Matt Waldmann, Mepham High School’s class of 2014 salutatorian, began his commencement address with a story about a Vietnam War veteran, describing to a packed audience at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury last Sunday how the soldier parachuted behind enemy lines.
Many years after his return to civilian life, Waldmann said, a stranger approached the veteran to say that he was an officer who had packed the soldier’s parachute on the day he had to jump.
“We are surrounded today by our own parachute packers: our parents, our friends, our teachers who shaped us into what we are today,” Waldmann told the audience during Mepham’s 76th commencement. “As we leap into the real world, our parachutes have been well-packed.”
Some 349 Mepham seniors received their diplomas from Principal Michael Harrington, Central District Superintendent John DeTommaso and Board of Education trustees on June 29.
Harrington praised members of the class of 2014 for their hard work. “You are a remarkable group of students,” he said. “I’m humbled by what you’ve accomplished. You’ll be missed, but I say goodbye and good luck.”
Class President Rachel Fain gave the senior address, in addition to introducing speakers like Board of Education Vice President JoAnn DeLauter, poet laureate and Mepham English teacher Melanie Sirof, and the senior choir. Sirof read a poem called “Atlas,” while the chorus sang the Phillip Phillips hit, “Gone, Gone, Gone.”
Fain also introduced Waldmann and Brian Keohane, the class valedictorian. In his speech, Keohane discussed the seniors’ future, noting that the graduates will need to embrace their failures and learn from them.
“We must push beyond our comfort zones in everything we do,” he said. “We need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. We must never be satisfied with our achievements.”