The Roseburg High School Class of 2018 braved the rainy, cool weather Saturday morning.
They sat in orderly rows of chairs on Finlay Field, and let the water pour onto their square caps and roll off onto their black robes.
They heard about the importance of recognizing the people who helped them achieve that diploma, and of setting goals for the future.
Then, there was one last vocabulary word to learn before the certificates were handed out: magnanimity.
It means nobility in action and nobility in thought, from the Latin for “great soul.” Commencement speaker Tony Hobert, an RHS government teacher, said it’s a quality the new graduates should develop.
Hobert said a recent Pew Research Center poll found about 60 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans view members of the other party as the enemy. Hobert said magnanimity is the best way to overcome such polarization.
So, as they sat in the rain, their whole adult futures ahead of them, Hobert offered the new graduates five pieces of advice on just how to become magnanimous.
First, he said, look ahead. Consider what your older self will think of your choices today. Think about the results your actions today will have next week or next year. Save money, read good books, eat vegetables and exercise, he said, and if you’re going to get a tattoo, choose wisely.
Second, be humble, both when you win and when you lose, he said. Remember that at the time of the country’s brilliant Founding Fathers, slavery was legal, women couldn’t vote, antibiotics “weren’t a thing,” life expectancy was half what it was now, and the leading scientists thought the earth was hollow, the moon had oceans, and the best way to treat a fever was by bleeding the patient.
“If we continue to advance at the current rate, how silly will your descendants think of us and our civilization 200 years from now? How backwards?” he said.
We need to recognize that we are often just wrong, he said. So are our political parties. Keep that in mind in the midst of an argument, he said.
“At least entertain the possibility that you might be mistaken,” he said.
Third, he said, be curious. If you write “IDK” (I don’t know) in a text, that should make you uncomfortable, he said. This generation has the answers at its fingertips, and should look them up, he said.
Fourth, he said, be kind. Smile and wave at people, hold the door open for them, and don’t flip them off on Interstate 5.
He inserted the advice, as number 4.5, that the graduates should vote, which drew a round of applause from the stands.
Finally, he said, find joy. Not just reading Facebook or watching Netflix. Rather, seek the pure, elated joy that comes from love or creation, competition or discovery, he said.
Hobert said he believes those five pieces of advice will help the new graduates avoid the pitfalls of dogmatism and divisiveness that have befallen previous generations.
“You’re going to take the reins of this American experiment, and you’ll hand it off to the next generation better than it was when you took over, because you are better than any generation that has come before you,” he said.
Robert Gosman, chosen out of 11 valedictorians to give a commencement address, carried on despite a downpour that started shortly after he began speaking. He said one of the greatest things about growing up in Roseburg is the community feeling. As the graduates looked around, most could see faces they had known since elementary school.
In high school, each of them found something they were passionate about, he said, and he’s amazed at how much talent there is at RHS. He singled out a number of school activities for praise, including the school’s state champion wrestlers, the expansion of the career and technical education department, and band and choir successes at state competitions, among others.
None of them could have done it alone, he said.
“Being a teenager is hard, and it is no secret that we often look to those around us for guidance. At some point today, I would urge each and every one of you to single out those that have helped you reach this day and thank them,” he said.
He told his classmates that whether they head out for work, college or military service, there is always something to reach for.
“There’s always improvement to be made, and that is really what life is all about. By setting goals, and striving to achieve those goals, anything is possible,” he said.
Lindsey Willis is going fishing in Alaska, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oregon.
The 17-year-old senior-to-be at Roseburg High is beginning a new chapter in her life after a grueling battle with leukemia.
She was diagnosed with Burkitt’s leukemia on April 15, 2017, and she began intense treatments just a few hours later. It was a tough journey.
“Right after they found it, they started treatment, like four hours later,” she said. “I had chemotherapy a week long with hard, long doses and then a weekend off and the next week, I’d be in the hospital recovering for a week, and then go home for a week. Then I would start over every month.”
She was done with the treatments in August, and it appears they are working. She still has to go to Doernbecher Hospital every six to eight weeks for a checkup, but everything looks good so far.
“Last time they took bone marrow out was Sept. 11 of last year, and there was no cancer,” said her mother, Penny Willis. “When we went up to Doernbecher a couple of weeks ago her blood work was still doing great.”
Last year, her name was submitted to the Make-A-Wish Foundation; her wish was to go to on a fishing trip to Alaska and experience the wilderness.
Last Saturday, June 2, at a gathering at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, Make-A-Wish officials held a party for Lindsey Willis and her family and announced that they had granted her wish for the trip to Alaska.
“Fishing is just something that I’ve always enjoyed doing and grew up doing, so going to Alaska and getting the big fish would be kind of cool,” she said.
The treatments for the leukemia have not slowed her ability to participate in all of the activities in which she had been involved.
Lindsey Willis has been able to remain as a cheerleader at Roseburg High School, and she’s been able to keep her grades up despite missing school time. She was out for two months while she was in the hospital in Portland but continued to communicate with the school, and last semester had a 4.0 GPA.
“I was on the cheer team the whole, time, but I couldn’t do as much, but I still showed up to support the team,” she said. “Now I’m slowly getting back into it.”
Lindsey Willis continued to hike, fish, go four-wheeling, and even kept participating in the Douglas County Search and Rescue program while going through treatments.
“She’s a great kid,” said Wayne Stinson, Emergency Manager for the Douglas County Sheriff’s office. “Even when she was going through treatments she went on as many, if not more, missions than the average SAR volunteer.”
“She’s an outdoors girl, and with Alaska being more wilderness she thought that would be right up her alley,” said Penny Willis. “She’s pretty excited; she’s been counting down the days.”
The support Lindsey has gotten from the community has been overwhelming.
“I’d just like to say thank you to them, because there are tons of people and businesses that have helped me,” she said. “They held fundraisers while I was in Portland.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Dennis Willis, Lindsey’s father. “The whole community has been wonderful during this tragedy, it’s just something that you don’t expect.”
Lindsey will leave on the week-long trip on June 20 and her whole family gets to go with her, including brother Chris, 18, and sisters Anna, 13, and Kathryn, 12.
“There’s going to be a lot of fishing and hiking, and I’m hoping for an airplane or helicopter ride so I can get an aerial view,” Lindsey said.
The disease was caught early and doctors were able to give prompt and intensive chemotherapy, which means a much better chance of survival.
Lindsey wants to go into the medical field after high school and possibly be a paramedic.
Make-A-Wish Oregon grants life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. The Oregon chapter is one of 62 chapters in the U.S.
For information on the Make-A-Wish Foundation Oregon, go to oregon.wish.org.