Attitude is everything

After decades of limited seating for the Alva High School graduations, unlimited numbers of family members and friends found seating for the 2024 ceremony. Air conditioning was added to the high school gym last fall, and a gym floor cover was purchased. This allowed the Sunday, May 19, program to be held in the larger area of the gym.

AHS Principal Dr. Vicky Nighswonger welcomed graduates, guests and members of the school board before introducing featured speaker Randy McDaniel who is a senior vice president with BancFirst. He is a former state treasurer and served 12 years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

McDaniel was born in Alva and attended elementary school and junior high at Alva Public Schools. After receiving a bachelor's degree in economics with honors from the University of Oklahoma, he earned a master's degree from Cambridge University before starting his career in finance.

He was a successful financial advisor for more than 20 years and holds a certificate in public treasury management from the National Institute of Public Finance at Pepperdine University.

McDaniel served 11 years in the Oklahoma Army National Guard, where he rose to the rank of captain. He is a graduate of Leadership Oklahoma and was a recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Medal for the culmination of community volunteerism and years of honorable military and public service.

Achieving Your Dreams

McDaniel said it was good to be back home again. "Home is the starting point of our hopes and dreams, and my story began right here in Alva, Oklahoma," he said. His parents met at Northwestern and after college they had three boys, his older brother Mark, his younger brother Lance and himself. Describing all the activities in which Alva students can participate, he said, "Alva is big enough to have things to do and small enough to care."

He told the students he wanted to talk about achieving your dreams. He described some of the things they learned in school. "Along the way you learned about yourself. Self-discovery is an important part of life," he said. "Plus, other people were more than willing to let you know what they thought of you. The compliments were appreciated, and the criticisms not so much. You're not alone in that regard."

He quoted former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt who said, "It's not the critic that counts ... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

McDaniel told the graduates, "Don't let the critics define you. Don't let the setbacks get you down."

He said some grads may be going to college whiles others are going straight to work. "No matter which path you choose, successful people are always setting goals, and they're having new hills to climb.

"Values also matter. When you live and work according to your values, you're likely to have a more fulfilling life. Since values represent things that are important to you, they serve as a motivation to succeed.

"Another attribute of achieving your dreams is believing in yourself. While talent is important, so is training and grit. Be confident in your ability to get things done."

McDaniel said living the American dream can mean something different to everyone. He said the top components are buying a house, having limited debt and saving enough money for retirement.

While financial goals are an important component of living the American dream, it is fortunate that many also value serving others. He listed educators, healthcare providers, members of the military, farmers and ranchers along with small business owners. "For many people, making a positive impact on society is a key part of them living and achieving the American dream," he said.

"How do you plan to make a difference?" McDaniel asked. "That is the question. Just getting by doesn't move the needle. You can do more, and to do more you need the right mindset to do it. When I was leaving for college, my parents bought me a small poster that says 'Attitude is Everything'. I have read that quote countless times through the years, especially when facing tough situations. The poster has been framed and still has a place in my home."

"It has also been said that attitude determines your altitude," McDaniel added. "Look for ways to grow and rise above the crowd. If a degree or special training can be a game-changer in your life and in your field, do it because knowledge is power."

He said, "Before I close, I want to encourage you to be grateful ... grateful for the people that have helped you along the way and grateful for the future opportunities that lie ahead."

Concluding his remarks, McDaniel said, "To the graduates of the Class of 2024, your future is calling. Go ahead with confidence and make your dreams come true."

Senior Class President Jenna Allen and Vice President Cristen Bosch announced the names of the graduates who accepted their diplomas from Dr. Nighswonger.


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