Chanting “06” in unison, the senior class at Washington-Lee High School threw their caps into the air, marking the end of commencement exercises at DAR Constitution Hall in the District and four years of high school last Thursday, June 22.
Arlington School Board members David Foster and Frank Wilson, and Superintendent Robert Smith joined the W-L faculty, student’s families and friends to honor the 316 graduates.
“WE NEED to take something away from this place,” said Samuel Hanft, who gave the Valedictorian address. “Today is not just about leaving W-L, but about leaving Arlington.”
Hanft, who was one of 54 valedictorians that maintained a 4.0 GPA or higher during their high school years, spoke about trying to find something to care about after school ends.
He used the example of memorizing the quadratic equation every year in high school math. Most people, he said, would not remember the formula in a few years, but those that did would be passionate about math.
Government teacher Rob Summers gave the faculty address. “It turned out I am available because there’s a delay in the filming of 'Nacho Libre 2,'” he said jokingly.
Summers has only been at W-L for two years, but is already very popular as a teacher and varsity girls soccer coach. He was selected by students to speak and provided some lighter moments, and also offered up advice for the graduates.
“It’s OK to be afraid of the big wide world out there. It’s OK to still be finding yourself, just don’t give up the duty you have to find yourself and achieve a peak experience in the process,” he said.
He thanked the class for their goodness, using individual students as examples, and told them never to lose their ability to give, to find the positive, and humor in life.
Drawing from work by Choygam Trunga Rinpoche, Summers said, “You are rising sun people, embracing the new day for what it is, a gift … There is greatness within each one of you. My wish for you is that you reach it, develop it, and care for it.”
He concluded his speech with lyrics from Jimi Hendrix and received a round of applause from the near-capacity crowd.
Names of the 316 graduates were then read. Even though friends and family members of many seniors shouted as they crossed the stage and received their diplomas, the ceremony remained dignified.
Sitting on stage, Summers received numerous hugs and handshakes, and one high-five from a passing student. Graduate Charles Ebert almost brought down the house as he fist-pumped across the stage and then paused to flex his muscles, bringing a number of students to their feet in cheers.
CONCLUDING remarks were presented by Principal Gregg Robertson, a Virginia Tech graduate, who joked with School Board member Dave Foster, a graduate of the University of Virginia. He explained that 18 students were headed to Virginia Tech, while only nine were headed to UVA. “I am glad 18 of you are already making good decisions,” he said.
He left the seniors with one last request, before they tossed their caps into the air and exited DAR Constitution Hall to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
“Take your parents aside,” he said. “You would not be here today without their love and support.”