Bravery. Huh. What a word. A word with infinite meanings, thousands of words compressed into one. Bravery. To the younger generation, it may mean courageous knights fighting past the armies of evil, and triumphing against all, single-handedly, for love of a fair maiden. To an older generation, bravery might mean fighting for their country in a bloody World War where they are the only survivor in a battle where their comrades fell one by one, until only they are left and their friends are gone.
But the kind of bravery I am addressing now is a different kind of bravery, a bravery that means no glory or honor, save in the honor unrecognized, no fair maidenís kiss or Purple Heart. Iím talking about the bravery each one of you has faced not too long ago, for some a few years, and for others only one school year ago. You all had to nerve yourselves to come into a classroom full of people you scarcely knew on the first day of school, not knowing what to expect. Thatís the way I came into All Saints for the first time. I came in third grade not knowing what to expect.
As I have something called Nonverbal Learning Disability, I had a harder time connecting with my classmates. But I had to be brave, as all of you have had to, in the sense I mean now, to stick with it, and to come back for more the next day.
Fortunately, I had, until today, a very good class, which didnít make fun of my issues, along with excellent teachers who gave me the support I needed. Mrs. Wandkey was a teacher that some of you lucky children will have, and some of you can tell the younger classes what you have experienced under her kind, gentle, knowing hand which guided you to the proper learning course. She helped me, as she has helped so many of you, to feel welcome.
My respective homeroom teachers renewed this feeling every year, along with all of the other single-subject teachers. They all taught me, as they have taught us, what the normal sort of bravery really is. It is what makes us go outside of our comfort zone, to face the challenges ahead of us, and to bear our burdens and step forward accordingly into our positions to learn as much as is possible for us to learn.
My hope for my own future, as well as the rest of the class, is that we will all have kind supporting teachers, not unlike the teachers we have had before. Once again, after a long respite, I will have to show the same kind of bravery in my new school, Orion Academy. I will have a new class of only eight students, whom I have never seen before, and teachers I have only met once or twice, and I will be with them for the next four years.
It will be strange, weird, scary and new. As I am moving to San Francisco, I will even have a new house, and may be required to move several times. I hope for my own sake that I will be able to show the same bravery as I have at All Saintsí. As Orion treats NLD Students, I hope I will progress through school without driving my classmates crazy, and vice-versa. I hope that this new life is just as good as the old.
...Presented by Chris Turner at his 8th grade graduation, June 9, 2002