A little more than a year ago, McLean High School science teacher Terry Moore was diagnosed with brain cancer. Today he can no longer read, and is only capable of some writing — but one thing he has not lost is his power of speech. Moore put that skill to use as he took the podium on June 15 at the McLean High School Class of 2006 commencement ceremony at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
"You see, I have a smile on my face and a sense of humor," said Moore, as he received a standing ovation.
McLean High School senior class officer Vipul Tripathi introduced Moore as "the most inspirational person I have ever had the honor of meeting."
Moore, who is married with three young children, thanked everyone for all of their financial and emotional support throughout the year. He also expressed his hope of being able to return to teaching at some point.
"I'm going to fight the good fight and nothing is going to bring me down," said Moore.
He urged students not to "judge yourself against someone else," and to "look to your hearts for doing the right thing."
"We all start out in different spots," said Moore. "There are people who grew up with nothing and now they are brain surgeons."
Moore was not the only guest speaker at the McLean High School graduation ceremony. McLean High School science teacher Faye Cascio, also offered words of wisdom to the Class of 2006.
"We know her as the AP Biology teacher extraordinnaire," said senior class officer Ellie Hall.
As Cascio is about to retire after 27 years of teaching, she said that the class of 2006 would hold a special place in her heart as "the last class that I will have the privilege of teaching in Fairfax County."
She commended the graduating seniors for exemplifying "unity and diversity of life."
"I have also observed over the past four years, that the diversity of race, culture and religion in your class has not just been tolerated but embraced," said Cascio. "Diversity, like anything worth having, requires effort. You should be proud that this is the spirit of the golden class of 2006."
Cascio offered her students four pieces of advice as they prepared to move on to the next phase of their lives. She urged them to "believe in something larger than yourself and to get involved with the big ideas of our time," "to truly enjoy what you do," "to be a mensch," and "to cherish your relationships with your family and your friends."
Cascio explained that "mensch" is a Jewish word used to describe someone of integrity and honor. She told students that since it was highly probable that they would become affluent and successful members of society, they should always remember to treat everyone with respect.
"When someone takes out your trash or fixes your car, look them in the eye and say thank you," said Cascio. "Treat them as your equal because they are your equal."
She added that homosapien DNA is almost identical across the board.
"We are 99.9 percent the same, no matter what our religion, color or sexual orientation," said Cascio.
Her comment was met with enthusiastic applause.
SENIOR ITAY ROSENZWEIG started at McLean High School last September after he and his family were forced to abandon their home in New Orleans and flee Hurricane Katrina. Rosenzweig spoke at the 2006 graduation ceremony, noting that prior to Aug. 29, 2005, he would never have expected to be where he was at that moment. He offered his fellow classmates his own thoughts on life, based on the events of the last year.
"Do what you have to, and do what you love," said Rosenzweig. "Life is not out to get you, but it is somewhere waiting for you to go out and get it... next year you will all be new wherever you go. Think of the diploma you're about to receive as a clean slate on which to write the next chapter of our lives."
He also reminded his classmates that while "none of us can expect perfect lives... we can expect perfect moments."
In her commencement remarks, senior Sharzad Hosseinbor told her classmates to "accept what you cannot change, and make the best of what you can change."
"External things do not define us," said Hosseinbor. "What makes you a person is that you are here and that you have the potential to make your life count for something... success means being happy with your own life."
THE GRADUATING SENIORS have a variety of post graduation plans. Natty Montoya, 17, will study Spanish in Venezuela for a year before going on to the College of William and Mary. Montoya said that although he was going to miss all his friends, it was "about time" that they all graduated.
"This is the last time that we are all going to be together, but it's time to move on," said Montoya.
Amanda Mascialino, 17, plans to move into an apartment with two friends.
"It's overwhelming," said Mascialino of the graduation experience. "It went by so fast."
Her friend Stephanie Martinez, 17, will attend the Arts Institute of Washington next fall.
"I'm going to miss my counselor Mr. Kasdan," said Martinez.
Esther Newman, 17, said she will miss her friends, but felt great about finally graduating.
"I feel so excited and relaxed and happy and unstressed," she said, adding that she hoped she would not trip while accepting her diploma.
Kim Nguyen, 17, was excited about a post-graduation trip to Italy with her family. Nguyen will attend the University of Virginia in the fall.
"I'm kind of afraid of the moving on to the next level, but I guess it's time," she said.