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“Life is for service” – Mister Rogers

May 24th, 2022

Seniors, the day has come. You are now – or will soon be – a high school graduate. What does this mean to you? A diploma in hand and so many opportunities at your fingertips; as you head off with great promise in whichever direction you choose, think about what kind of a person you will strive to be in the months and years to come.

This time of the year, I love sifting through commencement speeches. I find them motivating and inspiring for my own life. When powerful enough, I believe the words will stick for a long time to come. I recently came across a speech from a non-speaking valedictorian with autism at Rollins College. The most simple statement, a quote from Mister Rogers (also a Rollins graduate), really spoke to me, “Life is for service.” In the article linked below, Elizabeth Bonker communicates what this statement means to her and how we as a community can see the worth in others as we keep service in mind. I hope you will take the time to read this incredibly well-written speech, which was delivered with the help of technology.

Article linked below from Rollins College, published on May 9, 2022

Be the Light: Elizabeth Bonker’s 2022 Commencement Address

Greetings to my fellow members of the elated class of 2022 and to the relieved parents, cheering siblings, and dear friends who supported us. Salutations to the caring faculty, administrators, and staff who fed our brains and nurtured our souls. I would also like to thank my fellow valedictorians—Emily Curran ’22, Sofia Frasz ’22, Charlie Mellin ’22, and Jessika Linnemeyer ’22—for giving me the honor of addressing you.

Rollins College class of 2022, today we celebrate our shared achievements. I know something about shared achievements because I am affected by a form of autism that doesn’t allow me to speak. My neuromotor issues also prevent me from tying my shoes or buttoning a shirt without assistance. I have typed this speech with one finger with a communication partner holding a keyboard. I am one of the lucky few non-speaking autistics who have been taught to type. That one critical intervention unlocked my mind from its silent cage, enabling me to communicate and to be educated like my hero Helen Keller.

Read more at Rollins College >>