2012-06-01 / Education

Senator Lindsey Graham speaks at Ben Lippen High School’s 70th annual graduation

By Michael Parks

Ben Lippen High School class of 2012 
Photos by James Naruke Ben Lippen High School class of 2012 Photos by James Naruke The 70th annual graduation exercises of Ben Lippen High School were held Friday, May 25 in the sanctuary of historic First Baptist Church of Columbia. Senior South Carolina U. S. Senator Lindsey Graham served as the ceremony’s guest commencement speaker and would remind the school’s graduates-to-be and their families of the importance of faith, family, and friends in the construction of a proper foundation in life. A total of 94 Ben Lippen seniors of the class of 2012 transitioned from a state of dependence into independence and joined the school’s pool of over 4,000 total alumni.

Ben Lippen Headmaster Mickey Bowdon welcomed the crowd of over 2,000 family members and friends of the Ben Lippen class of 2012 and highlighted the significance of the monumental occasion. “This has been a week of commencement celebrations for all levels of Ben Lippen, and it’s been a wonderful week to view the panorama of movement from dependence to independence in the lives of so many young people.”

Billy Moody, one of five of Ben Lippen’s class of 2012 National Merit Finalists, and Senator Lindsey Graham. Billy Moody, one of five of Ben Lippen’s class of 2012 National Merit Finalists, and Senator Lindsey Graham. Just earlier in the week, Ben Lippen dealt with the commencement of kindergarten students to elementary school, elementary schoolers to middle school, and last but not least, the promotion of eighth graders to high school. Bowdon would conclude by adding, “ These 94 young people will take the most significant step towards independence in their lives tonight in this very commencement.”

Ben Lippen Senior Class President Kirkland Jordan was then introduced by the school’s assistant principal, Rob Settle. Jordan welcomed the crowd on behalf of the class of 2012. Jordan then presented her fellow classmate, a 13-year student of Ben Lippen, and appointed deliverer of the Senior Address, Abbey Stoker.

Stoker briefly recollected a few of her most prized memories from a 13-year academic journey at Ben Lippen including weekly school-wide chapel services before classes, winning homecoming games all four years (a feat which only the class of 2012 can claim in the school’s storied 70-year history), and the Ben Lippen’s first-annual schoolwide retreat that took place in August. “When I think about this class, I think of unending energy, unbreakable unity, and relentless love. This is a group that never stops going, always stays close to each other, and never gives up.”

Stoker would incorporate a famous quote of North Point Community Church pastor Andy Stanley, which states that “Direction, not intentions, hopes, dreams, prayers, beliefs, intellect, or education determine destination.” Stoker would remind her classmates that, “If our direction is Christ, we will find ourselves in destinations we never even dreamed were possible.”

Stoker would conclude by encouraging her audience and anxious classmates to hang close to their relationship with their Creator because He is the only constant in uncertain times.

As Ben Lippen tradition holds, each graduating class selects a song to perform together as a whole for graduation. The class of 2012 chose the theme song from the school’s two-day retreat in August, titled “I Do,” and with some assistance from the song’s writer, James Powell, who is the lead of the Inter- United Band, sang the tune in harmonizing unison.

Lindsey Graham, a native of Seneca, South Carolina, and one of the most influential and prominent leaders in Washington D. C., was introduced by Ben Lippen Headmaster Mickey Bowdon. Graham is now serving his second term in the U.S. Senate and is a frequent guest on national TV and radio talk shows and additionally serves as a colonel in the United States Air Force Reserve.

Senator Graham would charismatically begin his graduation address by apologizing that “the inspirational and talent part of the program is now over.”

“All I can tell you is that I can tell this is a quality place to go to school,” Senator Graham noted and went on to contrast the cultural circumstances surrounding other high school graduate classes in history including the class of 1902 when modern industrialization was just becoming the norm; 1942, when the need for young people to fight and fund World War II was at a climax; and 2002, when the U.S. began to take military action for the acts of terrorism on 9/11.

“ There are three things that I think form the foundation for a successful life. Faith, family, and friends. No matter what you achieve in life, if you don’t stay close to your faith, nothing really matters because the riches of the world with soon pass. The further you go in life, the more important these three aspects are because at the end of the day, you won’t be thinking about how much money you’ve made or what titles you’ve earned, but rather about the ones you love. Don’t get too ahead of yourself.”

Senator Graham attributed his success to “ being willing to lose, since it is the key to future success.”

Being the first in his family to attend college, Senator Graham suffered the loss of his mother when she was only 52 years of age. Just 15 months later, Senator Graham’s father died at the age of 69. “That was when my whole world came crashing down. Both of my parents died within 15 months of each other, and my little sister was only 12 years old at the time. The only things that got me out of that awful time were faith, family, and friends.”

Senator Graham would conclude his commencement speech by recognizing that although America’s back may be against the wall, and national debt may be overwhelming, that “America will be all right as long as we keep that phrase ‘In God We Trust’, and everything else will fall in place.”

Senator Graham’s comments were well received by the nearcapacity crowd, as proven by the extended amount of applause following the Senator’s challenging and optimistic message.

The Ben Lippen graduating class of 2012 boasts five National Merit Finalists, an achievement based on scoring in the top one half of the top 1% of all students who take the PSAT nationwide each year. This is truly an amazing accomplishment for a class of under 100 students. The University of South Carolina was the leading school for incoming Ben Lippen graduates next year with 11, followed by 10 “Tigertown-bound” students heading to Clemson, and nine to Anderson University.

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