My Unforgettable Cedarville Experience

(The following is an expanded version of the speech I gave at this year’s CU Scholar Dessert Reception.)

The first thing I ever decided about Cedarville University was that I would not, under any circumstances, attend. Since my administrator’s son, Drew Flamm, worked in admissions at CU, I had been inundated since before I could remember with calls to become a yellow-jacket, and out of sheer stubbornness of heart, I refused.

Almost seven years later, and I stand before you all with the hopes of graduating next May. What changed? Well, for starters, God’s grace was, well, irresistible for even a stubborn high school student named Joshua Steele. While I don’t have time now to recount all the details, suffice it to say that receiving this scholarship was the final capstone of a tumultuous and miraculous college search process. I offer my sincerest thanks to the members of the selection committee. I stand before you now on nothing but a mountain of God’s grace, of which your generosity has been no small portion.

As I near the end of my Cedarville experience, two things have made my journey thus far particularly unforgettable and life-changing: Continue reading “My Unforgettable Cedarville Experience”

My High School Graduation Valedictorian Speech was a Poem

My Valedictorian Address, a Poem

The following is my valedictorian speech, delivered at my high school graduation in 2009. As you’ll see below, the majority of the speech was an original poem. Sure, I’m tempted to be a bit embarrassed by the poem today, but I’m also proud that I went for it. Let me know what you think!


GRADUATION!

Such a mix of emotions comes with this simple word…

Students are exhilarated to finally be done with yet another chapter of their lives.

Parents are also excited, yet saddened perhaps by the fact that their little babies are now about to embark into the real world.

Faculty are relieved to get such a motley group of troublemakers out of their school!Guests are happy to watch it all come together in one orchestrated ceremony,

Guests are happy to watch it all come together in one orchestrated ceremony, which is customarily concluded by a farewell address from the graduating valedictorian:

A poor individual who must say goodbye while also addressing all parties and emotions involved, all within the space of a short speech.

Fortunately, Mrs. Covrett, my English teacher, taught me that poetry is the language of both emotion and economy.

Earlier this year, amidst the trials and tribulations of AP English Literature and Composition, we read a poem entitled “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.”

This poem, written by John Donne about a love that transcends physical separation between him and his beloved, inspired me to compose my own work in the interests of avoiding both triteness and plagiarism on this most auspicious occasion.

Now, John Donne forbade his beloved from openly mourning his departure.

While I do not think it fitting for me to forbid anyone anything, please indulge me a few moments of your time as we look both back at the past and ahead into the future by way of my poem, entitled:

A VALEDICTION

The years, a road before us
This school, the path behind
And who can know what lies ahead?
The twists and turns we’ll find

Our time, it passes swiftly,
This life will soon be gone
When we look back upon our days,
What is it we’ll have done?

The world has many pleasures
its riches and its fame
Yet none of these are lasting treasures
for all face death the same

We’ve all one life to use now,
Our time will soon be past
And though this world will pass away,
What’s done for Christ will last.

For years, we’ve learned and grown here,
a foundation has been laid.
The future looms before us now,
a choice has to be made:

To waste our lives upon ourselves?
To build on sinking sand?
Or found ourselves upon the Rock,
Who holds us in His hands?

The choice may seem quite simple now,
as though the battle’s won,
but day by day, the world cries out
“Don’t fret! Go play! Have fun!”

Our lives will have their share of joy,
Good gifts from God each day.
But don’t be fooled, there’s pain as well
There’s bumps along our way.

Should we be scared? Can we succeed?
Is there hope amidst the fear?
Will we press on? or stop to heed
those voices in our ear:

“Turn back! This way is difficult!
It’s much too hard for you!
Too frightening, there’s no comfort there,
You’ll never make it through!”

Don’t stop! Press on! For don’t we know?
and have not we been told?
It’s only through the fire
You obtain the purest gold.

We have a God in Heaven
A Father and a Guide
He gives the strength to carry on
To those who would reside

in Him. we find our purpose
In Him we find the way
to live our lives unwasted
,to boldly face each day.

For He alone knows how much time
we have to walk the road
And He alone knows every trial,
The weight of each our loads

Though high school is now over
We’ve so much more to do!
The door has been flung-open,
and now we must walk through–

We’ll miss the loving people here
Who’ve helped us on our way.
Though time and distance come between,
Our thankfulness won’t fade.

So, Mom and Dad, we thank you for
The time and love you give.
You’ve been there through our best and worst
To show us how to live.

Our teachers, better mentors
We would be hard-pressed to find.
They’ve taught us both to seek the Truth
And always guard our minds.

So many more deserve our thanks,
Yet words cannot convey
The boundless debt of gratitude
That we should rightly pay.

And now we say “farewell”
“Goodbye,” as we depart.
One journey ends, another’s here
on which we must embark.


(For another original poem of mine, check out “From a Grateful Son,” which I wrote for my mother on Mother’s Day in 2009.)