Lee's 8th Grade Valedictory Address


DEAR PARENTS, friends, teachers and classmates:

I CONSIDER it a great honor tonight to represent our eighth grade class who are being promoted to high school. It is a big step in our education and we wish to thank those who have helped us to make it possible. We thank our parents for encouraging us to attend school and our teachers for helping us learn the things which prepare us for high school.

NOW THAT we are promoted to high school, and with all its added advantages and responsibilities, we are taking another step towards the day when we will be on our own in the world. We must prepare ourselves by knowing the ways of a democracy and how to be a good citizen to it. We want to be able to assume the new responsibilities of our freedoms and to reason for ourselves what our responsibilities should be. We should be able to determine the amount and extent of our responsibilities.

WE SHOULD BEGIN to accept duties, or responsibilities as young as possible, no matter how small the duties are. One of the first duties of a child may be putting on his clothes or tying his shoelaces. When he is older, a paper route is a very good responsibility for a boy. He learns to know the value of money, how to spend and how to save it. The older we are, the greater our responsibilities become. For instance, when we are a child we must be able to choose our friends carefully and when we are older we must assume the responsibility of choosing the best men for a specific office when we vote. 

THERE ARE many reasons we should assume responsibilities. We learn to cooperate with others and do our share. When we do our part, no one complains and all are happy. Duties also help make us less dependent on other people. This does not mean that we don't need advice from other people. On the contrary, we must have some advice to help us learn. An example may be found in one of the poems we learned in English class this year. You may recall these lines from "IF" by Rudyard Kipling:

"If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings --nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With the sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a man, my son!"

NOT ONLY must we be able to assume definite responsibilities, but we must also choose definite goals for ourselves. We must be able to know what we are worth and what we are suited for, then when we know this, we can choose our goal from the unlimited variety which a democracy has to offer, where there are no Polit Bureau or Secret Police to harass us. We are free to choose the work we enjoy most or are best suited for, and as a result, we work better because we are happier than we would be if we were assigned our work by one head man. People work better, more industriously and more skillfully when they do the work they want to do. This does not mean that each of us can start working in just the position we want. No, it means that each of us can work for any position we want.

WE ARE all born with a right to realize and use all latent possibilities. In America we have the right to explore all possibilities in any field. When we use these rights wisely, we benefit from them. Take for example, the scientist. If he were not allowed to explore all phases of the sciences, most of our present day conveniences would be impossible. To discover new gases or elements much exploration into the behavior of different substances must be made. The idea of the atomic bomb was discovered by someone exploring the possibility of splitting the atom.

IT TAKES experience to become a good citizen. The first experience we gain is in the home. Here we are shown examples of good citizenship by our mothers and fathers, our older brothers and sisters. Here were are taught good citizenship and how to act in a democracy. Our first contacts with the world are in the home and have a great influence on us. 

THE NEXT place in which we gain experiences is in the school. We learn much just by meeting new friends. Our teachers help us by relating their experiences and those of other people in different places.  For example, our class has obtained much interesting information about India from the experiences told by our history teacher. In different clubs and organizations, such as Student Council and Band, much valuable experience may be gained from trips made to other towns, by meeting or competing with students from other schools. The many extra activities planned at school, such as movies, parties, dances, have a part in contributing to our learning by experience at school.

WE MUST NOT forget the valuable part that the Church plays in helping us to become better citizens. From study of the Bible we learn about the ways of God, and how the people of past times were helped by him in solving their own problems. Our churches offer many programs to people our age, where we may meet for worship discussion of every-day problems or socials and entertainment.

TRAVEL IS an excellent way to gain in overall knowledge of the geography, customs and people of a country. Since not all people can travel, reading books is a very good means of learning. Books and travel are the best of companions in gaining experience.

ANY COMMUNITY contacts such as dances, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H and other clubs are of great value. These contacts teach us to get along with other people and how to make allowance for other person's opinions.

DURING THESE first 8 years of school, through the help and guidance of our teacher and parents, we have begun to learn the meaning of democracy and citizenship and the responsibility we have in it. We have begun to work toward the goals we wish to attain and we have gained valuable experience. We hope that in the coming years we will be able to accomplish even more than we have in the Grade School. To do this we are going to need much understanding help from our parents and our teachers during our stay in High School. All of us are looking ahead to accepting more responsibility as citizens in our democracy, keeping a definite goal in mind, gaining more experience each day and enjoying the social contacts of classmates and teachers in our future years at school.

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