad decisions, the mistakes and sins, lies a pure and innocent child. Each one of you is still this kid, deep inside years of change. Some people might call this your heart. It’s from this energy that we dream, imagine and love others.”

In between hinting at inside jokes in which the whole class shared a laugh, and belting out the “i-Carly” theme song, Tanous begged his peers not to lose their innocence, because “splendor lies in each of us.”

“Triumph is what happens when we don’t silence our inner child,” Tanous said.

Dr. Molly Ware, a 1991 graduate, instilled in the green-gowned young adults the importance of listening, especially to those they may not agree with, or who are different from them.

“We want to be noticed,” Ware said. “But what’s more important and useful is learning to listen.”

As a doctor, Ware told the graduates, she begins every patient interaction with, “Tell me your story.”

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