Washington-Lee Grads Lauded for Uniqueness


(Saturday, June 21, 2008 8:02 AM EDT)

Although the members of Washington-Lee High School's Class of 2008 were all dressed in the same blue caps and gowns for their graduation on June 19 at DAR Constitution Hall, the focus wasn't on the 387 graduates' similarities, but on each individual's unique qualities.

“You all are unlike anyone else,” said valedictory speaker Imani Tate. “You are destined for great things.”

Tate recalled one of her first days of school, when classmate Sara Brosnahan asked her, “Do you like lentil soup?” instead of introducing herself with the usual, “Hi, how are you?”

While it may have seemed a bit strange, Tate realized that this question actually was a statement of who Brosnahan was. Tate commended all the members of her class for their willingness to make statements of their individuality throughout their four years at Washington-Lee.

“They knew exactly who they were, and they were different,” she said. “And if that's what being different was, then that's what I wanted to be.”

Washington-Lee principal Gregg Robertson also recognized the members of the Class of 2008 as very special people.

“When I look out here, besides the funny hats, I see determination, drive, hope and, most of all, I see promise,” he said. “What made the [old Washington-Lee] building special, besides the tropical temperatures and groovy decorations, was the atmosphere you created.”

He said it was an atmosphere they brought to the new building as well. To commemorate them, a picture of the 2008 graduates will be permanently displayed in the school's main office.

Following tradition, the graduating class chose a faculty member to give the commencement address, and this year, they chose social studies teacher Peter Vogel.

Rather than take the spotlight for himself, Vogel quoted advice his fellow faculty members had for the graduates.

Mr. McCarthy, Vogel said, reminded them: “never stop having new experiences.”

Mr. Peters advice was: “always be willing to fight for truth - your own truth.”

And Vogel put in his own two cents by telling the graduates to “stay calm, take a deep breath and grit your teeth” when the going gets rough.

“When you conquer fear, you lead a much fuller life,” he said.

Superintendent Robert Smith echoed the speakers' messages by comparing the graduates to past generations of students.

He said that, as “millennials,” they are the most diverse, healthy, optimistic and civically engaged generation the United States has seen so far.

“We expect great things from each and every one of you,” he said.

Jerrel Thompson, Joe Duffy and Mustapha Jammeh.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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