St. Augustine Academy Commencement – Valedictorian Speech

Elisabeth Seeley

May 23, 2015

Dear Members of the Board, Headmaster Van Hecke, faculty, parents, guests, and graduates.

I’d like to thank everyone who made this graduation, not only possible, but a really joyful and meaningful occasion. Joyful, because of the camaraderie of our scholastic family. Meaningful, because a great task was undertaken, and will continue on, from here. For schools are meant to create lifelong learners. The students at St. Augustine Academy, due to the hard
work of their parents, the faculty, and themselves, are given the opportunity to become just that.

One of the greatest benefits I’ve been given at St. Augustine’s is having enthusiastic teachers. Earlier this month, Pope Francis stated that “The influence of an educator, especially
for young people, depends more on what he is as a person and the way he lives than what he says.” The teachers at this school convey their love of truth, goodness, and beauty to us every
day, in class and out.

Our teachers are involved. They encourage us to be curious and not stop when we’ve found the answer to one problem but help us to move on to the next level of questions, whether they know the answers or not. Mr. Moore, thank you for always being willing to discuss the wacky parts of Physics that interested us most, even if they weren’t entirely on topic. Nothing dampens the intellectually adventurous spirit as being told that we’re not going to discuss something, interesting or not, simply because it’s not necessary to know for the test. Mr. Moore, you made a tough subject an almost pleasant experience. ;)

For, when a teacher is eager to share their knowledge, it makes the students eager to receive it. But I’ve experienced more than just a passing on of information. We/I went on an
adventure. The teacher had the map, we all found the treasures together. Our English teachers showed us how to find the hidden riches in poetry and literature, whether Romantic, classical, or modern. We will never forget Mrs. Thomas exuberantly brandishing her swords and spears and emboldening us to… well, at least read the lines with a little feeling. Our History teachers made sense of our crazy world by giving us perspective, connecting us to humanity throughout the ages. In Science and Mathematics, we unearthed the magnificence of God’s universe.

Finally, all of our teachers showed us how to live a life of Faith. Theology/Religion is not just a subject, it’s our life; it cannot be separated from our being because God holds us in existence. No teacher was a better example of this than Sister Francis Mary. From the time she started teaching me in sixth grade she has inspired me and I’m sure she will for the rest of my life. She instilled in us a deep love for Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Church, and our Lord. How could she do otherwise, when she herself is so obviously afire with love for God? Her love leads all those who know her to Christ, humanity’s Tremendous Lover. She is forever discovering more about Him, and motivating us to do the same.

I can truly say that my teachers have become my friends, for we have studied the most important truths together and true friends lead each other to truth.

And so, I’d like to encourage all the students we’re leaving behind be engaged in your classes. It’s not silly or nerdy, though it may be unpopular, to care about what we’re being
taught. On the contrary, it is childish to not care, to sit passively through six hours a day, 180 days a year. So many people struggle for years to find what we are being given As Archbishop Chaput put it we are being equipped as “saints for life in this world and the next.” Do the work and do it cheerfully, for God loves a cheerful giver. It’s worth it. Our teachers, as incredible as they are, cannot force you to participate, nor would they like to; that’s up to you. And, you never know, you may be immediately rewarded as my math class was last year. Half of the class had not completed the homework assignment and were sent out to the hallway to finish it. Our teacher (I don’t want to name names, but his initials are Mr. Zepeda) agreed to give the rest of us a free period. He said, “Let’s climb out the windows, so that the others won’t see and feel bad.”

So, finally, we, the class of 2015, are here today to celebrate the end of our time in high school. But, more importantly, we celebrate what has commenced a lifetime of learning – learning about ourselves, about one another, about our God. As we go into college and the world, we must build upon our experiences here, and continue to learn how to be what we are meant to be. For we have been immersed in our Faith and, as St. John says, “the victory that conquers the world is our faith. ” (1 John 5:4) Let us go out and conquer the world by being a light to the nations!