Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hooper: Admire intelligence, strength of valedictorians, salutatorians

They never let their foot off the pedal.

They never allowed the lure of good times or the pressure of peers to detract from their goal.

They never gave themselves an ill-timed break. They never took a vacation in the middle of assignment.

Neither the infatuation of a new relationship nor the heartache of a failed love deterred them. The frustration of a unreasonable teacher didn't detract them; the nerve-racking quest for perfection didn't derail them.

We salute valedictorians and salutatorians for their intelligence, but I'm not sure we herald their strength.

It's easy to say the vast majority of high school students lacked the smarts to land at the head of the class, but unyielding discipline may be as much an X factor as academic prowess.

Beach sunsets may have bested biology, Moe's Mondays may have mattered more than mathematics — for the weak-minded. But the driven few you will find on commemorative pages in Hillsborough regional sections this Friday, embraced a steely determination, even though they didn't have to display such resolve.

Honestly, they could have done just enough to make the National Honor Society, scored well on the aptitude tests and impressed the college admission officials with extracurricular activities and community service.

They could have suffered a hiccup in ninth grade or endured a stumble in 11th grade and still been deserving of accolades.

But in an era where grade-point averages look more like a bad pitcher's ERA, these students climbed higher than anyone else at their schools.

Sure, cynics may argue that some of the winners inflated their averages with easy online offerings and cake-walking college courses, but one has to overlook all the obstacles of adolescence to achieve such a jaded view. Think back to the temptations of your teenage years and then exponentially adjust them for the 21st century.

Drugs and alcohol are seemingly more accessible, sexual encounters are more common, and a cavalcade of teens are losing themselves in the world of role-playing video games for days at a time.

The simple but intoxicating freedom of just driving a car remains enticing for anyone with a newly minted license. While these students successfully aimed at being the best, back in the day I aimed at having enough money to get a peanut-buster parfait from Dairy Queen every Sunday.

And don't forget, the rebellious nature of young adulthood still can prompt a student to simply stop caring. Turn up the music, tune out the advice.

And people want to quibble over decimals?

Oh no. Stand and salute these young men and women for not only surviving but thriving at the highest level.

And hopefully, all the valedictorians and salutatorians recognize they've earned both audible applause and unspoken admiration. Trust me, there may be students making wisecracks or whispering snide remarks, but deep down in their souls lie a mix of envy and esteem.

I'm still awed by the valedictorian and salutatorian from my graduating class, and I'm happy to report they're both doing great.

So to all the county's valedictorians and salutatorians I say bask in the glow, enjoy the spotlight and deliver words of wisdom to your classmates at commencement. Not only have you managed to craft a stratospheric GPA, you've also run society's gantlet and lived to tell about it.

That's all I'm saying.

Hooper: Admire intelligence, strength of valedictorians, salutatorians 05/22/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 22, 2014 10:14am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Police: Uber driver's gun discharges during fight at Adventure Island in Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — An Uber driver's gun went off Sunday at Adventure Island during a fight between the driver and two passengers.

  2. Baker cautious on Pride politics


    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  3. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  4. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  5. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips


    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.