This is the fourth part of a Viva Loudoun 18-part Graduation 2013 series with a detailed look at the graduations at all the Loudoun County Public Schools high schools and programs.
(July 1, 2013) -Scott Hamberger, CEO and co-founder Fortessa Tableware Solutions, LLC, gave Freedom High School’s Class of 2013 a realistic look at the world and their role in it during graduation ceremonies June 10th at George Mason University’s Patriot Center.
Hamberger said one of the graduates told him “some of the guarantees of the past are no longer valid. I can understand how you could feel that way and, indeed, from a certain point of view I agree with you, wholeheartedly. I had a front-row seat, from a business perspective, and I can say my belief is, in fact, that the great recession signaled the end of an era; an era that began with World War II and ended some time in 2008.
“That era is over. It will be up to us and to you, as members of this class of 2013, to determine what comes next.”
Hamberger praised the graduates for having the insight to recognize the economic problems around them. He added he would speak to the graduates as adults and give them some advice on how to act upon the uncertain future facing them.
“We will act upon it. We will not allow ourselves to become paralyzed. We will not allow ourselves to become defined by anxiety and worry, even if we have a lot of basis for that concern.”
Hamberger urged the graduates to first act upon those things that are within their control.
“We must focus on what we can control as individuals. Life is, and will be, full of many things beyond our control… and it’s just not economic forces here. As the world gets smaller, what happens in Greece or Spain or China can have a direct impact on your life. Political forces are beyond your control. We can’t control which party will be in power from year to year and again, as the world gets smaller, it’s not just politics here. What North Korea does to South Korea or what Iran does to Israel – or any number of places around the world – will impact our lives here. Finally, acts of nature; just in the last couple weeks we’ve seen the lives of our countrymen… torn apart by acts of nature beyond their control.
“We must understand these forces to the best of our ability and we can’t pretend they don’t exist or simply try to ignore them. But we must not allow those forces to define us nor absorb our energy from doing that that we can do in the moment…
“Each of us hold enormous potential and enormous possibility and what we make of that potential and possibility will first and foremost be up to ourselves…
“Most of all, do not succumb to the notion that life happens to you. Rather, recognize that we make choices every single day. The most fundamental of those choices involve what you will do with yourself. Making those choices involves work. Making those choices involves effort and making the right choices involves the understanding that you will benefit from investing in yourself and you will bear the consequences of not doing so.”
There were 436 members of the Freedom High School Class of 2013, 36 of whom had perfect attendance during their senior year. The graduating class earned $2,425,581 in scholarships and grants. This is the first Freedom graduating class to spend their entire educational career in a South Riding school.
Freedom Principal Doug Fulton, who was presiding over his first graduation, reflected upon the meaning of the day’s ceremony.
“This is about community and it’s about the graduation of a class… Today is about you, but we need to recognize some special groups who are here today. You need to show gratitude to those supporters and loving folks who have stood by you, supported you and cared for you. They have built a home in a literal and figurative sense. They’re your moms, your dads, your grandparents, siblings, your aunts, your uncles and your friends.”
Fulton then had the graduates turn around, find these supporters and give them a round of applause. He also had the graduates applaud their faculty.
“They’re the person who gave you your locker combination for the fifth time. They gave you a hard copy of the information that was on three different web pages. Freshman year, they printed your schedule every week so you could remember ‘A’ days and ‘B’ days…They’re the folks who worked with you, guided you and held you to the highest expectations. They taught and they learned from you.
“They gave you feedback, they gave you answers; sometimes answers you did not like, but needed to hear. They base their success on your success.”
Valedictorian Vidya Vishwanathan also reflected on her teachers.
“From teachers, I learned that grades are like gravity and it is much easier to slide down than it is to climb back up… From the same teachers, I have learned that a 93 or an 86 or a 77 is just a number between zero and infinity in math. The true value of your effort is how much pride you take in your work.
“I want to thank these Yodas of knowledge when answer they did my never-ending stream of questions.”
Vishwanathan urged her fellow graduates to make their mark through acts of kindness.
“It is our responsibility that we direct succeeding generations to follow our example. So I tell you… feed a child in need. Once in a while look up from your phone or laptop or television screen and smile, because one, single smile can acknowledge the presence of a person so this person understands they are wanted, that they are needed… so they don’t have to resort to violence to be heard.”
The salutatorian for the Class of 2013 was Tatjana Verena Fisher.
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Deputy Superintendent Ned Waterhouse urged students to pursue things of lasting value in their future.
“Entering adulthood in this place and time will pose for each one of you both challenges and opportunities. You will encounter an adult world that places tremendous emphasis on measurable achievement and the goal of obtaining material wealth. These things can divert and distract you from the fundamental core values and the lasting riches that accrue from deep relationships with others.”
Waterhouse said self-knowledge is the most important goal the graduates should strive for. “Rather than spending most of your life focusing on preparing for that ‘big choice’ to come along, spend some time thinking about and getting to know who you really are. Strive to be comfortable inside your own skin and to know what matters most to you…
“You’ll usually make good choices in life if you know yourself well, remain true to what you value and believe and look for the best in both yourself and others. The search for meaning and fulfillment in your life can only be conducted by you.”
The Class of 2013 presented the first Freedom Eagle Award (in absentia) to Malala Yousafzai,the teenager who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan while advocating for girls’ education. This award was presented as a result of senior essays describing someone who had inspired the graduates.
Dulles District School Board member Jeff Morse attended the Freedom High School graduation.
Article and photo courtesy Loudoun County Public Schools