WIESBADEN, Germany - Fear, failure and fun are a few things the graduates of Wiesbaden High school class of 2012 can look forward to experiencing everyday in life after high school.
This was the common theme in messages spoken to the graduating class during its commencement event June 10 at the Wiesbaden Kurhaus.
"I will say thanks a lot," "I know I will be a failure," and "I will do something everyday that will scare the hell out of me," were the three phrases Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of the U.S. Army Europe, asked the class to repeat after him.
Hertling explained his advice on failure, which he illustrated with the career of Michael Jordan - a sometimes "loser" who missed more than 9,000 shots, personally lost more than 300 games for his team and missed winning shots 26 times when his coaches and teammates had trusted him to make the shot.
"Now I hate to give you all bad news to bring you down on this day when everyone else is proclaiming your successes … but you're all going to fail," Hertling said. "Hopefully not all the time - but you will fail, probably many times on your path to success."
Hertling said he too has experienced failure, but he asked class members to think about what they would want to do in life if they knew they would eventually succeed. "And then try it," Hertling said. "Then when you try it and run into a wall, even if it's a high wall that seems insurmountable, don't stop. Don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, how to go around it or to bulldoze right through it."
Ryan Fisico, co-valedictorian with Evin Alarilla, also touched on the theme of failure. In his speech this year's European cross country champion told the class of the two mottoes that got him through high school.
"The hardest step is the first one out the door," Fisico said was the advice imparted by his cross country coach James Engle, who told him that the hardest part of any sport is getting out of bed to put in the practice. And the second piece of advice, "You can't always be at the top of everything," Fisico said came from his soccer coach and mentor Ben Arcila.
"I realize that in everything I do, I will lose some," Fisico said. "No one is perfect. Michael Jordan failed. Albert Einstein failed. Martin Luther King failed, and we can. It is what we do to get back up after we fail that will define who we are."
Another point, a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, shared by Hertling came by way of his wife's refrigerator magnet that reads, "Do one thing every day that scares the hell out of you."
"It is one thing that you take away from today," Hertling said. "Do something every day that really scares you. Do it responsibly, but know that sometimes you just have to be scared when you're about to take that first step."
Katy Kem, salutatorian, said that whether members of the class are attending college next year, serving in the military, entering the workforce or taking a gap year, they all face the unknown.
"I have faith that even in the face of this uncertainty, we warriors of Wiesbaden will rise to the challenges ahead. If we can survive reading Jane Eyre during the height of senioritis … If we, the smallest division-one school, can defeat the Goliath of the Ramstein football team, then we can do anything."
In fact, uncertainty is what makes life worth living, Kem said.
"We wake up every morning not knowing what life will throw at us," Kem said. "We leave the comfort of home to enter a world of endless opportunities. To expect control over every aspect of one's life is not only impossible but also unappealing."
Alarilla advised his fellow classmates not to settle down or get serious, but to have fun.
"A great man once said, 'Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans,' Alarilla said.
"So maximize the present, before we realize we never really lived. The future is what we make of it, so make friends, make sacrifices, make believe, make a difference and make someone you care about smile," he said.
The class also demonstrated its abundant musical talent. Alarilla, Paulee Brown, Fisico, Annalise Hurst and Korianna Purdin sang the national anthem; Fisico played the ukulele and sang a song; Purdin received a standing ovation after performing a song, and a band composed of seniors Alarilla, Daniel Aslakson, Fisico and Brown also played near the end of the ceremony.
And as the graduates were ready go on to their future places around the globe, Dr. Nancy Bressel, director of Department of Defense Dependents Schools Europe, reminded them of their unique club membership.
"Always remember, as a graduate of a Department of Defense school in a U.S. community overseas, you are part of a great tradition of young people - people helping each other. Giving creates an incredible connection to other people and even to the world. You have great role models in your parents, for they have learned the value of service, giving, helping and sharing."