Trying to find the meaning of life
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Thank you. My name is Matt Beirne. Today, I am a senior at Aspen High School. Tomorrow, I officially become a freshman at Duke University.
My classmates and I stand before you on our last day as seniors at Aspen High.
Before I begin, I would like to thank our superintendent of schools, Dr. Diana Sirko, our principal, Charlie Anastas, vice principal Brad Bates, the board of trustees, our teachers, staff and athletic coaches for putting up with us for the past four years.
I also would like to take the time on behalf of my classmates to thank all of our parents for their support through our high school careers as well as a special thanks to all of our relatives that have traveled to be with us here today.
My parents have always told me that their most important job was to provide unconditional love to my brothers and me and to give us the wings to fly. Our job was to never forget the nest that we came from when we take off in flight. I know that I speak for all of my classmates when I say that we will never forget where we came from.
When Charlie Anastas pulled me aside at lunch a couple of weeks ago and told me that I was officially valedictorian, I have to tell you that I was excited to win this honor but also perplexed as to how I would handle this moment … the speech!
My research regarding this topic leaves me with the conclusion that the best part of most valedictorian speeches is the conclusion. Everyone is happiest when it is over!
My hope is to make this both unique and memorable. I would like to take this time to talk about my amazing classmates and not about some incredible insight that I have into the inner workings of the universe or a teenager’s view on the Iraq war, global warming or the threat of China on the global economy.
I’m sorry, but I do not know the answer to the meaning of life. All I know is that our goal should be to have a positive impact on the world and to help as many people as possible during our lifetime.
It is said that, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” If this is true, I would like you to pay attention to the rumbling that has started to emerge from my classmates because I predict that their echo will be heard through all time.
I have to tell you that I am honored to be associated with the Aspen class of 2007. Unlike a lot of my classmates, I did not grow up here in Aspen. I arrived in Aspen just prior to the commencement of my freshman year. I weighed all of 95 pounds and stood 5-feet, 2-inches tall, but I was eager to make a great impression at the first double session football workout that summer. Little did I know how important those first few days would be.
At practice that day, I met my first amazing Aspen student, Dusty Stutsman. Dusty was captain of the varsity team, the starting running back and a stud! He pulled me aside at the end of our second week of practice and asked me to have breakfast with him the next morning before workout. To say the least, I was scared to death. I thought that it was hazing time or that I had really screwed up and did something wrong. Well, it turns out that he wanted to tell me that he loved how hard I worked in practice and that he wanted me to be part of their group of friends. He also wanted me to know that his friends didn’t drink or do drugs and that if I was going to be a part of their group they expected the same from me.
I was blown away. Here I am as this skinny little kid, a freshman, and the senior captain was welcoming me into the Aspen community.
Many of the people that we left in California thought that we were making a huge mistake moving to Aspen … that I would never receive a great education. Wrong … and that I was too late to be accepted by my classmates … wrong again!
School hadn’t even started and I knew that I had made a great move.
We have all grown a ton in the past four years, and thank God I finally grew. We have made incredible friendships with classmates and teachers alike.
I don’t know if it is the unique culture of Aspen or the emphasis from the community with tools like the Aspen Education Foundation, but we have been blessed with the best teachers in the country. I personally have been blessed to have teachers like Sarah Benson and Andy Popinchalk there to mentor me both in the courses they teach and in life skills that will serve me well for the rest of my life. I know that we all could name a handful of teachers that have touched our lives far beyond the classroom.
In addition to the teachers in our classrooms, we have the dedication of Charlie Anastas and Kathy Klug that are heroes for each and every one of their students. We cannot begin to thank them enough for the dedication and love that they have shown to us all.
We have lost friends these past years, and the world is not a better place for it. When our friend Alex Terral died, we were all changed forever! He is not here physically, but I can tell you that a part of him is with us every day.
We came together as a community and left our myopic world here in Aspen when the Katrina disaster hit. Students stood shoulder to shoulder loading boxes of supplies to help our fellow man in need.
A group of my friends Matt Cooper, Ryder, Kyla, Claire and I built a home in Nicaragua for a family in need. It served as a way to fulfill our IB service hours. We didn’t realize the effect that this trip would have on our development as human beings. We arrived in Nicaragua as citizens of the United States and we left as citizens of the world.
Our achievements in the classroom have been amazing. Our classmates are attending the finest higher education institutions in the world. We will be moving on to Duke, USC, Virginia, Dartmouth, MIT and others. Seventeen students from our class were admitted early decision to their school of choice.
As great as our academic achievements are, our achievements on the athletic field are even more impressive. I would like to take a moment to emphasize a couple of incredible accomplishments:
– First, our hockey team’s state championship;
– Second, our ski teams state championship;
– Corey Parker being named first team All State basketball as a junior;
– Stephen Buzbee off to play D-I soccer;
– David Clark off to play D-I football;
– Nordic team all academic first team all state;
– Jordie Karliski’s success at the X Games and hopefully off to the U.S. Olympic team;
– And the most impressive of all, Noah Hoffman winning nationals in Nordic.
We have seen the rebirth of football in Aspen with Friday night lights, the addition of a new dance team and the establishment of a new sport in lacrosse.
We owe the greatest thanks to our dedicated coaching staffs that sacrifice so much personal time to help us grow as young men and women.
In four years, I have been fortunate to see the incredible gifts of my classmates. The genius of Kyla Walter and Whit Fuller in Physics, the inspiration of Andy McCracken in music, the God given talent bestowed upon our friends whether it is on skis, in the theater, on canvas or on the field of play.
Reality is that in a town like ours, you do not have to be dedicated solely to academics or athletics. I worked hard as a student and was still captain of the football and baseball teams, and that pattern can be seen across all of our student body. Our future is bright and the amount of opportunity available to us all is immense. The pace of technical innovation and the continued globalization of the world economy will afford opportunities to us that do not exist today. It is likely that half of our graduating class will hold positions in the work force that do not exist today. They are yet to be created.
As an 18 year old, that could feel overwhelming and too daunting a challenge, but I know this group that sits before you. We are ready!
If it is true that what we do in life echoes in eternity. You had better be ready for a loud roar.
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