Weekly Whack: Pomp, Circumstance, and Willie Shoemaker
Pomp, Circumstance, and Willie Shoemaker
June 23, 1996

This week I reached a significant apex in my life as I graduated from high school. After a twelve year tour de force of public education, I am definitely ready to move on. From now on education will be something useful for me, and not something required by law. All and all, though, I had a good time, and I did do well enough that I was the valedictorian of my class. Valedictorian sounds like a cool honor, but it is not so big of a deal when you go to a small school where half the students can't name a single member of the Supreme Court, but can name all the members of Cypress Hill. However I did get to give a nifty speech at graduation, which I will share with you in this Whack. Unfortunately I couldn't put much Feff into the speech since my school is big on censorship, and doesn't really have that big of a sense of humor. I tried to sneak in an O.J. Simpson quote, but the principal of my school personally called me at home requesting that I removed it. However I thought it was a pretty decent speech because instead of quoting someone like William Shakespeare, I quoted Willie Shoemaker. So without further adieu, here is my speech:

As I stand here speaking as the valedictorian of the class of 1996 at Hopatcong High School, I cannot help but think of the popular saying "The best thing about a tree is what you can do with it after you cut it down." In essence we are all like the very trees which surround us. Twelve years ago we started school as young saplings, and today we stand as tall powerful trees, with strong roots of knowledge that were nurtured by the values instilled in us by our parents, and a fine Hopatcong education. However we can no longer stand swaying in the breeze as the winds of time blow by. It is now time to cut down our trees, and uproot from the same things that have made us what we are today. We must become independent and accept responsibility for our lives, so we can use our roots of knowledge to mold ourselves into the finest, most successful people we can possibly be.

Professional jockey Willie Shoemaker once said, "I believe that anybody with a little ability, a little guts, and the desire to apply himself, can make anything he wants to make of himself." This quote has special meaning to us as we stand here at a crossroads in our lives. We all have the ability, but we must acquire the courage, and the desire that it will take to make anything we want to make of ourselves.

Throughout my high school career I have prided myself on going all out in everything I did. Whether I was in the classroom taking a test, on the tennis court during a state match, or playing offensive line in an intramural flag-football game, I always put forth the same maximum effort. However no matter how hard I tried, I realized success is not guaranteed. I learned that I could fail something once, twice, or perhaps even a third time; but if I persevered and always kept my focus, I just might be able to find success on the fourth try. As baseball great and American hero Reggie Jackson said, "The most important requirement in success is learning to overcome failure. You must learn to tolerate it, but never accept it."

One key ingredient in overcoming failure is taking responsibility for ourselves and for our actions. Former Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps advised, "Don't look around for any excuses or someone else to blame. If something goes wrong, look inside yourself and say, 'It's my fault.'" Likewise, we can no longer get away with blaming our downfalls on a parent, or a teacher; but we must learn to accept full responsibility for all our actions. The time has come to stop searching for alibis, and to start searching for solutions.

In being independent, responsible people, it is essential that we learn to take priorities in our lives. At times we will each find that our happiness is more important than any fame, fortune, or success. After his death, golf-pro Davis Love II left behind this advice to his son: "Follow your dream, and enjoy the trip." I strongly agree with these words, and believe that, in any aspect of life, if we each follow our hearts, none of us will be led astray.

So looking towards the future, although this class has already achieved more academically and athletically than any other class which preceded it, I know I can use the famous words of Randy Bachman of the musical group Bachman-Turner Overdrive to describe every member of the graduating class of 1996 seated behind me: "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Well that's it, I hope you liked it. Personally, I'm glad I am out of high school, since now I will have more time to do stuff I like to do, such as painting murals about the Mexican-American war, watching Charles in Charge re-runs, and writing more things for Feff World. By the way, for anyone who cares, my plan for the future is to attend Drew University, here in New Jersey, in the fall, where I will most likely major in English to prepare myself for a career in writing. Either that or become a train-hopping vagabond.

Anyhoo, to conclude for this week, you can never go wrong quoting Digger Phelps; Reggie Jackson truly is an American hero; and sure the Bard could write, but lets see him try and take a horse down the home-stretch.

Now for this week's special feature, Feff's top ten back-up career paths if the whole writing thing doesn't pan out:

10. Plastics
9. Physical Education
8. Ophthalmology
7. Zoology
6. Bookkeeping
5. Osteopathy
4. Mining
3. Forestry
2. Toolmaking
1. Taxidermy