Below is the final text used by Tommy Whitlock '23 for his 2023 Commencement Senior Speech. You can watch Tommy's full talk in our Graduation 2023 video...
First off, on behalf of the graduating Class of 2023, I would like to welcome all guests, friends, family, students, teachers, faculty, staff, and any other lucky person who has come to watch me speak today.
For the last three years of my life, I have had the utmost pleasure to call Lawrence Academy my home alongside the rest of the class of 2023. It’s hard to believe a large portion of us have been here since our freshman year. I do love this place, but a fourth year seems hardcore. Hats off to the four-year students for that.
What we as a class at Lawrence Academy have accomplished can never be compared to any other graduating class. We have had more time taken away from our high school careers amidst a global pandemic than any other class. However, we have also acquired five both ISL and NEPSAC titles as well as an ISL sportsmanship award (Shout out to the golf team!), and we have created “senior spritz” and so many more amazing things, or not so amazing things, such as Connor getting kicked out of numerous games, YikYak, Math 3, my football career, forgetting the equipment bag in the van on the Florida baseball trip (Wow, that was a bad night!), and finally, but not finally, my assembly career.
Enough of my warm-up. Now for my real message: Because of how LA pushes us out of our comfort zones, all of us have been able to achieve much more than we thought was possible.
Coming in as a sophomore during Covid and living in a dorm with four other kids while not being allowed to socialize was nothing short of terrible. My life for the first three months was waking up late, going to class late (especially D block Chem), socially-distanced school, socially-distanced football, socially-distanced dinner, then back to my closed-off, socially-distanced dorm room. Although I was most definitely not the only one in this situation, I felt like I was, like there was no reason to be attending Lawrence Academy.
My junior year was a bit different. I, along with all the other students who had their first LA experience sophomore year, started to see Lawrence Academy’s true colors show. We found out LA is a vibrant, spirited, inclusive, and supportive community where stepping out of your comfort zone is just what happens for everyone.
I started to realize these true colors, especially in the winter when indoor crowds were allowed again. Although the Spartan Spirit was not at an all-time high, everyone was starting to feel the passion that the students, faculty, and staff have for this place.
And that spring, that “comfort zone” thing happened. To me. I was asked to be a part of the Cabinet by my good friend, whom I’ve admired since the first day I stepped on campus, CJ Schuster. At first, I thought he was completely joking, and it took me a day or two to legitimately believe him. I had never done anything like it before. So, when the campaigns came around, I decided to put my best foot forward, take that first step out of my comfort zone, and represent Lawrence Academy in the best way I could.
Senior year, my goodness. It is so weird to think senior year was our first normal year of high school and our only normal year of high school. This year, being on the outside looking in at my comfort zone has put me to the test, to say the least.
Being the school treasurer was such an odd experience but in the best way possible. It was my “first first-hand” experience with politics since the third-grade student council at Pine Hill Elementary. For the first two months, this whole getting pushed out of my comfort zone didn’t really seem like my thing.
At one point, I was so stressed out by the role of treasurer that I called my parents one night, explaining I didn’t know if this was for me. But I am a man of my word. I kept at it, and sure enough, I will most likely be receiving my high school diploma as the treasurer of Lawrence Academy later on today.
Going from all of the struggles of my sophomore and junior years to school treasurer, Head of Spartan Nation, the only reason why people didn’t fall asleep during assembly, and now, graduation speaker - who would’ve thought?
My advisor Rob Olsen really put it into perspective for me, saying, “When you came here, you didn’t even know your ABCs. Now look at you!” Even though he was exaggerating, at least I hope he was; I realize how far I have come.
This could not have been done without my peers and teachers at LA. What this school has ultimately pushed all of us to do throughout our time here is to go beyond our comfort zone. Social-distance-sophomore-year Tommy would have never guessed he would be where “Treasurer Tommy” is today, and I know I’d make him proud. With my story and personal experience, what I am trying to say is that it is Lawrence Academy’s fault I turned out this way.
Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones is never easy, but it is essentially how I plan on living the rest of my life. And I hope it’s how all of you will live your lives, too, because it’s what LA has taught us to do. Thanks to my family, friends, and all those at Lawrence Academy, I will treasure (no pun intended) this important lesson.
So, to the class of 2023, what a crazy ride it has been. For one last time: LET'S GO SPARTANS!