Valedictorian William Andrew Peter Kipp holds up the mechanical pencil that's served him well over the past four years, telling the class that like the pencil they have changed yet still are who they are.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The McCann Technical School class of 2017 was encouraged to live in the moment and to be brave in the face of failure.
School Committee Chairman Thomas Mahar said he'd had a hard time thinking of what advice to give the school's 55th graduating class that hadn't been said before.
"I realized I didn't have anything new to say," Mahar told the 112 graduates seated in the Amsler Campus Center gym at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. "Then it struck me, you don't hear much about failure."
Satisfaction comes from doing your best, he said, by reaching deep inside and pulling off something beyond your skill level.
"No one ever became famous because they failed at something, or have they?" Mahar asked. He continued that "failure is often the beginning of success" and noted when Thomas Edison was asked about failing a 1,000 times before inventing the light bulb, his response was "the light bulb is an invention with a 1,000 steps."
And Michael Jordan's missed 9,000 shots and lost plenty of games, he said, but he kept trying.
"Success depends on risk in order to reach your full potential, you can't fear failure, you must push yourself," Mahar said. "You have to practice being brave, growing to become the best you can be ... failure is the foundation of character."
Valedictorian William Andrew Peter Kipp reflected on how the class has changed but remained the same over the past four years.
Pulling out a mechanical pencil, he held it high as he told how he'd "used it on every assignment and every test" since his first day McCann.
"It's still the same pencil, you're still the same person, but greater and changed by your experiences," Kipp said. "As this pencil has become worn and dirty, you have become the opposite. You have become bright, intelligent and well-rounded individuals, well-rounded like the edges of my pencil that used to be a hexagon."
He thanked his classmates for their support and competition, and the faculty for pushing him out his comfort zone. McCann's "unique educational experience" and his election as an officer with SkillsUSA had opened boundless opportunities both in academics and leadership.
Quoting former President Barack Obama, Kipp said, "we are the change we seek. ... The world is imperfect and we can leave here today and do nothing about it or we can leave here, go into the world and make a difference. ...
"I urge you, I implore you and, if I had any real power, I would order you to take all that you have learned over these four years in the walls of our incredible school and go out there ... go out and be the change you want to see."
The class sang the national anthem at the beginning of the ceremony and the school's song at the conclusion, with Robert Davis on the keyboard. The slideshow of senior pictures this year also included a video of scenes from "The Breakfast Club" recreated by the Spanish Club that drew lots of laughter.
Superintendent James Brosnan said he was proud of them and encouraged them to remain in touch and supportive of each other. He and Mahar awarded the diplomas as the family members cheered.
Principal Justin Kratz took a moment to thank MCLA for the use of the gym, noting that size of the gathering wouldn't fit in the high school gymnasium, and the extra effort done in taking down the MCLA banners.
"They make it feel more like McCann for us," he said. "They really go the extra distance to make us feel welcome here."
Kratz picked up on a theme of salutatorian William D. Galipeau's address about living in the moment, "in the now, not in the next."
"Do not to be in rush for anything in life, because the finish line of life is not something you really want to get to," he said. "Enjoy it, take your time, slow things down ... we can try as best we can to live in the moment and make a conscious effort to enjoy everything that's going on."
Galipeau, who ended with a poem he wrote about graduation, had also asked the class to look around at the hundreds of people in the bleachers.
"We aren't here for their graduation, they all are here for your graduation," he said. "We are graduating for everyone who helped us get this far ... they're going to be wondering what is this moment going to signify for you? You have every moment from now to the rest of your life to decide that."
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