From State Sen. J.B. Jennings:
Over the past several weeks I’ve had the pleasure of attending numerous High School graduation ceremonies throughout my district. One of the true honors I have is to address the graduating class before they walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. The following is the speech I gave to this year’s graduating class:
“Good afternoon, Class of 2014. It is my honor to bring greetings on behalf of the Maryland State Senate.
Today, I stand before you as a much different person. I am a different person from the man who has addressed graduating classes in prior. This year, I stand here to speak to you as a parent. Six months ago, my wife, Michelle, and I welcomed our first child into this world.
Class of 2014, I can tell you that fatherhood has added new, spectacular and sometimes puzzling dimensions to my life.
I have experienced feelings and emotions in a magnitude I never thought was possible.
I have experienced a level of love higher and deeper than I could ever have imagined. Your parents are probably smiling knowingly now because they felt the same way 18 years ago when you came into this world. Heaven knows, they have needed every bit of that love to get you to this point in life.
From the terrible two’s to adolescence to the early teen years, I have no doubt that you have tested their love. But again, you would not be here today if it wasn’t for their limitless patience and unconditional love. So, make sure that when this ceremony is over, you take a minute and give them a hug and say “thank you.”
Fatherhood and the love for our child have brought me to a startling level of fear and anxiety that I’ve never experienced before. It is the fear and anxiety of making certain our child is always safe….making sure that our child is not too cold or too hot in his crib. And later on, making sure he doesn’t skin his knee when we take the training wheels off of his bike. Making sure he aced the test we helped him study for. From my parents and my childhood, I’ve gotten a glimpse of what Michelle and I have in store.
As I congratulate the Class of 2014, I want to congratulate the parents of the Class of 2014 and say…Well, Mom and Dad, 18 years of angst, worry and loving work have paid off. You’ve done an incredible job! Your sons and daughters have made it. They are about to become high school graduates and embark on life’s journey as adults.
One of my wife’s favorite books to read to our son is “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Your parents might have read this book to you when you were growing up. Well, the other night I sat down and read it to our son, JW, and I thought of all of you.
The story is about a young caterpillar that eats as much as it can so it can grow. Eventually, the caterpillar enters its cocoon, where a magical process takes place and it emerges into the world as a beautiful butterfly.
Class of 2014, today you are that emerging beautiful butterfly. You have spent the last 18 years ingesting and digesting as much information as you could. You learned to crawl. You learned to walk and talk. You learned your ABCs, how to add, subtract, multiply and divide numbers. You learned to analyze and reason.
The time has come for you to make the transition. It seems only moments ago that you came through those doors and entered your cocoon as high school students. It may look like an arena, but to you it is a cocoon.
Here, in the next hour the magical transformation will take place. Your graduation will be validated by a diploma and you will walk back through those doors as high school graduates. You will enter a new world – one in which you will be looked at differently – no longer as children, but as young adults. Now, people will see that you stand a little taller and walk a little prouder. They will know you are graduates and young adults.
Your parents and teachers have given you the tools you need to succeed. You may not realize it today…I certainly didn’t realize it when I was sitting where you are 22 years ago… but you have been given one of the greatest educations from one of the best schools in the world. The only thing that can stand in the way of achieving your dreams and goals is YOU. You have the power to do and be whatever you want.
Class of 2014, I congratulate you and wish you whatever you wish for yourself. Now, spread your wings and take flight. You’ve earned it.”