'The world is in front of you'
May 20, 2022
Sunday afternoon, May 15, the Alva High School Class of 2022 filed into the auditorium for the ceremony marking their transition to adulthood. Seated on the stage were members of the Alva Board of Education including Jane McDermott, president; Tiffany Slater, vice president; Karen Koehn; clerk and Larry Parker, deputy clerk. Superintendent Tim Argo and featured speaker Mark McDaniel also took seats on the stage.
The Alva High School mixed chorus opened the ceremony followed by Supt. Argo's introduction of board members and the speaker. Mark McDaniel is senior counsel with Devon Energy where he has worked since 2005. After graduating from Alva High School, he graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.B.A. in Finance in 1987, and a J.D. in 1990. In 2011 he and his wife, Stacy, founded Cleats for Kids, a nonprofit which empowers kids to live healthier lifestyles by providing sports shoes and safe equipment to kids in need.
McDaniel told the graduating seniors that in May 1992, 40 years ago, he was sitting where they were now. He singled out Colby Mackey, telling him he sat next to his aunt and uncle, Marsha Mackey and Mike Martin, on that occasion.
Reminiscing about those times, McDaniel said the school had a designated smoking area for teachers and another for students. About half of the pickups in the parking lot had shotguns mounted in racks. The number one song in May 1992 was "I Love Rock and Roll" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. He said that's one thing that hasn't changed; "it's still an awesome song!"
Offering some advice for their future, McDaniel talked about the four C's of life.
"Celebrate your success, celebrate your life. We're here to celebrate you," he said. "Take the pictures; hug your friends; go out with your family. It's okay to celebrate."
McDaniel listed the benefits of celebrating. It relieves stress. It provides motivation, recognizes accomplishments and shows appreciation. It builds energy. It provides a time of reflection, and it creates moments for us to remember.
"I'm here to tell you that you can make the rest of your life a celebration like you're making it here today, and I would encourage you to make those positive memories," he said.
Borrowing from Dr. Janet Cunningham's speech at the NWOSU commencement, McDaniel quoted Thomas Dewey, "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."
"I love that quote," he said. "Alva has some of the most special things of any small town in Oklahoma. You've got a university; you've got Northwest Technology Center; and you've got a very robust arts community in Alva. There are so many opportunities for you on graduation to continue growing and learning right here in Alva.
"But to me being curious is more than education. Read books, travel, take up a hobby, try something new. As I was talking with my wife driving up here today, she agreed. We don't ever regret the things we did. We regret the things we didn't do. I would encourage you to be fearless and curious."
McDaniel continued, "My kids are always asking me, 'How did you connect with people back when you were in high school? You don't have a cellphone. You can't email. You can't do anything electronic.'
"I said, 'It's pretty simple. We picked up a landline. We made a plan. We stuck with the plan. And if that didn't work, we drove up and down Oklahoma Boulevard, driving through the bowling alley and the Pizza Hut until we saw someone we knew.'
"My graduating class had 97 people, and 45 of them I had gone to school with from first grade through senior. I bet your class has the same numbers. I bet you have a lot of people that you went to grade school with that you're sitting next to today.
"Keep building those connections with your classmates. Connect with your friends. Connect with your school. Connect with your church, and connect with your community. These connections can really enrich your life."
"Create your own future," said McDaniel of the final C. "You've attended a great high school. You have good teachers. You have the community. You have your family. Everybody is here to support you. They want you to succeed, and you have everything you need after going to a high school like Alva High School to do anything that you want to do.
"But it's up to you to create that. You're not here to live your parents' dream. You're not here to live your teachers' dream. You're not here to live anybody else's dream but your own. And it's on you to make that dream come true."
McDaniel emphasized the four C's in his closing, "I want to say thank you for including me. Celebrate life, be curious, connect, create your own future. The world is in front of you so go get it!"