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New Oceans

May 20, 2013 By Steven R. Peck

This year's graduating class mottoes reflect a healthy mix of optimism and realism

Asking high school students to get profound about life might not be all that fair to them. Trying to sum up experience in a sentence or two probably gets easier as you get older.

Each year, however, we enjoy looking through the senior class mottoes adopted by students at our counties various high schools. You can read them for yourself inside today's graduation edition.

The mottoes often carry a theme of overcoming adversity, or anticipating it. At Dubois High School, for example, the class motto is "People hate you, rate you, shake you and break you, but how strong you stand is what makes you." The shaking, rating and, unfortunately, hating, that the young people have experienced to a degree large enough to choose this class motto won't go away with high school graduation. Recognizing the necessity of rational and steadfast response to adversity is a perceptive life lesson.

Graduates at Wyoming Indian High School took a light-hearted theme in choosing their motto: "Even if you fall on your face you are still moving forward." That's a fun slogan, and it brings a smile. Perhaps it also reflects a trace of anxiousness about life after high school. There will be times when moving forward definitely will seem difficult. Having a ready reference point in the form of a few words that can bring a smile even during hard times is a pretty good thing to do.

A message of optimism and perseverance weaves through the Arapahoe Charter High School motto: "Stay positive, keep smiling, and one day you'll see. Anything is possible, and you could make your dreams come true." On the subject of making dreams come true, almost all of us find that to be a very challenging proposition, with high potential for disappointment when things don't pan out as desired or expected. Here's to dreams coming true, of course, but the first part of Arapahoe Charter's motto -- "Stay positive, keep smiling" -- will be equally useful on those other days.

"To achieve all that is possible, we must attempt the impossible. To be as much as we can be, we must dream of being more," is the motto at Fort Washakie High School, which graduates three seniors this year. That has a good ring to it. Nothing of worth is achieved without trying to do something more than you have done already. Complacency is one of human life's great obstacles. High school graduation is a good time to start tackling it.

Shoshoni High School's senior class motto is short but very sweet: "Carpe diem." In case you need to brush up on your Latin, the phrase means "seize the day." Many variations on this theme have been expressed my armchair philosophers.

One of the best is "life is what happens while you're making plans." A variation is "life is what happens why you are waiting for your life to start."

It has started, And there is no time to lose. Seize the day.

Words attributed to Abraham Lincoln comprise the class motto for Wind River High School. "You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today," is the phrase spoken by Honest Abe.

Lincoln recognized something that many politicians don't, namely that a long view usually is better than a short one. He looked at history more than political expediency (although he was a master at that as well). No high school graduate at Wind River has the burdens that Abraham Lincoln had, but it's never too early to begin to understand that there is a future and that the things you do in the present will lead you there.

St. Stephen's High School did well with its motto: "If you are not willing to learn no one can help you. If you are determined to learn no one can stop you." Would that we all could remember this and all adhere to it all our lives. High school graduation most definitely is not the time to stop learning.

Fremont County's biggest class of graduates, Riverton High School's, adopted a motto reading "Our lives are before us, our paths are behind us, but our memories are forever with us." There is good news and bad news in that motto. As life beyond graduation stretches out, so will the memories -- both good and bad. One thing that age can bring is appreciation of the better memories, and, if we're lucky, the fading of the lesser ones.

For now, relish the good times of high school and graduation week, and make sure that fondness stays in the "forever" category of memories.

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore," reads the class motto at Lander Valley High School. Different poets or philosophers have written about leaving one good thing behind while searching for a new one.

From the shore, it looks as if the travelers are disappearing. But from another shore, they are arriving. Most importantly, the travelers are on their journey.

High school graduation is part of life's journey, but a very early part. There are oceans ahead of the graduates of 2013, and we wish them well as we watch them from the shore.

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