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Salutatorian Speech: Class of 2023

Good evening parents, faculty, family, friends, and my fellow graduates. I'm Mary Garcia Coe and it is my honor to be here tonight as the salutatorian for the graduating class of 2023. It has been an honor to learn and grow alongside each of you for the past seven years I’ve been at Veritas.

While thinking of how to best capture the spirit of the Class of 2023, I thought it would be more fitting to ask each of my classmates for the first word that comes to mind when they think of us. Light hearted. Adventurous. Funny. Tight-knit. Reliable. Kind. Enthusiastic. Passionate. I believe it is the combination of these qualities that have made our class an unusually unified group. We truly love each other and look out for each other. Mr. Thompson always reminds us that we are made for community. The quality of a class’s community has a deep impact on the quality of our school experience. I know my own time at Veritas has been so rich in large part because of my amazing classmates. Thank you for that.

I’m sure that everyone in this room at some point in our lives, especially when we were little, was asked the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I wonder how many people actually grow up to be what they wanted to be when they were five years old. I for one would be driving an ice cream truck. Other graduates tonight would be pursuing their careers as: a scientist, a hairdresser, a fashion designer, a NFL player, a detective, a cowboy, a police officer, a librarian, the president, and a pirate. While these are funny and endearing to think about, the careers that we choose are not what define us. Questions like this keep our focus more on striving and achieving. It causes us to put our worth in our achievements and awards rather than our character and heart. The more important question we should be asking others is not “What they want to be” but “Who they want to be when they grow up?”

It is an important goal of a Classical Christian Education to help students to excel academically and to achieve high goals in our studies. But... any school can do that. If that is all a school accomplishes in its students, then that might be impressive, but it is a gross failure. What separates Veritas from a school whose main focus is academics and achievements, is its commitment to and investment in, not what we do, but who we are, and whose we are. Veritas understands that, as a 20th century French priest said, “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.”

The Veritas community does, of course, want us to do our best, but more importantly, they help us to be our best. The teachers at Veritas see our character and our attitudes before they see our grades or our accomplishments. They make it clear to every student that they are more concerned with our hearts and our spiritual development, and that teaching is a vehicle by which they can mentor us and help us grow. It is not unusual to see teachers praying with or for students. Our teachers take time to guide us through social or personal challenges when we seek their help. They make sure we are not just learning facts in a vacuum, but that we can take what we are learning and apply it in such a way that it builds our characters. Earlier this year in my Greek class, I took a test that I was certain I had failed. I didn’t want to disappoint Dr. Sundt; his expectations are high. So when I finished my test, I wrote him a letter on the back apologizing for letting him down if I failed or made a low grade. He returned my test to me the next time class met. When he handed it back, he assured me that no grade I made could have disappointed him, and that he doesn’t look at my grades when he considers who I am or where my worth comes from. I am confident my classmates could share similar experiences. This is only one example of how our teachers remind us daily that they care deeply about WHO we are, and that we are all image bearers of Christ, and that our worth comes from our identity in Him.

I speak on behalf of my whole class when I say that we can not thank Veritas enough for creating a community that nurtures our spirits and grounds us in who we are and who we want to continue to become. My hope is that as we leave Veritas that we may all continue to strive to become “WHO we want to be.”

- Thank you

Mary Garcia Coe

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