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Dawson County High School Valedictorian Sarah Tinsley's commencement speech
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Good morning! Thank you all very much for celebrating with us this great milestone in
our lives!

Many times, honor and glory is bestowed upon a select few, but in reality,
accomplishments are the culmination of hard work and dedication from many people. So let us give credit where credit is due. I owe all that I am and all that I have accomplished to God. I am so thankful that during my freshman year of high school, I accepted Christ as my personal Savior. My faith in Him, and the hope, peace, and joy that accompany a relationship with Jesus, have made running this race not only possible, but worthwhile. I would also like to thank my parents, who have always encouraged me in all of my endeavors and who have always been by my side throughout the storms; my friends, who have made this journey so memorable; and my teachers, who have strived to share all of their knowledge and to build us up as students.

The class of 2016 has a lot to be grateful for--numerous scholarships, countless awards in academia, fine arts, and athletics--and to those of you who have made the realization of these dreams possible, thank you. Thank you to all of those who have contributed to our successes!

As we look at both the past and the future, I can think of several quotes that embody who we, the class of 2016, are as students, leaders, musicians, artists, athletes, and people. Aesop said, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." Over these past four years, the class of 2016 has devoted thousands of service hours to helping other people and making the world a better place, with several students completing over 300 hours individually. This is a reminder not to forget that what we do for ourselves is only temporary, but what we do for others and for God is eternal. Let us continue to take each and every opportunity to be a light in someone's life--whether it be through one small act of kindness or through a lifetime of giving. As Reagan said, "We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone." Sometimes, being a
blessing can be something as simple as a smile or a sweet word. I can think of several times when I was having a rough day, and one of you would smile or say something kind to me in the hallway. Immediately, I remembered that I am not alone on this journey. Thank you for that. Let us continue to share this love with the new people we encounter in the future.

The class of 2016 has constantly challenged the status quo, and I have no doubt that we
will maintain this streak in the future. As Clarke said, "The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible," and we have certainly done that. From scoring well at music festivals to competing at state athletic events, we have set the bar high for the upcoming classes. Even though we still have a lot of room to grow, we must remember that every great accomplishment starts with just one small step. Our successes today are the product of countless hours of hard work and dedication, so in the future when we do not accomplish our goals the first time, we must not get discouraged, even if our hard work seems in vain at that time--as Stevenson said, "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant."

Everything we do, say, and believe leads to who we become and what we will accomplish in the future--today, we are harvesting the fruits of the past. One day, will we again reap a great harvest from our continued efforts to reach our dreams, and I look forward to hearing about these accomplishments at our class reunions. If we make mistakes along the way, we just have to learn from those errors, and then get back up and try again. Even if we cannot right all of the wrongs of the world, we just have to remember that sometimes, it's out of our hands--which means that it's in better hands than ours. As Lombardi said, we are only measured by "what we do with what we have." So let us do our best with what we have.

I am very proud of our class for having been victorious over so many challenges--from rigorous academic courses to financial struggles to health issues--and through it all, we have grown stronger as people and grown closer as a family. Even in the face of opposition, we are not content with mediocrity, but rather we have the determination to make the right things happen at the right time--we overcome. We have run this race to the end, and now we are now sprinting across the finish line. Lombardi said that "The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand," and I think this perfectly illustrates where our class stands today. I am honored to stand before students who have worked tirelessly and have dedicated themselves to achieving all that they have. Today, we have certainly won, but in the future, if it seems like we have not won whatever race we are then running, as long as we have done our best, that is all anyone can ever ask of us, and that is all that we can ask of ourselves.

Honestly, as I was writing this speech, I had so many things that I wanted to share that I often found myself staring at my computer, just sitting in thought. True, I wanted this to be something inspirational, like so many of the quotes that I love, but also exciting, like the infamous GA Tech convocation speech, but most importantly, I wanted this speech to be personal and memorable--something that would touch each and every heart, and that would truly demonstrate just how amazing the class of 2016 is. In this short amount of time, I could not possibly recount the lessons we have learned from each other, all of which will continue to guide us as we go our separate ways. I hope, if nothing else, you leave today knowing that I am so proud of you all and so thankful to be able to represent you. I wish the class of 2016 a wonderful future, filled with happiness, love, success, and many, many, blessings. Thank you one last time for this great high school experience!

God bless you all!