KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Platte County High School Principal Dr. Chad Sayre stepped to the podium at the KCI Expo Center with a question for the 2018 graduating class on Sunday, May 20.
What is your message?
The Pirates principal opened by talking about how much life has changed since these seniors were born in 1999 or 2000. Phones weren’t used to play video games and emojis were more than a decade away. High-speed internet is everywhere now, but back then, the high-pitch squeal of dial up meant you were on your way to surfing the net.
Even three years ago, the graduating class didn’t have Chromebooks like this year’s freshmen class did.
“Platte County High School has helped shape you and mold you into the young adult you are today,” he said. “All of you have created a message. I challenge each of you to ask yourself, what is your message? What will you carry forth as you start the next chapter in life?”
Sayre then told a story about his grandfather that brought the meaning behind the question into focus. In June of 1990, he was working on his grandfather’s farm in northern Missouri bailing hay but not wanting to be there. His slowness was slowing down the other workers.
His Grandpa Davis, then 86, was running circles around Sayre, then 15.
“He told me to look at the hay crew and asked me what message I sent them today,” Sayre said. “He said, ‘it’s not what they think of you, but what is the message?’ I was confused, but his response changed me forever.
“He said, ‘What they think of you is that you are a lazy teenager that is spoiled and don’t know hard work.”
Sayre slumped his head before his grandfather asked him, ‘What is your message?” The question was repeated after his grandfather informed him one of the workers was dying of cancer and another had just lost a child.
It was during that conversation he learned more about his grandfather’s trips to Cuba as a missionary in the 1940s. On Jan. 23, 1942, his grandfather left under the cover of darkness in Miami, Fla., bound for Havana, Cuba. They left at night to try to avoid the German U-boats that were present in the midst of World War II and this trip was six weeks after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
A Southern Baptist pastor, Sayre’s grandfather arrived safely after looking for the lighthouse in the port of Havana.
“He shared Cuba was a tipping point in his life,” Sayre said. “He talked about how inadequate he felt sailing to Cuba and how often he wanted to give up and not put others in danger because it was his idea. It is so easy to turn your back on that but that wasn’t his life’s message … his message was hope, love and faith.
“I challenge all of your in the class of 2018 to go deep within yourself. What is your message? This is not what you do with your life, but what directs it. What will be the light you use on your path to move forward? Your life message … use it as a guide. Don’t deviate and never lose sight. Don’t let the next chapter of your life be about what others think or be about creating a perfect image. Let your message be the lighthouse on your journey. Is it love? Is it family? It is a strong worth ethic? Is it your faith? Is it acts of service? Is it showing kindness or willingness to forgive? What is your lighthouse that will guide your journey? Let your message be a benchmark to evaluate what you do every day.”
Sayre gave each of the graduating seniors a 2018 quarter. On the front was the face of George Washington and below his head is a small ‘P,’ for which Sayre said was for Pirate Nation.
On the back is the Apostle Islands located near Lake Superior in Wisconsin. There is a person in a kayak battling the currents near rock cliffs. In the top right hand of the coin, behind the cliffs, is a lighthouse.
“Within the classic Greek translation of the word apostle it means one who is sent off with a message. Today, each of you in the class of 2018 has been sent out to write the next chapter of your life. I hope the time at Platte County has provided many lighthouses that will guide you over your lifetime.”
The 2018 graduating class features 286 seniors, two of which spoke during the event.
Hannah Wood mentioned following in the footsteps of her brother, who also spoke at his graduation. She talked about her second family, the dance team, and tidbits from things teachers that taught her and finally bringing up the late Luke Hogue, a senior who was killed in an automobile accident in January.
“Our struggles together have solidified the bond we have so no matter how busy we all become, we will always have the connection of surviving Platte County High School,” she said.
Rosalina Garcia added, “We should expect to struggle. Struggle is what motivates, what builds character and pushes us to achieve our goals. This is just the beginning, not the end, and it has been an honor to share the past 13 years with all of you.”