Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the graduating Class of 2019 at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts to "be brave" in all aspects of their lives Saturday during the school's commencement ceremony at Bank OZK Arena.
"Here's some advice that I think stands the test of time, and I wish I had heard it instead of learned it. First, be brave," Clinton told the graduates. Clinton, who played a key role in the founding of the school, was invited to be the keynote speaker for ASMSA's 25th commencement.
"Be brave in your life. Be brave in seeking your dreams, whatever they are. Be brave in work and love and service. Be brave as you take on what is not easy and comfortable, what you're not even sure you can do. Be brave and do not worry about being perfect. Perfection is one of the biggest problems that young people encounter today, especially young women," Clinton said.
"Second, be resilient, because even if you are brave enough to chase your dreams, you are going to encounter setbacks and disappointments and disillusionment. But remember, being resilient is really what separates people from those who get up and keep going, no matter what knocked them down, and those who get overtaken by their fears and stop themselves from moving toward their dreams."
Clinton, who was introduced by ASMSA Director Corey Alderdice, spoke to the graduates for nearly 30 minutes.
"It is absolutely wonderful for me to be here in this 25th year of this remarkable institution, to have already heard from two of your student graduates, and to have an opportunity to share a few thoughts about the journeys that you have already made, and the ones that lie before you. I have been wanting to come back and be part of the work here for a long time, and it is exciting that I have this opportunity to come," Clinton said.
She thanked the University of Arkansas System's support of ASMSA, the Board of Visitors, Dean of Academic Affairs Bob Gregory, Alderdice, all ASMSA faculty and staff, and the families of the students.
"But mostly, I want to congratulate the Class of 2019 and tell you how excited I am that you are beginning this journey."
She recalled her first visit to Hot Springs in 1973 while dating her husband, former Arkansas governor and two-term President Bill Clinton, and her fond memories of the city, including activities on Lake Hamilton.
Clinton detailed the history of the founding of ASMSA, which occurred during her husband's time as governor, and the need it filled in the state's educational gaps at the time.
"It's a thrill to be here and to have read about all of the accomplishments over the years, to see the alumni stand up, to know that this is an education that is second to none. After all, there are only 15 publicly funded high schools like this one in the entire country, and among them, this school has the most socioeconomic diverse student body. It has consistently ranked even near the top of the 15 competitors, and it has lit the fire of learning and passion in now nearly 2,600 young people. So I could not be prouder to be here with all of you today."
Clinton also spoke about her mother serving as a role model for her, and the importance of kindness and gratitude. She ended her address with these words:
"So I hope, as you graduate today and as you go forth from here, that you will be brave and be resilient, be kind, and be grateful. I'm very optimistic about the future, even though I know how many huge problems we face. And part of that optimism is because I spend as much time as I can with young people, and I am not only reassured. I am thrilled at the ambition, the caring and concern and determination, to do something about what faces us here in Arkansas, across America, and around the world, that must be tackled together. So I'm proud to be here today. I believe in you, and I know that great dreams and opportunities await you. Congratulations, and godspeed."
Following remarks from Board of Visitors Chairman Timothy Barnes and Gregory, the diplomas were conferred upon the students, with each graduate receiving a professional photo with Clinton as they exited the stage.
Overall, the Class of 2019 had an average composite ACT score of 30.1, and earned over $13 million in scholarships between its 102 members.
A minimum of eight Hot Springs police vehicles were observed outside of the Hot Springs Convention Center on Saturday and ASMSA provided six security personnel of its own for the event, along with arena security and Clinton's own private security personnel.
Donnie Sewell, ASMSA's public information specialist, estimated that 14 Hot Springs police officers were in attendance.
Prior to the commencement, a private reception with Clinton was held for approximately 30 invited guests.
Sewell estimated the total attendance for the ticketed graduation ceremonies to range from 1,500 to 2,000.
While the school did have to pay for use of the arena facilities, this was normal, according to Sewell.
"We have to pay for it every year. We had already put a deposit down in November, long before we knew whether she was going to be coming or not."
Following the graduates' entrance, a projected slideshow of photos of the seniors was displayed, accompanied by the class song: "High Hopes" by Panic! at the Disco.
The program included the ASMSA choir, led by choir instructor Deleen Davidson, performing the national anthem and their rendition of "For Good" by Stephen Schwartz.
The senior address was delivered by student government President Alex Kaye.
"If you told me just a few years ago that I would be graduating from a super school, that's also sort of my home -- Oh, and that I'd be sharing the stage with Hillary Clinton -- I would have urged you to seek immediate medical care. Alas, here we are. It's been a long two years, but we finally made it," he said.
Another address was given by senior class representative Dinah Everton.
"I can assure you that this day has been long awaited by every last one of my peers. This journey has been challenging for all of us. Yet, despite the trials we have faced in the last two years, we are here today."
On the whole, the day was considered a success by many, including Alderdice.
"The hallmark of any good graduation is that graduates and their families leave the ceremony hopeful about the journey ahead, and humbled by the experience that it took for them to get there. As for Secretary Clinton's remarks, I'm pleased that she highlighted the role that ASMSA played in transforming education in Arkansas, and I believe that she struck the right chord on challenging these incredible young people to make their mark on the world and to be worthwhile people while doing so," he said.Local on 05/26/2019
Print Headline: Clinton urges ASMSA graduates to 'be brave'