2011 graduates setting sail on sea of life

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, June 9, 2011

Today, The DAILY LEADER continues its publication ofvaledictorian and salutatorian speeches from the Class of 2011.Today’s address is from Thomas Ricks IV, Wesson Attendance Centervaledictorian.

A Viking shipwright knew exactly which tree was needed to builda certain ship. When someone would come to the shipwright wantinghim to build a ship, he would go out into the forest for days onend in search of the perfect tree to build this ship. The treewasn’t necessarily the biggest, or the strongest; it wasn’tnecessarily an oak, ash, or elm, but it was the best tree to buildthis particular ship.

Thank you parents for recognizing our potential and for makingus realize that we have a purpose even if we don’t know what thatpurpose is.

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After the tree was felled the shipwright would take it and thenset about carving, splitting, and crafting it until he got thecorrect shape of the keel. The keel is one of the most fundamentalparts of the structure of the boat, for everything else on the shipis built upon the keel; it is the foundation of all the work thatfollows.

Thank you elementary teachers who built the foundation of oureducation and taught us the benefits of learning, for without thatfirm basis we would not be here. Thank you parents and clergy whohelped build the foundation of our morals and faith that helpedshape us into the people we are today.

Planks were then constructed to build the hull. Each plank wascut to a precise length so that it fit with its brother perfectlylike a giant puzzle. The hull was then caulked so that the shipwould be watertight and hold fast against the pounding waves. Theshipwright built the hull strong and smooth so that it would glidethrough the water with minimal resistance, bearing the brunt of theforce of the ocean.

Thank you to the teachers like Mrs. Clopton, Mrs. Jackson, andMr. Hux who added to and rebuffed our knowledge so that our furthereducation will be a much smoother ride.

Many other things were then done to the ship: the deck wasconstructed and the masts were fixed. The rudder was carved toexact size and shape for the ship. It would be used to steer andguide the vessel on the open sea and through the treacherousnarrows.

Thank you to the people in our lives who guided us in the rightdirection and in the process taught us how to steer ourselves.

The last part of the ship to be fitted wasn’t necessarily themost important, for every part of a ship is equally important, butit was the most recognizable part of ship. The sails were sewnperfectly, seamless. They would be the power that propelled theship onward; they would fly high and strong moving the ship alongwhen it seemed nothing else could.

Thank you to the teachers like Mr. Martin and Mr. Brown whotaught us how to use and wield our ingenuity and imagination topush onward and not give up.

We’re now leaving our harbor home for the wide expanses of theopen sea. We will make many ports-of-call along the way. Some maybe rich and extravagant; some may be dirty and wretched. We maylike some of them better than our first harbor and some we may evenmake our new base harbor, but we’ll never forget the hard work anddedication that was put into us while we were still at that firstharbor home.

We may believe that we have faced storms in our relatively safeharbor, but we’ll be on our own out in the expanses of theocean.

The tiny whitecaps that lapped against our fresh hulls will begreatly overshadowed by the giant waves that beat against us on thewide ocean. There will be times when we see maelstroms brewing faron the horizon, and we can maneuver to avoid them.

But there will also be times when no matter which way we strainour sails or steer our rudder, we’ll have to pass through thestorm. Many times we’ll be sailing along and a mighty tempest willswell up out of nothing and threaten to overtake us.

There will be times when the winds don’t blow and the sailsdon’t swell. We’ll be becalmed, knowing not what to do. Like SamuelTaylor Colleridge said it, “As idle as a painted ship upon apainted ocean.”

There will be times when we run afoul of all sorts of problemsthat we may not can handle. Yet when the sky is dark, and the windroars, and the sea rages, we need only to look to the horizon andsee that far distant lighthouse. We simply need to set our bearingson that single bright light on the horizon, which will give us safepassage and guide us to the place where we need to go.

Matthew 4:39 states, “he got up, rebuked the wind, and said tothe sea, “Silence! Be still!” the wind ceased, and there was agreat calm.” Keep your eyes upon God as you traverse the seas oflife.

Your destination may not always be fair and your voyage smooth,but if you follow that lighthouse, you will not be alone throughthe storm; you’ll always have someone there with you hauling on thebowline and fixing the mast, though you may not even know it.

Thomas Ricks IV is the son of Tommy and CherieRicks.