Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Another Justice Thomas graduation speech

From the Northern Virginia Daily:

Justice Clarence Thomas addresses grads on life

By Linwood Outlaw III -- loutlaw@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- More than four decades have passed since Clarence Thomas, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was a young high school student on the brink of entering the real world.

However, Thomas says there are some things about those days that you never forget.

"Graduation was my favorite day of school," Thomas joked as he addressed Randolph-Macon Academy's Class of 2009 at the military school's annual commencement at the Melton Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday morning. "I still believe that graduating from high school is a very special day."

Thomas, the ceremony's keynote speaker, told students that "life can be hard," and that "it will be up to you to make as many good decisions as possible." Thomas urged them to stay positive, and to always value the "three F's": faith, friends and family.

"Life is not easy. It's not easy for any of us. It will probably not be fair. And, it is certainly not all about you," said Thomas, 60, a member of the Supreme Court since 1991.

About 90 students received their high school diplomas from the 117-year old, co-ed boarding school on Saturday. Many of the graduates have been accepted to prestigious four-year universities, and others will continue their military studies at schools such as Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel. In all, the graduates earned more than $3 million in merit scholarships for post-secondary education, school officials said.

Tae Ho Lee, the senior class valedictorian, said he thinks of his peers at Randolph-Macon Academy as family.

"Let's keep in touch, and I wish you the best of luck in the future. Class of 2009, we're taking over," he told his peers.

Lee plans to attend the University of California at Berkeley.

Maj. Gen. Henry M. Hobgood, president of the academy, said he expects great things from this year's graduating class.

"I think they take [with them] the great academic background [of this school]. And probably more importantly, the thing that will stick with them the rest of their lives is preparation for life," Hobgood said. "Our school is all about character and all about good values. And that's what makes a person in the long run."

Randolph-Macon's Class of 2009 has many unique qualities, Hobgood said.

"Every graduating class is different. This one is unique because it's very diverse," he said. "They're very capable. [They have] a lot of academic success, a lot of athletic success. But mostly, they're just a class that has great character. And I think they're going to do well in life. I mean, it's a very unusual class in that regard. I'm very proud of each one of them."

Some of the students come from foreign countries such as Arabia, Korea, China and Spain.

The graduates were overcome with joy after the ceremony as they embraced their families and took pictures outside the gym.

Eliana Eitches, 17, an honors student who plans to attend Columbia University in New York, said she "definitely matured a lot" while attending Randolph-Macon Academy. "I sort of got serious about school, got serious about studying. And then I accomplished my goal, which was to go to Columbia," said Eitches, who received about $500,000 worth of scholarships.

Chase Beatty, 18, was a busy man during his three-year stay at the academy. He played on the varsity football team and ran track. Beatty was also a member of Cadre, the student leadership of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Earlier this year, he successfully earned his private pilot certification.

Beatty said Randolph-Macon "was a tough experience," but that he takes away "a more grown sense of myself, a bigger sense of my character and what I want to do with my life."

"It's just helped me to take steps in the right direction. It's given me a solid foundation to build on," said Beatty, who plans to attend The Citadel in South Carolina in the fall.

"I consider this as step one. I've just got many more steps to go. It's a staircase."

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