“Hi everyone, my name is Rowan Post and I’m the valedictorian for the Liberty Bell High school class of 2016. First I’d like to thank everyone for being here this evening, community members, teachers, friends and especially family, your support on this day means a lot.
Recently, as I get closer and closer to leaving home for the first time, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to be of a place. Being of a place is the idea that rather than just growing up in a location, each person on this stage is a representation of countless struggles, lessons and memories that when combined together embody this community and this place that we call home.
Memories of going off the rope swing at patterson lake, of riding a first horse, or of winning a first place ribbon at the county fair. The struggles of losing a home to fire, of hitting another deer or of only having 10 people at a high school dance. And lessons of community pride, of leaving the land as pristine as when you found it and of being part of a family that spans much further than just your relatives.
One of the reasons that I believe this place is so special is the uniqueness of the people who live here. If you look at our class as only a small representation of this diversity you will still see pink hair, spurs, barefeet, lycra ski pants, pierced noses, boat shoes, and cowboy hats. Each person here is wildly different because of the people of this community. We have been shaped and molded into our own selves by the lessons we learned here and we are now drawing close to the time where we will take our various places in the world beyond this valley.
As we enter the world at large we go equipped with countless lessons that this community has taught us.
We have learned self reliance from the farmers and ranchers that make their home here. They have shown us a way of life that sustains itself and is removed from a corporate society. A way of life that is quickly becoming rare throughout much of the world but is becoming ever more important.
From this valleys artists we have learned how to be creative. This community is filled with art. Where else will you have Tuvan throat singers perform for your school, or have local art in nearly every store? And it is clear that this creativity has been passed on to our class, just look at the water tower or the new sign at the entrance to the school.
We have learned an appreciation for nature from the countless athletes, guides, and conservationists who utilize all that this place has to offer. Few communities have spent as much effort as ours protecting the natural world. Even today the community is fighting for clean headwaters as corporations attempt to use this place we love for profit. Growing up I have had the opportunity to learn how to ski, rock climb, raft and do so many other activities that I would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
We have learned service from the nonprofits of this valley. Nonprofits such as room one, PSFA, aero methow, and the many churches who have brought together people from all walks of life in an effort to improve this community. There are so many people here who have given their lives to service and who have shown us how to act selflessly.
And we have learned resilience from the way that people came together and overcame adversity during the past two summers of fires and floods.
These lessons will go with us and guide us in whatever our futures hold.
One of the things that amazes me most about this place is the opportunities that it provides. It seems that no matter what you are interested in, there is someone in this community who is at the top of that field and is more than willing to take you in and nurture your curiosity. From astrophysics to leatherworking to neurosurgery I have seen so many of my peers had their interests developed by members of this community who were eager to help. The opportunity here is one of the reasons that this class has sought excellence in so many areas and I firmly believe that it is a trait of place seldom found outside of this valley.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about growing up in this community however, has been the education we have received. From Little Star to the Community School to Liberty Bell, I am eternally grateful to the many teachers who have helped to shape my interests, feed my curiosity and show me the beauty in knowledge. So thank you to all the teachers that helped to turn each of the members of this class into their own freethinking person.
We are each of this place and we each have our own story but I would like, for a moment to touch on my own. I grew up in the last house on twisp river rd. The beginning of my life was spent exploring the vast expanse of nature around me. I climbed trees, forged rivers and summited mountains in a place far removed from suburban lawns and malls. As I go forward in life, I will take this place with me and remind myself where I come from with every new step I take.
To my class. I ask each of you that you too remember your beginnings. Remember the people who taught you, your coaches, teachers, mentors, and the many important lessons that you have learned. Remember the struggles that you had and how you overcame them. Remember this place because you will always be a part of it and will always carry it with you. We are all of this place, this community, this valley and I am confident that if we each maintain this connection, we will go on to do great things.
And to younger generations who are waiting for their time on this stage, I urge you to take advantage of this valley while you have the opportunity. Seek mentorship, experience the full diversity of humanity, explore from the headwaters to the columbia, from the highest peaks to the garden rows, and leave your mark on this place just as it will leave its mark on you.”