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The Class of 2011

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

McNary High School’s commencement speakers made a fortuitous pairing.

Brigadier General Daniel Hokanson, who returned to Keizer from Colorado to deliver the keynote, spoke of the value of character as they embark on the next part of their journey, and senior speaker Hugo Nicolas spoke of the things he’d learned from the character of his classmates.

More than 430 McNary seniors graduated from high school in a commencement ceremony that took place Friday, June 10, at the Pavilion on the State Fairgrounds in Salem.

“Your personal character plays a fundamental role in who you are and who you become, and needs to be held to the utmost regard. It dictates not only how others view you, but how you view yourself,” Hokanson said.

Hokanson recalled two recent examples of exemplary character, one of a solider, Jeff, who lost part of his hand and arm in Iraq, and another, Travis, who helped execute a late-night rescue of two stranded kayakers.

“Travis knew the the circumstances, but his decision had been made long before that night. On that night what he chose to stand for allowed him to save two strangers who desperately needed help,” Hokanson said.

Character isn’t built, Hokanson said, but revealed under circumstances that come without warning.

“Your character will guide you and determine how these circumstances will guide you,” he said. “[Character is revealed] in those who experience failure and never give up who they are. When all is said and done, your character may be all you have. It will determine what you leave behind.”

Nicolas, who spoke prior to Hokanson touched on similar themes.

“Whatever human beings have accomplished from the beginning of time, that’s how powerful we can be. Let’s all take part in it, let’s not fear. Don’t you want to be the one that said I did this and I was there so that one day we stand together and tell people ‘we did’ rather than ‘yes we can?’” Nicolas challenged the graduating Celtics.

He also offered a nod to all those who supported the graduates along their journey to the graduation stage.

“The reason we’re sitting here is because someone, somewhere stood up for us when it wasn’t easy. They had courage and a clear purpose, they are our parents and teachers,” he said. “The only difference between possible and impossible is how bad you want it.”

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