Seniors at all the area’s high schools graduated in commencement ceremonies last week, including 161 at the City of Falls Church’s George Mason High. The News-Press will be documenting the occasions for all the area schools in photo spreads over the next few weeks.
U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, a 20-year veteran progressive in the U.S. Congress, challenged the Mason students who graduated at the Constitution Hall in D.C. last Thursday with developing their full potentials to make the world a better place. “The greatest tragedy,” he said, “Is not physical death, but what we let die in us while we live.”
Moran, who is expected to be elected to an 11th term in November against the Tea Party’s favorite Patrick Murray, has had a lot of visibility in the tiny portion of his 8th District recently, including at a re-election campaign kick-off slated for Cherry Hill Park Pavilion this Sunday. On Tuesday, he made a cameo appearance at the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce’s monthly social mixer, held at the site of the planned new Wilden House senior affordable housing project.
Moran has made a concerted effort to steer senior housing and transportation dollars to Falls Church over the years.
Speaking at Mason’s commencement last week, Moran departed from the kind of political stump speech he’s delivered to many times over the years, and drew uneven reviews from students and others for his effort at more personal comments to the graduating seniors.
He challenged the students to be “that unique person of great value we know you were meant to become.” He urged each of the students to reflect on what it means to be the only person like them that has ever lived or will ever live, and added that human beings are the only living things on the planet who “are greater than the sum of their parts.”
He said the “secret to life” lies in the concept of empathy with others, the capacity for understanding and respect, and that good works derived from that are best when they are anonymous, and not done to gain credit from others. Be “inward directed,” he said, “Do what you do because it’s who you are.”
“Your soul is the most important part of you,” he said. “Take away everything else, your physical body, what other people think of you, and can come to who you really are.”
He added, “You have the ability to create good, to make others more whole and happy. By focusing on the most important part of yourself, your mind, and by using it for reflection on the information is obtains, a person prepares him or herself to create, and make him or herself a person of great value to others, and capable of making an indelible mark on the world. You must want to become all you can be.”
Moran brushed lightly on the world’s problems that will greet the Class of 2010, including “an enormous debt, a scandal,” and assaults on the environment that will make uninhabitable the planet for forms of life upon which human life depends, and the unfathomable resources it will take to bring the rest of the world’s population to even half the standard of living enjoyed by people living in Northern Virginia.
Those gathered for the ceremony, which included a large contingent parents, family and friends along with the school faculty, were greeted by Mason High Principal Tyrone Byrd, class secretary Katrina Snyder, School Board chair Ron Peppe and School Superintendent Dr. Lois Berlin.
Valedictorians Nicole C. Peyton, John C. Western and Courtney L. Ready delivered speeches, class treasurer Kelley Frank presented the class gift (an eigh-foot high statue of the team mascot “Mustang Sally” to overlook the athletic fields), and class vice president Ben Stewart introduced Rep. Moran.
Musical performances were by the GMHS symphonic band with Adeyianka Johnson-Bowman and the soloilst singling “Over the Rainbow,” the GMHS Chorus singing “Stand By Me,” and the symphonic band with vocalists Katherine Buenneke, Miles Butler, Hannah Gann, Adeyianka Johnson-Bowman, Elizabeth Morrison, Elizabeth Nystom, Reilly O’Hara and Tom Shapiro performing “Setting Sail” from the “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman.
Principal Byrd awarded the diplomas with the assistance of Tim Guy, Ken Siekman, Paige Whitlock and Amy Kurjanowicz. When that was completed, Byrd presented the “Graduated Class of 2010” and all the graduates thrust their caps into the air. Class president Karishma John closed the ceremony, followed by the procession out to the music of the symphonic band playing Rimsky Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles.”
The graduates were invited to attend an all-night graduation party that began later in the evening.