John Brady Bowman is the Salutatorian of the 2021 Class of Arab High School. He is the son of Joel Bowman and Lisa Bowman.

The following is the edited text of his graduation speech:

Good evening. Thank you all for coming. I want to begin by thanking and acknowledging a few people that have made everything possible for us these past four years.

First, my family, as they have always supported me and had my back. Mom, I don’t know where I’d be without you.

Second, to the strong men and women who keep our school functioning. I truly appreciate the sacrifices you all make.

To Mrs. Kunze, I will never forget what you have done for me and taught me.

Lastly, to all of you, my classmates. I have enjoyed the highs and lows with you guys, and I wish the best for all of you.

Now that we are at the end of this chapter in our lives, I would like to share a few lessons I’ve learned.

After four, both long and short years, filled with successes, failures, blessings and tragedies; there are key things that I have come to realize. The more matured, wisened and prepared me can honestly say; I learned a lot.

I think that you can, too. I’ll keep it at five points, nice and structured like an essay.

First, myself and yourself.

A quote that hangs in Mrs. Blackmon’s room reads “It takes true courage to grow up and become your true self.” That’s really it – examining what kind of person you are requires courage and honesty, even time to let yourself fully grow. It also takes bravery to be open with the world around you.

This leads me to number two: people.

I’ll do my best not to give a cliche regretful and reminiscent reflection of “missed opportunities.”

But it’s true. Graduation is of course the perfect storm of these feelings: you regret not knowing this classmate better, you’re going to miss that teacher.

I cannot express how much I’ve realized the importance of relationships, and going forward, I hope you all can keep this in mind. People matter.

The last three will be the past, present and future.

The past. You can’t change it. It’s there, it happened. It hurts. But it’s also memories, cherished for all time, our recollection of good times and bad. It’s important to remember, but it’s more important to keep living life.

The present – the here and now, the people, the stress, the joy – is what matters the most.

There will always be days when you just can’t seem to forget a bad memory, or you worry about a future plan or problem. It takes genuine effort to stay in the present and be the person that God made you to be; to talk, laugh, cry, sing and draw in the breath of life.

If anything is to truly be said, let the past live on in your present with what you have learned and still hold dear, and let the future worry about itself.

The future. So many possibilities, so many things that could go right balanced by the infinite chances of wrong. I used to bring significant stress upon myself by scheduling obsessively.

I would plan things down to the number, break my back to follow a plan and become extremely disappointed and even mad at myself if it didn’t turn out.

I’ve come to a point where I now put my faith in God. That has truly changed me, and now I keep my attention in the present moment. The future will become what it’s meant to, regardless of anything you can sincerely control.

Going forward, I hope we can all live by these simple realizations: tapping into our real selves, valuing connections with people, appreciating and accepting the past, focusing on the present and unburdening ourselves from an uncertain future.

I hope that if anything these have been a reminder of a simple yet brave approach to experiencing a fuller life.

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