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Pryor to Class of 2010: “Take Your Chance, Make Your Choice, Make Your Move”

| May 29, 2010

Chris Pryor, the Matanzas High School principal, was editing his address until next to the last second. (© FlaglerLive)

[The following is the full text of Matanzas High School Principal Chris Pryor’s commencement address to the Class of 2010 as provided to FlaglerLive before the ceremony. For the story of the Matanzas graduation, go here, and for the photo gallery, go here]

First I want to tell you how proud I am of all of you. You look so very nice in your pirate blue! I want to thank all of the people who made today possible because there are a great number of teachers, counselors, administrators and staff members who have worked so very hard to make this a day to remember. I want to recognize all of the hard work all of your teachers have done during the last 13 years to prepare you for this moment. May I have all teachers in the audience stand and be recognized?
I want to express my gratitude to your families for the love they have given you and the sacrifices they have made so that you might be here. May I have all parents and family members stand to be recognized?

Graduates, without all of these people who made the choice to link their lives to yours, you would not be here today.

For the last 4 years I have spoken to you about making good choices. I’ve told you that the attitude you choose to adopt each day will determine your success or failure. “Make it a great day or not… The choice is yours!”

Every single day of our lives we make many choices. Some are very small like whether to eat a cheeseburger or a chicken sandwich from the line in Ms. Graciela’s dining hall; or what song you were going to listen to on your iPod in Mr. Murphy’s class when he wasn’t looking. On the other hand some decisions are very big like whether you do the right thing, or the easy, popular thing. All of you are faced with one of the toughest decisions you have ever had to make; that is, what are you going to do with your life?

As I sat down and began to write this I remembered my own graduation just 32 short years ago. I realize that you are not going to remember what we say here today, because I certainly can’t remember who spoke or what they said at my high school graduation. But I do remember two emotions: excitement and mild terror. Like every other adult here today, up until that moment my parents, my teachers, or some other adult made most of the decisions about my life. Other people had control of my life and I was ready to break away. I was poised on the on-ramp to that highway to freedom and for the first time I got to choose which path to take, which direction to turn. However, I was scared because I didn’t know where I would ultimately end up.

Full Audio of Pryor’s Address
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The word destination is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a place to which a person or thing is going.” Destiny, on the other hand is defined as a predetermined course of events considered as something beyond human power or control. Both of these words have the same root and come from the same root word. So is your destination beyond your control?

Theologian William Jennings Bryan wrote, “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice.” He is saying that our choices determine our final destination…they determine the outcome of our lives.

Robert Frost wrote,

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

Frost is acknowledging that life is full of choices. And lots of times the choices look the same. In the poem, both roads look pretty good. And the problem is that he can’t see very far down either one. Just like you, he is choosing which direction to go in life. He goes on to say that he realizes that in years to come he is probably going to look back and congratulate himself on such a brilliant choice. He said,

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This morning you are perched on the brink of a long road but unlike Frost, you are not alone. You carry with you the lessons, experiences and words, provided by your teachers and loved ones. These things have formed the foundation of your being and the knowledge upon which you may base your choices. You are not alone because we who love you walk with you.
Beyond this place lay your dreams. Your educational experiences are the vehicle that will take you to your destination. You have been handed the keys and you are about to merge onto the highway of life. It’s exciting and it’s scary. But you must take your chance, make your choice and make your move. You cannot stand still. You have to travel forward trusting in what you have been taught by those who came before you.

As singer/songwriter David Wilcox wrote:

The driver right in front of me is making a mistake
He’s stopping on the entrance ramp, waiting for his break
The more he hits his brake, the bigger break he’s going to need
When a little break is plenty if he’d just been up to speed
Oh and now he’s got it parked there and he’s looking back behind
Pleading out the window, hoping someone might be kind enough
To stop and wait and hold the traffic flow
And still he’s not quite confident there’s room for him to go
So I say move and you’ll have your place
Don’t sit waiting on the human race
Just go, you got your chance
You can’t be timid in the four-lane dance
The freeway’s just a lesson in the way you drive your dream
If you think you’ll never make it, well then that’s the way it seems
But if you thought that it’d be easy, well then easy it would be
Why just a foot between the bumpers has been room enough for me
So I say move and you’ll have your place
Don’t sit waiting on the human race
Just go, you got your chance
You can’t be timid in the four-lane dance

Pirates, make it a great day or not, make it a great life or not, because the choice…

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