BELTON — “Today, thousands of graduates are whipping out their smartphones, live tweeting each diploma and taking selfies with their friends,” Joshua Petersen told his classmates during the 125th commencement of Temple High School at the Bell County Expo on Saturday morning.
The near-capacity crowd in the 6,000-seat auditorium cheered and applauded throughout the two-hour ceremony for the 503 graduating seniors.
“It’s amazing when one looks at the progression of technology during our tenure in school,” Petersen said in the valedictory address. “In the wake of the technological wave, it is easy to forget your family and friends.
“We cannot let things define us,” he said. “For just a moment in each day, appreciate what it is to be here, in this moment, on this Earth. For just a second, unplug.”
Emma MacEachern had a similar message in the salutatory address. She began by reading from the poem, “Alone,” by Maya Angelou.
“Her self-expression, inspired by her own setbacks growing up as a young African-American woman in Arkansas during the 1940s, mirrors a similar stance that you, class of 2014, must take on your journey toward happiness after today,” MacEachern said.
“As Maya wrote, ‘Nobody, but nobody, can make it out here alone,’” she said. “I therefore wish that you all will thank the individuals who have sacrificed and given so much for your benefit, and remember their kindness in the future, because although you have conquered this mountain, there are still many more.
“I want you all to remember that connections with others will save you, no matter the hardships you face,” she said. “Maintain the relationships you’ve already made, but also go out there and create new ones.”
In presenting the class, principal Robert James said, “Each of you has taught us just as much as we have taught you.”
He told the class that if they took advantage of everything Temple Independent School District had to offer them, there was no place they couldn’t go.
“We thank you for all you have done to make this the great place that it is,” he said. “You will always have a special place in our hearts.”
In accepting the class, Superintendent Robin Battershell said it has become a tradition to list a few of the graduating class’s accomplishments. “Here are some numbers for you,” she said.
She started with $2.1 million in scholarships awarded to this senior class.
There were 76 distinguished graduates, she said, and 28 anticipated International Baccalaureate diploma recipients.
Fourteen sports made it into the playoffs, she said, and the sprint relay team had the second fastest time in the nation. Her list also included 10 theater students making it to state in theatrical design and two associate degrees awarded to bioscience students.
The Temple High band, directed by Brent Mathesen, provided the opening and closing music. The Polyfoniks, directed by Ken Stanton sang the national anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and “I Was Here.”