Principal cites freshman student as example for seniors
Dr. Mark Wilson Principal, Morgan County High School
It would seem appropriate that an article in the graduation supplement be geared toward advice. Advice denotes expertise, so, being a generalist, I always search for wisdom from learned individuals to share at these occasions. Famous women and men have given us inspirational quotes that provide us with that nugget of truth that is worth sharing with young people at an important benchmark in their lives.
Rather than quote Longfellow, Dr. King, Millay, Lincoln, or Frost, the most appropriate person I can think of to quote in giving advice to the class of 2009 is Burbach. That’s, Laura Margaret Burbach. Freshman at Morgan County High School.
Before the quote, a little background, if you will.
Laura Margaret is one of the smartest young people you’ll ever meet. When asked about her level of intelligence, I’ve heard her described as “Grant Phelps-smart,” which is a compliment of the highest degree. Her academic ability and performance is consistently among the best in her class.
She is an entrepreneur. Her business acumen and cooking ability combine to provide her the skills to serve gourmet lunches during the summer to offices around Madison. The delectable meals are always well received, as are her custom cakes. When we want to celebrate with someone in Madison for something they’ve accomplished, or just to say thanks for support, we contact Laura Margaret, who bakes not only cakes but amazing designs that make the moment even more special.
LM is also a star of stage and song. She has been in more productions through the years than she can probably count and she has always made each of her roles come alive. One of my favorite Laura Margaret roles was when she was Tinker Bell in the Madison Community Theater production of Peter Pan. In the production, she was literally flying, which is not really a far-fetched idea for Laura Margaret. For someone who seems to be not just good, but excellent at everything, flying across the stage seemed pretty natural for her.
What may amaze you about Laura Margaret is she does all of these things and more—actually much more—and she has the same number of hours to work with that you and I do. She’s one of those people who accomplish so much that you just wonder if they have more time than you do. For LM, actually, she’s able to do all of that with less free time than most of us. You see, LM has bravely and gracefully done all of these things for years while dealing with a series of immune system issues that require daily medical attention, including breathing treatments, shots, and medications that most of us would probably not so gracefully receive. She’s been in doctor’s offices and for short and long hospital stays for more days than anyone should have to be. The truth is that LM deals with not feeling well most every day. To be around her, which is a special treat and a blessing for everyone who has that opportunity, you would never know that she is having to work through all of these challenges. She makes you forget that, and makes you remember how motivated she is.
There’s the back story. Here comes the advice for graduating seniors. Laura Margaret presented this advice at the Underclassmen Awards ceremony this week. She was named the recipient of this year’s Holly Duke Courage Award (see inset) because of her inspiring example for all of us at Morgan County High School. Courage, as Ernest Hemingway defined, is grace under pressure. Laura Margaret embodies courage. She serves as a great inspiration for all of us because of her graceful ways, which is why she was selected to receive this award.
While the standing-room only crowd rose to their feet to pay tribute to Laura Margaret, she made her way to the stage, one of her favorite places, fighting back some tears to thank those in attendance. Once the applause stopped, she told the crowd, “For the first time ever, I’m speechless.” Thank goodness that wasn’t true. What Laura Margaret said, which is paraphrased below, is the best advice that I can think of to share with you as you graduate. She said the following:
"On my school email, that I often send to my teachers to let them know that I’m going to be absent or in the hospital or what not, I have a quote that describes my life. It says, 'You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.' I never realized how much I believed that until this very moment. You can be strong…So, be as strong as you need to be…To achieve as much as you can. Thank you so much.”
Class of 2009. Be strong.