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125th Graduation: A True Celebration

Excitement and tears intermingled during Randolph-Macon Academy’s graduation as the Class of 2017 proudly celebrated their accomplishments, with 100% of the class earning college acceptances. In fact, the 59 seniors and two postgraduate students earned 242 acceptances to 145 different colleges and universities, with over $6 million in college scholarship offers. In addition, seven Falcon Scholars at R-MA earned admission to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

After celebrating their graduation from the Air Force JROTC program during the Final Parade held on Friday, May 26th, the 68 students gathered in Melton Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday, May 27, 2017, surrounded by family members, friends, faculty, staff, and alumni of the Academy. During the ceremony, the soon-to-be-graduates were treated to speeches by valedictorian Dongeun “Amy” Go and commencement speaker Maj Gen Mark Anthony Brown, the Vice Commander, Air Education and Training Command (AETC), Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Both speeches were light-hearted, full of good advice with enough laughter to keep the attention of all those present.

“Although many of us have come from different countries, we have succeeded in communicating with each other. R-MA has become our home and the common language we speak,” said Go during her speech. Recalling some of the challenges the seniors had faced during their R-MA years, Go added, “So never forget why you are climbing the hill that you are, because the view is pretty from the bottom, but it is truly magnificent once you reach the top.”

Brown likewise encouraged the class to face future adversity head-on, and expressed confidence that they were ready for life’s challenges. “You are a great generation and based on your choice to be a part of an academy like Randolph-Macon, you have already gotten a head start in life and I believe if you hold onto what you’ve learned here at the Academy, especially as it relates to character and virtue, your story, like the stories of those that came before you, can end well,” he said.

Brown went on to quote the poem “The Ladder of Saint Augustine” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In it, Brown explained, “he warns us that no matter what route we take, life has ups and downs. The question is how we handle those ups and downs.” He went on to quote Longfellow: “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”

Longfellow, according to Brown, “shows that he understands that though the journey is unchangeable and filled with faults, flaws, and failures that we would love to change, even a pile of problems gives us something we can build on. If, out of the ashes of our mistakes, we learn wisdom, and if we use that wisdom to gain great heights, then it can be said that, in the long run, those challenges, like rungs on a ladder that we may struggle to grab, are in the end used to move us up a little higher. They turn out to be good for us.” Brown added, “Challenges produce champions, obstacles are opportunities, and trials…Thank God for the trials because they can result in triumphs.”

Brown continued on, telling the story of Gen Walter Boomer, USMC, Retired, a 1956 alumnus of Randolph-Macon Academy. He recounted Boomer’s heroic efforts in the Vietnam War for which he was awarded the Silver Star, and his leadership of the Marines during Operation Desert Storm. Brown then went on to remind the students of their own football team and the seemingly impossible win against St. Anne’s Belfield this past fall. “A fighting spirit, perseverance, resilience, and teamwork…were crucial to the victory,” Brown exclaimed. “Please don’t ever lose that fighting spirit and don’t you dare give up!”

The Class of 2017, the 125th graduating class of Randolph-Macon Academy, then received their well-deserved diplomas. They will now move onto a variety of colleges and universities. Valedictorian and Corps Commander Amy Go will attend “The Harvard of Canada,” McGill University. Salutatorian Lucas Costa of Oregon plans to attend Virginia Tech, Honors College. Class President Stephen Okonkwo of Nigeria will attend American University. The senior voted as “Best All-Around Cadet,” Ben Schoonover of Winchester, will head to the University of Oregon.

For the rest of the 2017 graduation speeches and events videos, view the YouTube Playlist below: