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Sierra Vista High SchoolGraduation Speech: Devin Vodicka, EdD, SuperintendentJune 5, 2013Welcome!It is an absolute privilege to be here. It is an honor to share some thoughts on this important occasion.I wanted to begin this talk by reflecting on the identity of the school. So I began by looking at themascot for Sierra Vista High School—the tiger. According to animal experts, the tiger is “fierce andcommanding on the outside, but noble and discerning on the inside.”The tiger therefore seems an appropriate symbol, particularly when we think about the motto for SierraVista High School, which is “Courage Every Day” …Courage Every Day. What does that mean?Courage is defined as the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.Physical courage is courage in the face of physical pain while moral courage is the ability to act rightly inthe face of opposition or discouragement.The great philosopher Aristotle indicated that a shortage of courage is cowardice. An excess of courageis recklessness. As with all of the virtues, balance is essential.St. Thomas Aquinas used a different term—fortitude—and he placed the virtues in rank order withfortitude (or courage) being third on the list … In this model courage is moderated by a sense ofprudence and justice. One must have a sense of what it right in order to truly demonstrate courage.Aquinas further stated that courage is about endurance: “to stand immovable in the midst of dangers” …And then we can go from Aristotle Ernest Hemingway: Courage is “grace under pressure” he said …From each of these perspectives we can see that courage is not easy. Courage requires an intentionalact, sustained over time, in the context of great adversity and difficulty. Courage requires bravery,perseverance, honesty, and vitality.These are abstract concepts but it is also important to define courage with specific examples. I have hadthe opportunity to come to Sierra Vista a few times this year and on each and every visit I saw courage.I saw courage when students created and maintained a school garden. I saw courage when, on my veryfirst visit to the school, the students gave me food from the garden as a gift.
I saw courage when a student here shared motivational speeches with me that he had found onYouTube. He suggested I use them across the district. He said that there were teachers that mightbenefit from viewing these videos.I saw courage when I met a student that made his own musical instruments after he discovered hisinnate talent for woodworking.I saw courage when a teacher here conducted an explosive science experiment in the quad.I saw courage when students faced one another in epic bowling battles on the Wii. The studentsseemed to beat the staff every time.I saw courage from every student at the school that embraced challenges. I saw courage in theirlearning. I saw courage in their smiles and in their eyes. I saw courage every day on my visits.In addition to these visits, I also read through the Tiger Tales and found a few statements that seem toencapsulate the spirit here at Sierra Vista High School:“It was like being caught up in a bear hug that has never ended. I have met the most amazing people.They have been here for me through some really tough times. They have made me laugh until my sideshurt. Watching them so lovingly care for their students and each other has brightened my life.”“Each person is truly an inspiration to me … Sierra Vista is a very unique family.”So now, with the knowledge that this will be the last graduation for Sierra Vista High School, I want tothank each of you for demonstrating Courage Every Day.The mission of our school district is to inspire each and every student to persevere. I want to thank eachof you for inspiring us.I also want to encourage you to continue to stand immovable in the midst of danger, to act rightly in theface of discouragement, and to demonstrate grace under pressure. You have already shown us so muchof your potential.Courage Every Day. What does it mean?It means that you should be fierce and yet noble and discerning.Courage Every Day. It means that you should always continue to be a tiger.Thank you.