PL Graduation: Valedictorians share thoughts with Class of 2017

Abby Person As difficult as this may be to believe, Karl, Alex and I had a hard time coming together to write one big speech. So we decided to just tell you a couple of things that we each took away from high school. We are a generation that has ...

Valedictorians Abby Person (left), Karl Brine-Doyle and Alex Stone speak as the last valedictorians Pequot Lakes High School will see.
Valedictorians Abby Person (left), Karl Brine-Doyle and Alex Stone speak as the last valedictorians Pequot Lakes High School will see. Theresa Bourke/Echo Journal

Abby Person

As difficult as this may be to believe, Karl, Alex and I had a hard time coming together to write one big speech. So we decided to just tell you a couple of things that we each took away from high school.

We are a generation that has the capability of accessing any information instantly via Google. Can't remember when Kim and Kanye got married? Google it. Still don't know what a quantum number is after asking Kotaska six times and are too scared to ask? Google it. Wondering what else you'll be able to afford to eat in college besides ramen? Google it.

This ability to reach any information we could possibly want, at any time we could want it, has led some of us to the inevitable question - if I can Google the information we're learning in all of these classes, why am I here?

It's a fair enough question, a question that becomes more relevant with every new pointless iPhone software update and online tool that comes to our disposal. All I can say is that for all the times I've questioned whether I really need to know how to find the standard deviation or the hormones that the thyroid gland secretes, I know that there are things I've learned in high school that Google could not have taught me.


If you're sitting here it means you may have totaled a car ... or two; it means you probably have at least one middle school fashion trend you regret like Silly Bandz, Heelys or way too many Hollister T-shirts.

If you're sitting here it means you may have argued with Klein over a grammatical error in your paper even when you know she's right; it means that you know a ton about ancient Rome from Mr. Druar in ninth grade world history; it means you might remember when condiments were banned in eighth grade and Alex Johnson brought his own ketchup, or you might remember the poop at the back of the classroom in seventh-grade honors English.

All of these memories, experiences, lessons and tragic fashion choices have taught us a lot about ourselves. We've learned who we are, what we value and what we're good at; and these are all things that Google could not have taught us.

Alex Stone

As I prepared to write my valedictorian speech, I found that many prior speeches focused on motivating the graduating class to make their mark on the world. Maybe invent the next iPhone, create the app better than Snapchat, discover a cure for an incurable disease.

Definitely, that's what our graduating class needs to do ... at least that's what I thought until I discovered a quote from Mother Teresa.

"We can not do great things, only small things with great love."

Wow, that's so true. It's the smiles we give to others, a helping hand extended to others in need, the door we hold for the person behind us, the kind compliment that can make someone's day.


These are the things that over the course of a lifetime cumulatively make the world a better place.

Don't get me wrong, I want all of us to have big dreams and achieve great things; but let's not define our lives by that. Let's define our lives by the small things we do every day with love. And by that measure, every one of us will be a success.

Since we are the last year of valedictorians at Pequot Lakes High School, I wanted to share with you what I think it means to be a valedictorian. Today I am honored to be recognized for "academic achievement." But when I thought about it, especially in light of Mother Teresa's words, there's a lot more to life than just academic achievement.

I believe the term "valedictorian" should be expanded in meaning to describe "doing small things with great love" in any aspect of life, not just academic achievement. I also believe that everyone of us can be a valedictorian in that way. One doesn't have to look far to identify "valedictorians" in their life.

My teachers for their love of mentorship. My sister for caring and patience. My parents for support. My friends for trust and loyalty. And the list goes on - people who represent the best qualities of life to me.

I think we all know valedictorians of life that impact us in positive ways, loving ways. Take time to acknowledge and show appreciation for these people.

It is also important for us to look inward and pursue being valedictorian in your own life through your passions or how you want to impact others. We are all valedictorians in our own way.

And now to all my family, teachers, coaches, friends and lastly classmates, I am so grateful for all of you. I will treasure the time I spent here at Pequot Lakes High School.


Congratulations, Class of 2017!

Karl Brine-Doyle

Tonight we graduate.

Ever since preschool, our parents and teachers have prepared us for tonight. Prepared us to earn the diploma which we are about to receive. Back when we were 15 years old, we all took drivers ed classes. We had to study, take tests and eventually passed. Some of us took more than one try at it. This gave us our learners permit. Would you say that you knew how to drive the instant you walked out of the DMV? Probably not; I wouldn't.

Our diploma is the learner's permit for our lives. With it, we can go off on our own and make our own choices, learn our own lessons and choose our own roads.

The first time you drove a car, your mom or dad was probably yelling panicked instructions and slamming their foot on the imaginary brake. Well I hate to break it to you, but your parents are going to do that exact same thing in your life.

"Are you eating right? Getting enough sleep? Making friends?" And subtly try to find out whether you spend too much time partying. The list goes on and on. When you venture off on your own, you, like the 15-year-old, will sometimes hit the gas too hard or brake too fast and slam forward in your seat.

Once you got comfortable behind the wheel, you started to get a little too comfortable. You began pushing the limits, and before you knew it, you saw flashing red and blue lights in your mirror, and after an agonizing wait, Trooper Maciej was tapping on your window.

In life, when you make a mistake or do something stupid, you have to learn your lesson, pay your fine and move forward with life.

When you are driving, sometimes you will get lost. It always helps to have a friend or two in the car to both keep you company and check Google Maps to get back on track. It's OK to ask for help in life because sometimes all you need is a good friend and the humility to ask for instructions.

Everyone remembers their first car accident. Whether it was hitting a deer, sliding into the ditch or having your truck fall through the ice on Pelican. In real life, surprises can jump out in front of you in the blink of an eye. This could be a serious illness, getting laid off or having a kid.

You need to be prepared for surprises in your life, and in the words of Mr. Moddes, "Get good insurance."

When you are driving, sometimes you hit road construction, which sends you on a detour you didn't expect. In your life, oftentimes you will change your plans or get to your destination a different way than you expected. This is important to remember because, while you might not end up where you were initially going, you will end up exactly where you were meant to be.

Class of 2017, thank you and congratulations.

---   ---   ---   ---   ---

  • Number of graduates: 118
  • Class colors: Red and charcoal
  • Class flower: Gardenia
  • Class motto: "It always seems impossible until it's done." - Nelson Mandela
  • Class song: "Good Life" - One Republic

---   ---   ---   ---   ---

What To Read Next
Inmates in-custody in the Todd County jail in Long Prairie, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Wadena County jail in Wadena, Minnesota
25 Pine River-Backus students are participating in this year's program
Inmates in-custody in the Aitkin County jail in Aitkin, Minnesota