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Secrets to Their Failures

Whitman '06 graduates reminded not to hold back for fear of failure.

Whitman 2006 graduate Carolyn Forstein spoke about the same subject Whitman 1981 graduate Mark Pryor spoke about — their failures.

“I have failed at a lot of things,” said Forstein, one of four student speakers at Walt Whitman High School’s graduation at DAR Constitution Hall on Sunday, June 11. Through her years at Whitman, Forstein tried out in vain for the junior varsity basketball team, the softball team, an a capella group and the school play, twice.

Each summer, Forstein would go off to camp, where she excelled at sports and activities. She was on a roll until school started again. “Everything I spent two months being really good at, I was suddenly mediocre at,” she said.

Such was the way that Forstein grew to realize the level of academic, athletic and extracurricular talent that her Whitman classmates had. She also realized that after a few rants and sometimes a few tears, she was none the worse for having tried. Forstein hoped that her classmates, in their lives after high school, would embrace the same willingness to strive and to fall.

“We should not limit ourselves for fear of failure,” Forstein said. She hoped that her fellow Whitman ‘06 graduates would strive to push their limits, and said, “18 is not an age in which you are locked into a particular role. … We are way too young to fall into a rut.”

SEN. MARK PRYOR, minutes later, had a similar message for Whitman’s ‘06 graduates. “I’ve learned a lot more from failure than I’ve ever learned from success. You’ve heard stories about overnight successes? Don’t believe them,” he said.

Prior to Pryor’s election to the U.S. Senate, he was the Arkansas state attorney general. He was elected in 1998, but first ran in 1994 in an election that he lost. “It was hard to get out of bed the next day. … I imagined what every person I saw that day must have been thinking,” he said — more than 50 percent of them had voted against him.

Four years later, Pryor was the better for it. “Losing that race made me a better attorney general,” Pryor said. “It taught me that I don’t always call the shots. … I had to ask myself, is this what I really want?”

He encouraged Whitman’s graduates to learn from their losses. “Every single person in this room will fail at something,” Pryor said.

WHITMAN PRINCIPAL Alan Goodwin, on the other hand, stressed the accomplishments of the class of ‘06. For starters, he said, “I’m especially happy that you got back safely from Beach Week.”

Goodwin also brought up the boys basketball team’s state championship from earlier this year, and the girls soccer team’s back-to-back appearances in the state championship. Whitman’s ‘06 graduates had the highest average SAT score of any class in school history. The choral and instrumental groups won several national awards as well. “We pride ourselves on our well balanced students,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin encouraged the Viking graduates to remember children, no matter what their endeavors, and minutes later, the graduates began the march to received their diplomas. The class of ‘06 left the building to the sounds of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, played by Whitman’s symphonic orchestra.