BAR HARBOR — “Always Stay Humble and Kind,” the title of country music star Tim McGraw’s current hit, also could have been the title of Howard Colter’s commencement address at Mount Desert Island High School on Sunday.
Colter, who is stepping down as superintendent of the MDI Regional School System at the end of this month, told the 117 graduating seniors that whether they are going into the workforce or to college, he hopes they will focus on more than just the task at hand.
“If you want to do your best work, then focus on things as personal as being kind to people, being generous and forgiving and inviting and friendly, and listen to other people,” he said.
“If you do these things, you actually will be more skilled at whatever it is you want to do in your life. You’ll be better at it and more successful. And more important than that, maybe, is that you’ll find reward.”
Colter said he decided to talk about those virtues because of “how discouraged I am reading about what’s going on in our country and in the world, the level of suspicion and fear and racism and bigotry and hatefulness.”
“We are better people than this,” he said, and challenged the graduates to prove it.
Molly Brown, one of two student speakers for the commencement ceremony, reminded her fellow graduates that they will experience setbacks in life and shouldn’t be afraid to fail now and then.
“Falling down is part of the learning process, and you would lead a very dull and boring life if you never fell down,” she said. “The most important thing is to remember that you have to get back up. Don’t hesitate to use whatever resources are around you. It’s OK to ask for help.”
Brown was chosen as one of the commencement speakers by the high school faculty. The other speaker, Cassidy Parady, was chosen by the senior class.
Parady thanked the school’s teachers and staff, who “pushed us to be the best we can be.”
As for her classmates, she said, “These are some of the most intelligent, incredible, fun and fantastic people.”
Addressing them directly, she said, “Even if you weren’t that great at school or sports or music, you have so much to offer. Every single one of you has something beautiful and special and unique about you that can change the world, whether it’s as an amazing mentor to children, an incredible cook or a wonderful singer. You have a talent. You are invaluable to someone.”
Principal Matt Haney praised the high school’s “tremendous faculty and staff” and thanked students’ parents for “all the love, patience and time you have given them.”
He called the class of 2016 “an extremely talented group in the classroom, on the athletic field and in the visual and performing arts.”
Speaking of the factors that contribute to the school’s success, Haney said, “It would be hard to overstate the amount of support and involvement of the local community.”