Four years ago the members of the Cooperstown Central School Class of 2013 set a goal — to work as a team to make sure everyone would graduate together.
That goal was met. The same students who graduated together in eighth grade were once again celebrating a milestone, only this time in the hot sun on a Sunday afternoon on the lawn of the Fenimore Art Museum. Yes some may have moved away, and others may have joined the group since then, but those making that pact all persevered and were among the 78 students who received their diplomas.
The group of students was in first-grade during the Sept. 11 tourist attacks. According to Superintendent C.J. Hebert, Americans began to invade Afghanistan on Oct. 7 and on Oct. 26 of the same year, the Patriot Act became law and the U.S. has been at war ever since.
“This encompasses your entire elementary, middle school and high school years,” he said. “You have indeed grown up in trying times.”
As the students head into their post-secondary years, Hebert said there will be enormous struggles ahead.
“We continue to struggle with the serious issues of unemployment, nuclear threats and unstable governments, sustainable energy exploration and affordable health care,” he said.
When looking back at the nation’s history, there have been other similar trying times, according to Hebert. The post-revolutionary era, with a young expanding country governed by the sagacity of the founding fathers comes to mind, he said.
Hebert added: “The decades following the Declaration of Independence were anything but tranquil.”
In his speech, Hebert said Thomas Jefferson and the country faced some very complex challenges such as internal threats of returning to British rule and a growing domestic threat from Spain and then France … “The needs of the growing country were expanding faster than the capacity of the then 17 states could provide for them. We needed bold, decisive, positive action to maintain our forward momentum and fortunately Jefferson was able to meet that challenge,” he said.
So Jefferson took bold, decisive actions on the part of the county and it paid off. What does that have to do with the graduates of the Class of 2013, Hebert asked.
“Is he suggesting we take over Canada and Mexico? Not exactly,” he said.
“Today is no different than in Jefferson’s day. We still have threats to our way of life, from terrorists, both foreign and domestic. There is still plenty of Intel conflict and political instability. What we need now are new ideas and innovators in every field of endeavor,” Hebert said.
According to Hebert, there are still many challenges to face and the help of the graduates is needed to solve them.
“The challenges facing our country will require a doubling of our collective skills and intellectual power,” he said.
The superintendent said he is relieved to see the areas of future study and employment the Class of 2013 has chosen span the scope of that challenge.
“Sitting in front of us are future accountants, doctors, welders, soldiers, teachers and yes, perhaps a few politicians,” Hebert said.
All of those talents are needed to make a difference, he added. He told the members of the class to enjoy the moment of celebration and reflection, but not to linger too long because there are some weighty issues to attend to.