In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis, then Pevensie children are sad to leave Narnia, where they had ruled as kings and queens, and return to their normal lives. Aslan the Lion tells them, “Once a king or queen in Narnia, forever a king or queen in Narnia.”
The same is true for high school newspaper, yearbook and literary magazine editors. You will leave Wootton and walk around in the real world, looking just like everyone else. If you didn’t tell them, no one might ever know what you have done, but the mark is on you, invisible but powerful. You will find you join a world-wide fraternity. When you reveal your history, those who also have this mark will smile and nod in recognition.
These others and you, might be doctors, or lawyers or Indian chiefs. You all might work far from the world of journalism. But you will know your cores are the same.
Once upon a time, you acted with courage and strength and perseverance. You tried something that scared you. You worked hard to improve. You accepted criticism from me, sometimes over and over. You accepted criticism from your peers. You accepted criticism from the masses who read your work without any idea of what went into it, not even realizing that you did it FOR them.
Here’s what you did, every day in Room 242.
You created a literary magazine that is recognized by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association as one of the best in this country. You took the words and images of your peers and assembled them into a gorgeous work of art that reveal what is in the hearts and minds of Wootton’s teenagers.
You created a yearbook, from a slip of an idea, into a perfectly curated story of this year, in this place. You took over 5,000 photographs, covering the 2,400 students and 250 faculty. You showcased the best this year had to offer, from eating at Fallsgrove to the Mathletes to the JV girls’ soccer team. You captured this moment for these people, who won’t realize for decades how special that is.
You built a newspaper, twice as often as the next best Montgomery County can produce. You covered the news of this community. You wrote opinion pieces that challenged beliefs and offered solutions. You questioned the policies of this institution in efforts to elicit change. You covered every single sporting event. You took photos and sold ads and used industry standard software to build readable, attractive pages. You got teenagers to read, for goodness sakes!
Each of you, you lived the words of the First Amendment, fighting for freedom of speech and press. You lived the words of Voltaire, “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.” You used your words, the most powerful tool humans possess, to make your world better, clearer, brighter.
Today you will receive a very visible mark, a pin, from Quill and Scroll. This pin shows that you are a member of the International Honor Society of High School Journalists. This will be one of the first of a lifetime of memberships and awards that will be bestowed upon you for the achievements you will go on to earn. Some of them might mean more than this one. But never forget, this is the one that allowed you to show me, your peers, and the masses, just the tip of what you are capable.
And never forget, once a Wootton High School publications editor, forever an editor, and forever in my heart.