By Dr. Gary A. Epling

[This speech, written in 1963 by someone later to become an important scientist and educator (Gary Epling, Ph.D.), is still pertinent today--especially so in light of recent world events. Its call to uphold American democracy is critically needed in times of threat to that democracy, and its thoughtful reminder that our nation is the political bulwark of Christian ideals is as old as Colonial America and yet as recent as modern headlines. This essay, by a brilliant deep thinker (who was only a high school graduate at the time this valedictorian speech was delivered to his graduating class, yet already he was a National Merit Scholar whose high test score set a record unmatched at his school, and he later became the department head at a major New England university) encompasses our past, present, and future.]

    Youth stands before a challenging world. The future with all its uncertainties and problems has always been a challenge to each generation. We, who graduate on this occasion from high school, must meet the challenge.

    In every age to every person there is a challenge! The endeavor to meet the challenge constitutes life's goal for the individual.

    In the days of the first men, the challenge was a challenge to survive in his environment. Survival for these early men meant the realization of their goal. But through the ages a greater responsibility has come to each person than to solve the problem of his own survival. Life has grown infinitely more complex than the life which consisted entirely of the struggle for food, shelter, and clothing. In a society of individuals, such as the one in which we live, not only must one struggle to survive himself; but he must also seek a way to help his neighbor survive.

    Our nation has changed from one with national interests to one of international interests. We can no longer think in terms of our national survival alone, for we have learned in recent years that our lives are closely interwoven with the fortunes of other nations.

    A flood in Brazil, tornado in England, famine in Japan--these and other disasters in other countries would have an immediate damaging effect upon our civilization in the United States. If civilization is set back in a foreign country, our civilization suffers. If civilization advances on the far horizon, our fortunes rise.

    Today, too, the challenge of survival is complicated by the many advances which we have made in recent years. The graduates of 1963 must enter a world in which earth satellites, atomic energy, radio-astronomy, photosynthesis, electronic computers, and transcontinental travel are challenging forces. The impact of these and other advances is to complicate the struggle for survival to a fantastic level.

    Thus we find ourselves faced with the age-old problem of the struggle for survival intermingled with the problem of adjusting ourselves to the new world of the present and future.

    The message to the class of 1963 given to all of you through me is that we go forth from high school to accept the challenge which we are now confronted with. We accept the challenge confronting us to step from the world of childish deeds into the world of today as functional adults engaged in useful occupations.

    The members of the graduating class come to the hour of commencement realizing that because we live in this nation which symbolizes the world's greatest example in freedom for mankind, we have a great task before us. We know that it is our job to help preserve in the world this great principle of government and this great adventure in living for free people. We share in the realization that unless we can uphold the principles of democracy in our lives the nation will begin to decay and crumble. Without the support of citizens who believe and support the ideals of democracy, this nation cannot long stand. We accept the challenge of our democracy to sustain Christian ideals in our lives.

    As we graduate from high school we are presented a challenge by the social, economic, and political world which is before us. The whole world challenges us to be responsible human beings, undertaking our part in the big job of preserving a democratic way of life for all people.

    We will face the challenge! We shall answer the challenge by going forward to tackle the jobs ahead of us in the best manner possible with the ability we have. Never before has one needed to be equipped with specialized training as in the present. We realize that the training we have received in high school is basic for any task that may be given to us or for any further training we need. We are unable to express verbally our appreciation to our teachers and friends who have assisted us in our years in school, so we will endeavor to show our appreciation by becoming useful citizens and using the knowledge which has been imparted to us. The preparatory period of learning is now drawing to a close. Our heartfelt desire is that we will now be able to step forward and serve with the knowledge we have received.

    We, the members of the senior class, now leave behind us all the days of high school, taking with us the memories of our rich experiences. Many friendships have been formed in these years which we will cherish forever. We hope that during the time we have spent in high school we have added to the traditions of the school. We hope that we have upheld the scholarship records. We hope that because we have been students here, we have contributed in at least a small way to the well being of all with whom we associated. We know that we have profited from our training in Elkhorn City High School.

    The members of the senior class of this high school are a part of the long succession of generations of people who have held fast to the dream of the ages--the dream of a better world. At this time we want to go on record as desiring to do our part in making this dream of mankind come true.

    We ask for your continuing interest and friendship after our graduation as we seek to find our place of service in the challenging world before us.


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