2015 Cleveland Central Catholic High School Commencement Address

Presented on June 2, 2015 at St. Colman Church by Reverend Brian A.
Cash – Class of 2009 - Associate Pastor and Youth Pastor – Friendship
Baptist Church, Nashville

Today you all have made tremendous strides toward great success. As you sit in your
seats and I stand here before you today as a person who matriculated through the halls
of Cleveland Central Catholic, one word comes to mind. There is one word that binds
you and me closely together like a beautiful tapestry in the hands of a master weaver.
That word is experience. Although we all do not share the same lives, vocational
aspirations, and personal experiences, there is one experience that glues us all together.
The experience that connects you and I forever is that of attending and graduating from
this exceptional institution called Cleveland Central Catholic.
Our Cleveland Central Catholic Experience
I must say things have changed a little over the last six years since I have graduated. I
walked from across the basketball gym and saw a huge stadium with bleachers, a wide
track, and to top it all off, a state-of-the art football field for the football team. So yes the
place that I remember six years ago is a little bit different than I remember when I was a
student. However, the experience of being in the place called Cleveland Central Catholic
remains the same; the memories of the first day of school trying to form new
relationships and also getting adjusted to switching from classroom to classroom. The
memories of going to your first homecoming dance, or winning the homecoming game,
and recently for all you, going to your prom, will forever be memories that you will never


2015 Cleveland Central Catholic High School Commencement Address
Our Teachers
Then the experience of being in the classrooms with teachers you loved and teachers
you sometimes wished would stay at home. Nonetheless you will never forget the
lessons that the teachers taught you. Even today I remember many of my teachers.
I will never forget learning about Carpe Diem and interpreting Shakespeare’s sonnets in
Ms. Sinclair’s class. I remember learning about the Industrial Revolution and the FDR
New Deal in Mr. Clark’s U.S History class. The amazing Ms. Hynes taught an important
lesson about leadership through how she interacted with students. She demonstrated
that people don’t care how much you know, unless they know how much you care. I will
never forget reading about Julius Caesar’s quest for power in Mr. Hyland’s class or
reading a newsletter and writing a response every day in Mr. Anderson’s class. How can
I ever forget Mr. Hollis? I had the pleasure of being his student all four years of my high
school career. He may not know this but Mr. Hollis not only taught me Latin and
Spanish, but he stretched me to think widely and urged me to excel for greatness. It was
by God’s mercy and Mr. Hollis’ merciful grace that I made it out of his class every year.
Students, although the names of your teachers may be different than mine, the lessons
they taught you will never be lost.
Our Lunchroom
Not only was there the experience of teachers but many of you can relate with
experiences of those unforgettable places such as the lunchroom. When I was a
student, every day surprisingly the lunchroom transformed from a cafeteria space to an
epicenter for fun, laughter, and comic view. The lunchroom was the place people could
relax from long hours in the classroom and find relief in the comfort of enjoying the
presence of friends. In the lunchroom it all went down. Students turned from high school
matriculating young men and women to rappers, comedians, dancers, and unfortunately
some thought they were Floyd Mayweather transforming into fighters. The lunchroom
was the place to be.
Our High School Sports Experience
I would be remise if I forget to talk about the experience of playing sports at CCC. It
seemed as though the majority of students who attended CCC played some kind of
sport, at least one year of their high school career. I wasn’t good enough to play baseball
or athletic enough to play basketball, so the football family accepted me on their team.
Now I see Head Coach Lundy in the audience. When I played football we didn’t have the
massive field to practice on but we had to travel around the corner to practice on a field
far away from public eye. Going to practice for us was like going to play an away game.
Nonetheless, whenever we lost a game, Coach Lundy would have the entire team
assembled at the bottom of a long hill and we had to run the same amount of hills as the
number of points we lost by in the previous game. Playing football for Cleveland Central
Catholic was a life changing experience. Those of you who have had the privilege of


2015 Cleveland Central Catholic High School Commencement Address
playing sports can witness to the fact that the bond you build with your teammates will
never be broken. The hours of traveling to games, conditioning in practice, staying up
late to finish homework after practice are all experiences that have helped to shape the
graduates you are today. Overall, there is something special to be said about all of your
experiences at CCC. These experiences will be the catalyst that catapults you to your
As we transitioned from the unforgettable experiences at CCC, the question of where do
I go from here penetrates all of your brains. I know all of this year and as the year ended
this question popped in your mind. I know many of you have already been accepted to
colleges with healthy scholarships, some of you will not attend college immediately only
to go later, and some of you will probably not attend a university but gain a trade and
become very successful in life. However, we must take the time to analyze, where do we
go from here? The next step of your life is very important because you are moving from
the sweet comforts of your parents care to the unfamiliar territory of the world’s bosom.
Essentially, this will be one of the most important decisions of your life because the
choices you make now will determine the person you will become in the next 20 years.
So as we discuss the question where do we go from here, we must examine the more
relevant question; how do we get there?
We Learn from the Past
As we ponder over these questions and begin to answer the question of how do we get
there (wherever ‘there’ may be for you), it starts with mastering the ability to learn from
the past. However, one cannot learn from the past if one doesn’t have the slightest idea
about the past. There is an African symbol called the Sankofa bird, which represents the
concept of looking in the past to discover answers for the future. If you have ever seen
the image of this bird you would see that bird’s body always faces in the forward
direction while the head looks towards the past. The Sankofa translates as reach back
and get it. In other words the ultimate meaning of this bird is to remind us of the
significance of learning from our past history whether the past be good or bad. As
graduates of CCC, you should be reminded of your past history. Marcus Garvey once
stated, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a
tree without roots.” The sad reality is that students are graduating every year without the
slightest idea of their history. One of the false tales that hangs over the heads of
students who attend Catholic Schools such as CCC is that we are kids from the rich
neighborhoods and we have a lot of money. However, that is not reality for most
students at CCC. The symbol Ironmen is most befitting to our school because many of
the parents of the students who attend Cleveland Central Catholic struggle physically,
emotionally, and financially so that their child can receive a better education. The
parents of CCC are the real “Iron men and women” because they have made major
sacrifices so that their children can gain an education that will provide them easier
passageways in the world ahead. Many of the parents at CCC are represented by single
parent mothers and fathers who saw potential in their children before their child saw
potential in themselves. I know this to be true because my mother was an Ironwoman
who struggled to make sure two of her boys made it through high school. She suffered
from kidney failure but placed her own sickness aside to help two boys with their


2015 Cleveland Central Catholic High School Commencement Address
homework on a nightly basis. She made sure we had our uniforms ready, she came to
games in the cold, she drove us to school every morning, and she made tremendous
sacrifices so that her boys could be where they are today. I didn’t realize all she did until
I graduated and went off to college. It was a result of the struggle of the past that now
allows me to stand in front of you today. Students, never take for granted the people in
your past because it is as a result of those people that you sit in these seats today. It is
your past, which are filled with people who want to see you blossom like a rose in the
spring. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others who prayed for you while you
were acting up in school.
The Story About the Young Man from an Ivy League School
There is a story about a young man who graduated from an Ivy League institution, had a
great paying job, nice family, and living in the suburbs. His mother got sick and had to
move in with them but the wife and children did not like the grandmother. The wife told
her husband to put his mom in a nursing home. The man came to the mother and said,
“Mother, we are going to have to put you in a nursing home because it’s not working out
with you at the house.” The mother said, “After all I did for you, you are going to put me
in a nursing home.” The son said, “What do you mean after all you did for me? I got
everything I have on my own. When I was 11 years old I went to Mr. Michael’s candy
store and got me a job. When I was a senior in high school I filled my own application
out for college and got accepted with a full scholarship to Yale University. I graduated on
my own and everything I have now is because of me.
The mother with tears in her eyes said, “Son you remember when you got that job at the
corner store? I knew that storeowner, and you went down to talk to him on a Tuesday;
but right after church I went to him on Sunday afternoon and begged him to give you that
job. You remember going to college for an interview to get in college? You went on a
Thursday but I traveled all the way to that school and sat in the dean’s office on that
Tuesday morning. I told that man your story. I told him how I was single parent mother
raising a family and I wanted you to go to college. All that you have now is because the
sacrifices I have made. The young man who was once looking at his mom with
arrogance began humbling himself. All I’m trying to tell you is remember the people in
your past who helped you to become the people you are today.
Learning from your Struggles
While you remember your past, never forget your own struggle in the past. For some of
you, the road to graduation has been a difficult road. Many of you have not always been
the brightest kid in the room and you have had to work hard. Some of you like me were
counted and judged by the content of your character and by the color of your skin.
Remember the struggle of staying up all night to write papers and read books?
Remember the struggle of the first day of school trying to fit in and not stick out? On this
day remember the struggle of attempting to balance sports and school life at the same
time. Many of you had struggles outside of school that bled into the struggle of school,
causing you to have struggles on every side. Some of you were parents to your siblings,
cooking, babysitting, and looking after younger siblings can be taxing. However, you


2015 Cleveland Central Catholic High School Commencement Address
did it and graduated at the same time. So remember that struggle because it is that
struggle that has created the person we witness today.
The Law of Compliancy or Complacency
Before I leave, I want to drop one more lesson that will help you get to the place that you
desire to go in life; that is what I call defying the law of compliancy or complacency. One
of the greatest attributes of humankind is that we have an amazing ability of starting well.
We begin projects well, assignment well, jobs well and other endeavors with great
ambition to do well but the issue is finishing well. Think about the countless things you’ve
started but never finished. Many of you know people with closets and garages full of
unfinished projects. Think about the countless New Year’s resolution diets you started
but never finished. The reason why we do not finish well is because we sometimes
become complacent with minimal success. Now, graduates, do not misunderstand me,
this achievement of graduating today is a major stepping-stone to a life of great success.
Many have started this journey with you but not all have finished this journey with you.
However, do not become complacent with this success.
The diploma you will receive today is only a small step to experiencing the destiny
awaiting you. The story is told of the leaping frog. One day a frog decided to leap and in
and out of boiling water for his own personal entertainment. The frog said since I am so
fast I can leap in and out of the water without any consequence. So the frog leaped in
the water and out of the water. The frog proceeded to leap in the water and then out of
the water. After multiple times of leaping in and out of the water, the frog’s body became
adjusted to the temperature of the water. The frog became so comfortable with the water
that he decided to stay in the water. Although his body was adjusted to the temperature
of the water, the water was still boiling hot. Consequently, the frog boiled to death
because he had become complacent and comfortable.
Graduates do not become complacent, because complacency kills. Do not settle for
anything in life, because the world is at your fingertips. Graduates reach for the stars and
if you happen to miss, land on the clouds. Living life in your comfort zones will only stunt
your growth and eliminate you from excelling to your destiny. People who live in their
comfort zones never experience the totality of life because they have not taken the risk
to get there. The Bible calls us to press toward the mark of the high calling in Christ
Jesus. Pressing requires taking the risk to move from our comfort zones and step out on
faith to see what life has to offer.
I remember leaving Cleveland after graduating from CCC; I did not know where I was
going. I arrived in Nashville, Tennessee to a small liberal arts college called American
Baptist College. It was so small that the people in Nashville who lived there over 30
years had never heard about the college. We had three buildings on the entire campus.
The campus looked barren and forsaken. I was 700 miles away from home and I had
never been away from home more than two weeks at a time. However, I stayed there,
struggling to figure out my place in the world. I graduated from that small college
Valedictorian of my class, received a scholarship to Vanderbilt University to gain a
Masters degree and will be graduating in May all because I defied the law of


2015 Cleveland Central Catholic High School Commencement Address
“…Get on your Way…”
Today you have to make the step outside of your comfort zone and make history happen
for you. Along with the support of your family, the power of God, and your potential, you
can reach heights you have never dreamed about. As the famous author Dr. Seuss once
stated, “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so... get on your way!”