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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 9, 2009

Dreaming out loud at Voorheesville graduation

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Fannie Liu’s valedictory address sent off the Class of 2009 ready to confront its dreams, the lofty and the daunting.

Disarming her audience with humility, Liu offered the conventional confession of ante-speech nightmares, but built from it an exploration fear’s ability to cripple and the levity of hope.

“The scariest nightmares, you, see, are the ones you don’t find in your sleep,” she told the several hundred in attendance.  “They’re nightmares you can’t just wake up from and feel the immense relief of escape.   These nightmares are what everyone faces in their lifetime—they are the obstacles that we all meet once we set a goal and pursue it. The nightmares to our dreams.”

Weaving threads from Martin Luther King Jr. and President Barack Obama through her speech, Liu illustrated the potential for dreams to be realized, and warned of the momentary relief, quickly followed by regret, that comes from forfeiting dreams to nightmares and giving up.

Her momentum built toward a phrase from recent history: Yes, we can.

“And not only can we, but we have and continue to persevere,” she said.  “We will no doubt face failure at times, but those who dedicate themselves and put their energy into achieving the goals they set—they’re the ones who will complete the road to success.”

Although those roads will be varied, they share a common beginning — the Voorheesville community, which is enduring, said Dr. Raymond Colucciello, the interim superintendent, as he addressed the class.

“We are constantly transitioning,” he said of life as high school students, then college students, and then as workers in a climate that assumes no longevity in a single job.  But each graduate has roots in this community, he said, and stressed the importance of building “value-led communities” and relating to people rather than being consumed by electronic means of communication.

English teacher April Levy, too, advised the class of the value of communication in her commencement address.  Using synapses, which allow neurons to convey the information that underpins perception, as a metaphor, Levy told the graduating class to always engage with new people and new ideas — to maintain points of contact.

“The intensity of the bonds formed here at Voorheesville are extraordinary,” she said to the 106 students in the Class of 2009.

That sentiment echoed from the first speech to the last at the June 26 graduation, with Michael Snyder and Amanda O’Brien often referring to their class as a family during their opening address.

Salutatorian Siana Jannesari looked back fondly on her years in Voorheesville, starting with the gift of a coveted pop-up book from a kindergarten classmate and ending with her mastery of the once-intimidating quartet of hallways in the high school.

“My fellow classmates, I wish you luck in conquering the nightmares you may face, and more importantly in fulfilling your dreams,” Liu concluded.

“To only dream is not enough,” she had said earlier.  “After all, we didn’t venture to the moon or complete the Human Genome Project by only dreaming…  We did not break segregation and inequality by simply wishing for it.  Instead, we made the dreams reality by working to achieve them, by advancing our technology, by educating and training ourselves and others, by rallying others to seek justice by telling them, ‘I have a dream.’”

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