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A night to reflect, begin lives

Despite heat and nerves, Red Wing High School 2014 graduates showed great energy applauding the student and faculty speakers. (Republican Eagle photos by Michael Brun)1 / 3
Shayna Ramstad poses for a quick photo with her father, Jeff Ramstad, before walking up to accept her diploma.2 / 3
Classmates cheer as they toss their mortarboards Friday night to conclude the commencement ceremony. 3 / 3

The student and faculty speakers at the Red Wing High School commencement ceremony each took their own approach Friday to the traditional graduation speech, but they all shared a similar theme.

Three speakers with three different perspectives told the group of around 200 RWHS seniors that graduation is the starting point, and the future is something to be made along the way.

Jana Christianson tapped into the sentimentality of the occasion in her speech, “Life is Like a Canvas,” telling her fellow classmates to look back at the events and hardships that brought them to that point. She likened the moments to strokes of a paintbrush that add up to form a “masterpiece.”

“Now that we have created our masterpieces, we can walk down the road of life with it,” Christianson said, noting that it’s never too late to keep creating.

Teacher Rachel Sager also chose the metaphorical route, but instead compared the past four years to the Mississippi River.

“History marks the highs and lows of the water levels,” she said. “Commencement, seen as a beginning, is also an opportunity to reflect on what has occurred; a time to look back on the watermarks.”

She shared her hopes for the class of 2014, including that students learned the value of hard work.

“High school has just really been a dress rehearsal for life,” the speech and theater teacher said. “What role will you play in the future? Leading or supportive?”

Michael Hoffman brought the evening’s remarks to a close with a humorous-yet-touching riff on typical graduation clichés.

As he took to the podium and drew a piece of paper to begin his speech, Hoffman paused for a moment, tore the paper up and let it scatter to the floor. After another moment he admitted it was his March Madness bracket.

He advised his classmates not to get hung up on dreams at the expense of everyday experiences, and that it’s OK not to know what they want to do next.

“In this unpredictable life of ours that is to come, whether you plan to go to college, get married, have kids or dig clams, one thing is certain — and that is that you will be dead,” Hoffman said, quickly following up that it’s all the more reason to fill life with adventure and enjoyment.

“This is an incredibly lucky thing you have, this one mortal life,” he said. “I’m glad I was able to start mine with you.”

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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