Mount Pulaski High School Class of 2020 Graduation
Claire Coogan - Class President speech

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[May 22, 2020]  Howdy and thank you all for tuning in! Usually they say to imagine your audience in their underwear and it’ll make you less nervous. Well, 1) I don’t see how that would make anyone less nervous and 2) I don’t actually have to see any of you. So I guess that helps. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Claire Coogan, the class president.

I had writer's blocks for the LONGEST time and really struggled with this speech. What can I say in a time like this? How does one properly send off their classmates in a pandemic? I don’t think there’s any clear answer here. So I’m just gonna cut to the chase.

I want you to close your eyes and imagine with me. Imagine you’re a fresh faced 18 year old student (with a couple zits) at Mount Pulaski High School. You’ve worked all your life to graduate. You’ve had sleepless nights after bombing your first bio test with Mrs. Clark, dreaded every Wednesday mile, and RACED every single day to the lunch line. You were yelled at as a freshman for being on the wrong side of the hallway, you had lockers that were stuck shut half the time, and you watched games from the top of the student section. You have paid your dues. It’s time to go. And now…. YOU CAN’T. It’s like a bad breakup. You want to leave and give a proper goodbye but your boyfriend JB won’t let you. And then, JB says, “Well you see, there’s a new girl in town… her name is Rona…” “WHAT?!” you think? This thing called Rona has ended my senior year. And now I'm giving a speech to a video camera? Oh dear… I can do this though! So here it goes.

The class of 2020 is one of the kindest, most understanding, and strongest classes I have seen in awhile. We are also the largest class that MPHS has seen in a minute (at a whopping 51 students) and yet are one of the closest. Whether one of us gets a butchered haircut, takes one too many Benadryl, or spends their entire high school career on crutches, we all stick together like a family. I truly believe that Mt. Pulaski is a special place with very unique connections. There aren’t many places where your summer boss at the pool is also the basketball coach, track coach, and usher at church. I wouldn’t trade this town for the world. There’s also not many places where you can drive a tractor to school and not receive a single question about it. This community has taught us and prepared us more than they’ll ever know for our future. Whether it’s the advice from the wise men at the Casey’s table after school or Mr. Morgan telling you to “square up” in the principal's office, it’s all out of love and has done nothing but better us.

Usually at commencement ceremonies, the speaker mentions how the class is venturing into “the GREAT unknown”. Which was true— but is more applicable now than ever. The class of 2020 is venturing DEEP into the great unknown. A brave new world is awaiting all of us.
COVID-19 threw us all the curveball of a lifetime. Our plans and futures have been temporarily altered. Our senior year was totally hijacked!! I do know one thing for sure— in life, I have yet to experience an obstacle, pain, or discomfort through which I have not found evolution, growth, or love. This too will pass, and we will find ourselves as weathered giants.  

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All of our lives, whether we knew it or not, we have been collecting important tools for this very day. Now that we are getting royally flushed into the world, we need to use those tools. I’m sure all those Spanish books seemed pointless at the time, but weren’t you proud of yourself when you went to El Maz and said “por favor” or “no gracias” to the waiter? Trust me, what you learn now will help you.

The class of 2020 is coming into the world guns a blazin’, and I don’t think you guys are ready.

To my fellow classmates, I want to express how proud I am of each and every one of you. I’ve watched you all grow into who you are today and each of you never fail to amaze me. You are all so smart and so talented in your own ways. Whether you know every single bone in the body, know perfect calculus, know how to gut a deer, or know how to farm; you’ve got a head start.
I’m honestly stoked for our future reunions just so I can see where you'll end up. You guys have some bright futures ahead of you.

To wrap things up, I would like to give thanks. I want to thank God for giving me this life and all that it may encompass. I want to thank my parents and family for always supporting and loving me unconditionally. You have always provided me with the best life (even when we lived in a shed… it’s a long story). I want to thank my dearest friends. You guys really anchor me and keep me on the somewhat right path. I will forever be grateful for the tears, laughs, overall excitement we have shared. Next, I want to thank my teachers. From preschool to my senior year, each and every one of you has had a significant impact on my life. You have helped shape and mold me to be the person I am today. I love each and every one of you and I wish we could have spent more time in the classroom together. Lastly, I would like to thank the community.

Mount Pulaski is such a special place and always will be. On my hardest days, you have always been so supportive and like a family. Only having 4 restaurants, a Casey’s, and public pool really builds character. But seriously, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to watch this and join my classmates and I on this strange and special day.

What a long, strange trip it’s been at the Mount Pulaski High School.


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