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Joey Rooney

 
Class of 2011
Following is from Joey's Valedictorian address in June 2011:
 
   We all – everybody in this room – experience change.  Change is an integral part of our existences here in this world.  The constants of life, those pillars of consistency, such as family and faith and success and experience, give us the confidence and the power to master the winds of change, and they motivate us to change for the better, not for the worse.  I am convinced that this graduating class of 2011 will push forward into its still insubstantial future as victors, unhindered by the roadblocks that life often throws in our way.  I’m sure of this because I’ve witnessed how we’ve changed over the last four years.  Together, we beheld change as an opportunity for good, not as an omen for failure.  As a result, we all became better people, and we have all grown in faith, in love, and in respect for each other as well as for our families and teachers.  Over the last four years, we have allowed God to shape us into men and women destined for greatness.  We are great people.  We are a great class.  In fact, we may be the greatest class in the history of Lutheran West!  That will be determined by what we do after we leave this place…because the measure of a man is what he does with his future, not what he once did in his past.

    As we all gather together in this gym for the last time as a class, I realize (and I think all of us realize) that our past years here have prepared us for the inevitable transitions in our lives.  How many chapels have we sat through in this room?  How many times have we prayed to God here?  How many times have we heard the words of life read from Scripture?  In this place, and with each other, we were completely alive.  Our teachers held us to a certain standard of purity, and, after a while, we held ourselves to that same standard…  That’s not normal.  The majority of high school students never experience the community of faith that we had here – that we still have right now.  I never felt insecure.  Most of us probably never felt insecure here either.  In fact, when all is said and done, most of us probably loved this place for the simple reason that it is the best of all possible high schools!  I believe that.  We love this school, though, not because its walls or its floors possess any inherent beauty, and not because of its excellent climate control on those excruciatingly hot or frigidly cold days, but we love this school because of its people.  A bond between people is the strongest bond in the universe.  It’s not easily broken.  Even those of us who maybe didn’t spend much time together over the years are still connected.  Together, as a single unit, we hold a spot in the history of this school, and no one can take that away from us.  I find it interesting that some of our teachers have been here for decades.  To them, one class passeth away and another cometh, but Lutheran West abideth forever, I suppose.  The one thing I ask of all our teachers is this: remember us.  Don’t forget this class, because we won’t forget you.  I speak for my all of my classmates when I say, “Thank you.”  Thank you for your commitment and your dedication.  You expected a lot out of us, but that’s because you gave a lot back to us.  I hope that, a decade from now, you still remember us; it’s our job to make sure that happens, though.  When you see one of us on TV, or when you see one of our names on the New York Times bestsellers list, or when you encounter one of us working in the church or at Microsoft or at Harvard, then you’ll remember this class.  Again, our greatness is determined by what we will do, not by what we’ve already done.

    Armed with the spiritual and academic knowledge we’ve acquired here, we must live up to a new set of expectations now: our own.  That could be dangerous.  What are our expectations of ourselves going forward?  In this Christian environment, it was easy to form a set of values and stick to it.  Honestly, it would have been a chore to go against the grain and slip into faithlessness or impurity.  We were all accepting the mission together.  Now, however, we won’t have this environment or each other to narrow our focus on Godly desires.  That’s why, right here, right now, in this moment, we need to make a pledge.  When the American Patriarchs wrote the Declaration of Independence, they pledged to each other their Lives, their Fortunes, and their Sacred Honor.  We need to do the same in this time of our independence.  Our parents and our teachers can’t direct us where we should go anymore.  Now it’s up to us that we pursue God.  He’ll be pursuing us, for sure – but our power, our greatness, demands that we do our fair share as well.  In this world of shifting values and extreme resistance to faith, we need to hold ourselves responsible for what we say and how we act.  If our rules are God’s rules, if our values are His values, and if our spirits and His Spirit are one – then we belong to eternity, and every day forward is a blessing.  So let us make that pledge, because I intend to see everyone here at another gathering someday, the day when struggle becomes reward, when hope becomes certainty, and when time becomes eternity.  We’ve all been on the road to heaven for a long time, so let’s continue in that fashion.

    I don’t mean to preach; that’s not my purpose today.  But I would be doing a disservice to all of you if I didn’t use this opportunity to look ahead and to inspire.  I’m really speaking just as much for myself as I am for you.  The most important thing I can learn – the most important piece of knowledge that we can pound into our brains – is that we can all be better people.  I can be a better person.  You, my classmates, can be better people.  Our parents can be better people.  Our teachers can be better people.  If Mother Theresa were in the audience, she too could be better.  There is no limit to righteousness.  There is no boundary to holiness.  Each one of us was brought here for a purpose, and that purpose stretches into eternity.  Every day, I need to reinvest in that purpose.  Every day, I need to push myself towards perfection.  There is such a thing as a pursuit of perfection, and we’re all pursuing it.  Unfortunately, the world seems determined to change our course.  It throws so many curveballs and changeups at us that, sometimes, we lose sight of our goal.  Our environments change.  Our lives change.  People stroll in and out of our lives daily, and we need to be cautious.  Are they trying to change us for the worse, or are they motivating us to be better?  We should never underestimate a man’s ability to radically alter the course of his neighbor’s existence.  That power is either a gift or a curse, depending on how he uses it.  Each one of us has that power as well.  Either we can show God to the world, or we can hide Him.  We all know that a city on a hill cannot be hidden, but we have to build up the city first.  That’s a difficult assignment, but we must accept it; mediocrity should be an unknown word for us.  We are great: we are the kings and queens of eternity.  We are nobility.  We are a temple.  We are the image of God, and we are the world’s future.  If anyone here doubts that, then cast your eyes on the cross in the back of the gym.  There is our greatness.

    We cannot prevent the world from changing.  We can’t start next year back at Lutheran West.  I don’t think any of us would want to, despite our affection for the school.  We’re ready to confront the change and to master the change.  We’ll embrace the changes that improve our lives, and we’ll attempt to bypass those that hinder us.  We won’t be able to transform the world completely; we won’t be able to remove all the negative changes.  The weight of immorality is massive…  But it’s not as great as we are, and it certainly isn’t as great as our God.  We don’t need to foresee our future to prevent immorality.  We just need to take these lessons that we’ve learned here and remember them in times of distress.  If we do that, in the words of the apostle Paul, I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  May God bless us and keep us here in time and forevermore.
 
    Thank you all for the privilege and the honor of speaking to you today at the culmination of this amazing journey called high school.  Thank you, Lutheran West.  Most importantly, to close this speech, I would like to thank my parents, my brother, and my grandparents for all your love and support over the years.  Love you guys.  
© Joseph Rooney, 2011   
 


Jessica Moses

Class of 2005

Sometimes it’s just by being around people who practice Christian teachings and are willing to lend a hand that help you grow the most...

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Lutheran West
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Rocky River, Ohio 44116-4099

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Acts 3:6-8 I don’t have much, but what I have I give to you:  In the name of Jesus-Walk!  The man jumped up leaping, dancing and praising God!