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A nervous first step

Published Oct. 13, 2005

They clustered on Kennedy Boulevard as a class for the last time Saturday, a bit nervous in their silver-blue robes and stiff caps. Then the Tampa Preparatory School Class of 1991 took a step into the future. The 58 high school seniors marched down the aisle at the University of Tampa's Falk Theatre to a slightly jazzy rendition of Pomp and Circumstance by their high school instrumental ensemble.

Yale University-bound valedictorian Bryan Cromartie thanked parents in his graduation address "for raising us well and giving us the means to an excellent education."

"We persevered, and now it's time for a little R and R," he said. And when he moves on to college, he said, "Mom, Dad, don't call us, we'll call you. I'll do my homework, brush my teeth . . . I won't get married or become a Hare Krishna before telling you."

More serious advice came from Dr. Arthur L. Peterson, director of the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College. He urged graduates to take responsibility for the country's future and to learn to become leaders.

"This nation is not producing the number and the quality of leaders it needs," he said. "Leaders are people who know who they are, where they are going, and have a value system to guide them on the way."

He encouraged them to seek long-term goals, develop self-knowledge and have integrity, vision and responsibility. "Respect and responsibility usually migrate to those who are fair," Peterson said.