Evan Lucas, 18, is the valedictorian commencement speaker for Daniel Boone High School in Reading, Pennsylvania.
During his high school career, Evan has been named 2012 Berks County Science Student of the Month, a finalist in the science category for Berks Best, and the winner of Boone's Got Talent. He also put in over 200 volunteer hours at Pottstown Hospital. Evan will be attending Duke University this fall with a double major in mechanical and environmental engineering.
Here is the speech Evan is giving at the commencement ceremony.
The Butterfly Effect
Good evening. To the class of 2013, congratulations on making it to this point, as you reach the commencement of your high school journey. Today marks the end of a strenuous, but gratifying four years filled with hard work, late nights, and the occasional unsatisfactory cafeteria lunch. Some of you may be extremely pleased about this, and some may be devastated, but we all face this monumental change together. We have grown into young men and women ready to tackle the challenges of the future, but we could not have done this alone. We all owe gratitude to those who helped steer us on this path to seniority. I first would like to thank my family for your continuous support and your unconditional belief in me. Thank you teachers and staff, for your hard work and passion over the years has motivated us, inspired us, and prepared us for the days ahead. Much of your work goes wrongfully unnoticed, but it is your dedication that has equipped us with the tools needed for success. Thank you friends for giving me a reason to be excited to come to school every day and for providing me memories that will last a lifetime. I could not be more grateful for the kindness and respect you’ve shown me. And lastly, I would like to express my appreciation to Jacob and Nicole for years of inspiration and friendship. Your impacts in my life will be cherished forever.
A few years ago, my father introduced me to a book called The Butterfly Effect. Its basic premise: a butterfly can flap its wings on one side of the world and set molecules of air in motion, that moved other molecules of air, that could eventually assist the creation of a hurricane on the other side of the planet. This may sound silly and impossible, but it is interesting, and for this, the butterfly effect was researched by a team of physics professors, who proved it accurate and viable. And it applies to each of our lives.
I’m going to tell a story that demonstrates this. There was a man named Norman Borlaug who developed the technique that hybridizes corn and wheat for arid climates in order to supply food to more people throughout the world. This simple act has been said by researchers to have saved over two billion lives. And counting. But it’s not Norman Borlaug who really did it. It was a man named Henry Wallace. Henry Wallace was a former Secretary of Agriculture before serving as Vice President under Franklin Roosevelt. While Vice President, it was Henry Wallace who created a station in Mexico, whose sole purpose was to hybridize corn and wheat for arid climates, and it was Henry Wallace who hired a man named Norman Borlaug to run the plant. So, really, was it Henry Wallace who saved those two billion people? Or was it George Washington Carver? As a nineteen year old college student at Iowa State University, Carver often took his professor’s six year old son on botanical expeditions. It was Carver who pointed the six year old in a direction, gave him a vision in his life about plants and what they could do for humanity. This six year old boy was, of course, Henry Wallace. So was it George Washington Carver who saved the two billion people? Or was it a farmer named Moses and his wife Susan? While living on their estate and caring for a woman named Mary Washington, Moses and Susan found their land attacked by raiders. The raiders destroyed their property and drug off Mary Washington, who refused to let go of her infant son. Mary Washington was Susan’s best friend, and because of this, Moses, after laborious efforts, contacted the raiders and arranged to meet with them. At the meeting, three hours away on horseback, knowing Mary was already dead, Moses traded his last horse for the helpless infant boy. He walked the baby home, cared for him, raised him, and promised to educate him in honor of his mother. And that was the night Moses Carver told that baby he would give him his name, and that is how Moses and Susan came to raise that little baby George Washington Carver.
So, the two billion people were saved by Norman Borlaug, but really, it is Moses and Susan Carver that are truly responsible for starting the chain of events that leads to the saving of all those lives. Unless…
These links could carry on incessantly into the past. How far back could we go to find whose move, at what time, at what point in history saved the two billion people? And how far forward could we go in your life? There are generations still unborn whose lives will be shaped and shifted by what you will do tomorrow. What you do matters. Every one of your choices and actions affects, not only you, but those around you, and those you will never know. Everything you do is important, for now and forever.
The beneficiaries of many of your actions are unknown, but you must selflessly make the difference in the world that leads to progress and to growth. Even if your actions don’t make the obvious impact like Norman Borlaug’s, be the backbone towards that change. Be the George Washington Carver or the Henry Wallace, striving to do good things in the world, even without the credit. What matters is not recognition from others, but rather a desire to help yourself or the planet improve as a whole. Act to make good, avoid breaking character, and flap your butterfly wings in a way that promotes positive change. With responsible actions today, you hold power as an individual to bring about great change and accomplishment tomorrow. Just as Moses Carver’s determination and Henry Wallace’s idea moved mankind closer to hybridizing corn and wheat, your simple actions matter and will resonate for years to come.
Let your actions blaze a trail. Let them today act as catalysts igniting improvement in the future. The consequences of these actions are unknown, but with responsibility, respect, and kindness, you can improve, however minutely, anything for the better. You must remain open to all opportunities presented to you and act on them. Act in a way that, when looking back on your life, you can be happy with the choices you made and know that, because of you, this great world that we live in was made even greater.
So as you leave here, I encourage you to do so with fond memories of the past four years. Look back with appreciation on everything you’ve been offered here at Daniel Boone and thank those that have helped you along the way make the memories so exceptional. These past four years with you have truly been amazing, and I will miss them greatly.
Smile through life and go tackle whatever the future holds for you. Know that I, along with many others, am so very proud of each of you, and wish you success in every obstacle you cross paths with in your life. I am confident that your roots in the Daniel Boone community have prepared you to branch off and find success wherever life takes you. You are leaders, you are young men and women ready to tackle the challenges of the future, and you are my friends. And for that, I am so very thankful.
Live responsibly with an eye on what is yet to come and be the butterfly for positive change for you, the next generation, and generations after. Be thankful for the past and embrace the waiting future, for your past has shaped you, and your future will soon help shape the world.
Daniel Boone Class of 2013, congratulations. It’s time to begin.