Downers Grove Community High School South, Class of 1976
Valedictorians: Emil Martinec, Gary Murakami
By Gary J. Murakami, Graduation Ceremony for the Class of 1976
It is a great honor to be here today on this memorable occasion to speak
on behalf of the graduating class of '76. Since this is the bicentenial
year, it is appropriate to think and dwell on the values and ideals upon
which our country was founded - our American Heritage.
This year, a freshly kindled flame of patriotism has swept across the nation,
however, there are many men without countries today - men who are discontented
with their nation and rebellious against their government. Many of
us grumble and complain about taxes and inflation. Perhaps some of
us are even malcontents. Edward Everett Hale writes about a malcontent,
Philip Nolan, in the story, "The Man Without A Country."
Lieutenant Nolan takes part in a rebellious plot to create a separate state
-- a plot that is exposed and suppressed. At his court-martial, he
has a chance to vindicate himself with an oath of loyalty, but he condemns
the United States and cries in a fit of frenzy, "I wish I may never hear
of the United States again!" The court sentences Nolan and decides
that he should never hear the name of the United States again.
Nolan serves his sentence for fifty-five years on board a ship isolated
from any mention of his country. There he repents. Danforth, the
person in charge of Nolan, relates the story of Nolan's last day.
... The Stars and Stripes were displayed up and above and around
a picture of Washington, and he had painted a majestic eagle, with lightning
blazing from his beak, and his foot just clasping the whole globe, which
his wings overshadowed. The dear old boy saw my glance, and said with
a sad smile, "Here, you see, I have a country!" And then he pointed
to the foot of his bead, where I had not seen before a great map of the United
States, as he had drawn it from memory, and which he had there to look upon
as he lay...
Nolan has come to appreciate America and listens happily as Danforth tells
him the news of the past fifty-five years. Nolan says to Danforth,
"Look into my Bible when I am gone." An hour later, Mr. Danforth and
the doctor find that Nolan has passed away.
"Oh, Danforth," he said, "I know I am dying. I cannot get home. Surely
you will tell me something now? Stop! Stop! Do not speak
till I say what I am sure you know, that there is not in this ship, that
there is not in America - God bless her! - a more loyal man than I. There
cannot be a man who loves the old flag as I do, or prays for it as I do,
or hopes for it as I do.
We looked into his Bible, and there was a slip of paper at
the place where he had marked the text, 'They desire a country, even a heavenly:
therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared
for them a city.' On this slip of paper he had written, "Bury me in
the sea; it has been my home, and I love it. But will not some one
set up a stone for my memory at Fort Adams or at Orleans, that my disgrace
may not be more than I ought to bear? Say on it,
In Memory of PHILIP NOLAN
Lieutenant in the Army of the United States
He loved his country as no other man has loved her;
but no man deserved less at her hands.
As Philip Nolan, the man without a country, learned
to love America, so every citizen should also learn to love his country
and the ideals it is based upon. The American ideals of equality,
individuality, and excellence should be honored and cherished by every American.
is one of the ideals and the first "self-evident truth"
on which the founders of this nation built America. Two hundred years
ago, men that loved their country set equality as one of the standards for
hold these truths to be self evident
; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator
with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness." People cherished these ideals; they gave
their lives to that today there would be liberty and justice for all. They
are the Pilgrims, the Patriots, the Minutemen, the Pioneers, the Forty-niners,
the Yankees, the Confederates, the Abolitionists, the Immigrants, the Doughboys,
the G.I.'s, and you. Because of these people, our American Heritage,
and the self-evident truth of equality, we are here today on common ground;
all of us citizens of the Unites States of America.
Individuality is the next American ideal. It is based
on the point that people are not equal in all aspects; they are not identical.
Every man is unique. People are individuals with different physical
characteristics, mental capabilities, physical abilities, gifts, and talents.
There are people of different occupations: Athletes, Scientists, Businessmen,
Artists, Engineers, Farmers, Politicians, Laborers, Tradesmen, Secretaries,
and of course, Teachers. Mother Goose says,
The true greatness of a nation
is in those qualities which constitute the individual." Though it
conflicts with the idea of total equality, the sanctity of the individual
is an important American ideal.
Squire so hale,
Nothing at all
So the principle of equality does not mean equality of talent, wealth,
and condition, but equality of opportunity - opportunity to develop their
talent, their ability, and their motivation to make something of themselves.
" The real democratic
is, not that every man shall be on a level with every other, but that
every one shall have liberty without hindrance, to be what God made him."
" False democracy
- Every man down to the level of the average. True Democracy cries
- All men up to the height of their fullest capacity for service and achievement."
America gives its citizens an equal opportunity to succeed, to excel,
and to fulfill their God-given potential.
Excellence is the next American cornerstone upon which the
quality of the individual is founded. "
Democracy is based on the conviction
that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people." Excellence
is related to potential, character, and success. But - "Success is
not measured by what we are. It is measured by what we are compared
to what we could be. Success is not measured by what we do. It
is measured by what we do compared to what we could be doing." "
The talent of success
is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever
you do without a though of fame." Success is measured by the amount
in which we have fulfilled our potential. Booker T. Washington said,
"I have learned that success
is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in
life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."
Booker T. Washington rose "Up from Slavery" to found Tuskegee
Institute in Alabama and to be elected to the National Hall of Fame. George
Washington Carver also rose up from slavery to become a leading scientist
and to speak before Congress. This was possible because of another
great man who also rose up from poverty. "
With malice toward none
, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to
see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in." Abraham
Lincoln was reared on a farm in this state, but he rose to become one of
the most honored presidents in the history of the nation.
The decision to be successful and to excel in character is
up to every individual himself. "
A man's character
is the reality of himself." "
Grandeur of character
lies wholly in force of soul, in the force of thought, moral principles,
and love, and this may be found in the humblest conditions of life." Each
person must decide for himself what he will do with his life - and with
his opportunities and education. Mark Twain said, "Training is everything.
The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is but cabbage with
a college education." Mark Twain was the typical hookey-playing, Tom-Sawyer-type
student like many of us individuals in the class of seventy-six. Yet
he later became the most cherished American author. Ideally, American
Heritage gives every individual an equal opportunity for excellence. But
we must choose for ourselves what we will do with our lives, with our American
Heritage, and with God and Jesus Christ. Patriots died so that we
might have the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Christ
died so that we might have an abundant life - liberty from the bondage of
sin, and true happiness. "As many as received Him, to them He gave
the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His
name." It is our decision and our choice.
You are the handicap you must face
You are the one who must choose your place.
You must say where you want to go,
How much you will study the truth to know;
God hath equipped you for life, but He
Lets you decide what you want to be.
You can triumph and come to skill,
You can be great if you only will.
You're well-equipped for what place you choose;
You have arms and legs and a brain to use.
And the man who has risen great deeds to go
Began his life with no more than you.
NoBell Home - gjm
- last update 5/20/2002