October 23, 2021

Homer High School graduates encouraged to learn from life’s failures

‘A fresh start for all of us’

Travis Dunn/contributing photographer

Homer High School seniors await receiving their diplomas at the commencement ceremony held in the SUNY Cortland Corey Gymnasium Saturday morning.

In what might be a first, an English teacher quoted reality TV actor Johnny Knoxville during a high school graduation ceremony Saturday morning.

“If you’re not failing at something, you’re not trying hard enough,” said Homer High School English teacher Richard Spalding, quoting Knoxville, in a speech praising the educational power of failure.

Spalding’s remarks were delivered at the Homer High School graduation ceremony in the SUNY Cortland Corey Gymnasium.

Spalding spoke to about 170 graduating seniors of embracing failure, not as an excuse for lack of achievement, but as a learning tool and impetus for achieving the things they most care about.

He pointed to historical figures, including George Washington, Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan and Donald Trump, who bounced back and learned from major failures to attain great things.

“We have been conditioned to think that failing is a negative thing — something to avoid at all cost,” he said. “But the opposite is actually true. If you are not trying hard enough to fail at something, are you really trying hard enough?”

Valedictorian Adam Brown implored seniors to “respect your name and the power it holds,” in a speech in which he encouraged his fellow graduations to take pride in personal integrity. “This is a fresh start for all of us, and therefore a new opportunity to continue to define ourselves,” he said.

Salutatorian Andrew Hage shared an anecdote about talking with a friend during math class, which upset his teacher, who spun around and threw an eraser at him. This taught Hage two things: “One: Never assume that people are not aware of their surroundings, and, two: that things can change in the blink of an eye,” he said.

The Homer ceremony was among the first of a series of 2019 public high school graduations — Cortland Christian Academy, Otselic Valley and Cortland Alternative High School have already had commencement. DeRuyter and Marathon followed on Sunday, and Moravia, Dryden, Tully, McGraw and Cortland will have ceremonies Friday. Groton and Cincinnatus will have graduation ceremonies Saturday.