Valedictory speech: Education lights the fire of our future

Before you all jump out of your seats to climb your mountains, I have just a few words to share as well!

A quote I have always liked, which the Internet tells me is misattributed to William Butler Yeats, remarks that "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Despite its dubious origins, I think that the analogy works quite well because like fire, education can be used primarily in two ways: recreationally or restoratively.

Recreationally, you could use your education mainly to make bad puns at parties and to differentiate between good literature to "read" in public and bad "literature" to read in private. I think you'll find that this is how many people end up using their degrees, and while no one would be the worse off if you followed this path, it might be a bit of a waste if this were the only way in which you put your WHS education to use. It dulls and obscures, to some extent, what should really be a noble object of admiration.

Let me elaborate on what I mean when I say that fire and education can best be used in restorative fashions. In the California redwood forests, park rangers tried to eliminate forest fires altogether for a number of years. While seemingly a reasonable undertaking, this actually allowed various detritus to accumulate on the forest floor and slowly began choking the growth of the forest. The forests needed the fires to clear the underbrush in order to continue to thrive as they had for hundreds of years.

In a similar manner, you should direct your education towards eliminating the superfluous proliferation of facts, ideas and opinions which will crop up around you if you leave yourself unguarded. Only the hardiest and most compelling ones should survive the test of critical analysis which your classes here at the high school have prepared you to use. People will try to sell you their beliefs, and it is your obligation to remain skeptical and evaluate them clearly and objectively. Allowing only the best to take root will enable you to flourish, regardless of where in life you go from here. And I have no doubt you will, since you are about to be graduates of Wilton High School!

I wish you all the best of luck, and congratulations once again to the class of 2012!