On Friday night, Potomac Falls High School seniors gathered at George Mason University’s Patriot Center in Fairfax, to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas.
The basketball court turned into a sea of purple and silver. Valedictorian Michaela "Kiki" Ottenburg rose from the mass of robes, tassels and mortarboards to deliver her speech to the Class of 2006. Ottenburg, who graduated with a 4.4, will attend the University of Virginia to study government and politics in the fall.
"Who’s excited about unlimited ketchup packets? I know I am," Ottenburg joked.
Although her speech was packed with punches, she did offer her fellow classmates advice.
Don’t compare yourself to others, she said. "Success in life should be measured individually."
At the end of her speech, salutatorian Kiersten Petersen introduced the next speaker.
When the Class of 2006 asked Chief Deputy Attorney General of Virginia William C. Mims to speak at their graduation, he didn’t hesitate to say yes. Mims is the father of two Potomac Falls High School graduates.
"I’m a Panther parent," Mims said. "I’ve even been high-fived by the Panther mascot, Kiki Ottenburg."
In his speech, Mims walked through the lives of the graduates, beginning with 1993, their first day of school. He talked about how far technology has come.
"In 1993, computers were slow, real slow, but the revolution had begun," he said. "The World Wide Web was two years old. Most parents had never received an e-mail. Some still haven’t. They had not ‘Googled.’ 1993 was a time of change, revolutionary change, breathtaking change. Your parents coped with it. You have mastered it."
Mims reminded the graduates to be empathetic. He quoted Mother Theresa: "There is joy in transcending self to serve others."
"Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk," he added.
In 1993, the No. 1 song was "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston.
"We hope life treats you kind and we hope you have all you dreamed of," Mims said to the graduates. "And we wish to you joy and happiness, but about all this we wish you love."