Bishop O'Connell High School held its 57th commencement exercise at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, June 1. The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, presented diplomas to the 231 members of the class of 2017.
Included in that number were 26 legacies, that is, graduates with a parent who is an O'Connell alum. Seventeen graduates received a certificate along with their diploma to indicate the equivalent of a ninth semester of study as part of the Global Studies program.
Head of School Joseph E. Vorbach III, a 1983 graduate himself, welcomed the students, families and honored guest to this celebration. "Today we take note of and celebrate what God has made possible in you to this point in your lives," he said. "We anticipate all that is possible for you, with God's help, as you begin your next adventures."
Bishop Burbidge addressed the graduates, reminiscing fondly on his first visit to Bishop O'Connell just a day after he was named the seventh Bishop of Arlington. He reminded the Class of 2017 that Jesus tells us to be childlike. "As you embark on this new stage in life, walk humbly with your God, trusting in him as a child trusts his or her parent," he said. "Walk as God's family, as brothers and sisters in Christ," he added. "Make new friends who will lift you up." He encouraged the graduates to allow God to show them the way: "You will not get lost," he told them.
Luke Brinkmann, the class salutatorian, compared the past four years to a roller coaster, "an amazing ride and one that is over wicked fast." He reflected on the collective accomplishments of the class of 2017 during their four year tenure at Bishop O'Connell—in the classroom, in the arts and athletics, and in service to others. "What we have done here is just the beginning," he said. "We must continue to persevere, to excel and to give wholly." Luke is headed to Villanova University in the fall.
Brooke Tran, the class valedictorian, challenged conventional graduation speeches that focus on achieving goals and successes through hard work and determination. "Where is the end game here?" she asks. "These external things bring us only fleeting satisfaction." Instead, Brooke urged the class of 2017 to search for the meaning that is inherent in all things that they are passionate about. "They all lead to things we actually long for: happiness, truth, beauty and goodness," she said. "They point to the origin from which we come: God." She wrapped her thoughts up by saying, "Our life does not become great when we do or achieve great things, it becomes great when even the smallest, most minute details of our lives become so full of meaning and purpose that our hearts burst with gratitude and joy." Brooke will be attending Stanford University in the fall.
God Bless the Class of 2017!