ST. MICHAELS, Ariz. — President Buu Nygren took the stage at the high school graduation ceremony and looked out at a sea of joyful expectations and eager nervousness.
The graduates were all wearing their caps and gowns, waiting for the Navajo People President to begin his speech.
Already, they heard their classmates and teachers share anecdotes of their journey through high school and all the memories they had made along the way.
Now, the 35 St. Michaels High School graduates sat in the front row as the Navajo People President began by thanking the parents and family for the support they’ve given their children.
President Nygren introduced himself and said he First Lady Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren were parents to their two-year-old daughter.
“To you, it didn’t seem that long ago when you were also parents to a two-year-old as you watched them learn to walk and learned to run after them. And now, you will continue to follow them as they move forward. As we all know, teaching our young ones about life never stops. In ten years, they might be in the military, they might be teachers, some of them might be parents themselves, and live far away,” the President said to the parents. “But as they continue, I know that as their parents and family, you’ll always be there for them.”
President Nygren then looked out at the sea of faces in front of him and began his speech. He mentioned his experiences and how he had struggled to find his place in the world.
“I know some of us come from tough situations, regardless if it’s no running water or no electricity, some of you have probably experienced loss. Some of you are in different unique situations, no matter the situation that you come in, it’s always going to be very challenging, but these are the life lessons that I’ve acquired over the past thirty-six years of my life,” the President said. “And so I thought I’d share them with you; coming from a guy that just twenty years ago, I was sitting in the back of a camper and making things to do with whatever we had with my mom.”
He then offered the graduates some advice. He encouraged them to never give up on their dreams, no matter how difficult the road may seem. Furthermore, he told them it was okay to fail and to make mistakes, as these were opportunities to learn and grow.
President Nygren also advised the graduates to be kind to others and to always treat people with respect and dignity. He reminded them they were all part of a community and that they had a responsibility to make the world a better place.
“Remember the person that you want to become remember that every single day and not let anybody steer you in the wrong direction, but every day strive for that because that’s very important. Regardless if it’s your first, whether you’re last, what always counts is that you finish every single day,” he said.
He told them that the key to success was to find something that they were passionate about and to pursue it with all their heart. He advised them to never give up on their dreams, no matter how difficult the road may seem. He also encouraged them to never be afraid to take risks and to always be willing to learn and grow.
“Smile and move along in the face of doubt and failure. There’s going to be so many times ahead where you’re going to doubt yourself, but never let that steer you in the wrong direction,” the President said.
Before concluding his speech, President Nygren said some universities in the area offered free tuition and told them he’d be delighted to write them letters of recommendation to one of the schools if they wanted one.
“Again, all of us are here today because we believe in your abilities to become the person that you are meant to be. And each one of you is a champion, So continue to move forward, strive forward. It’s an honor to speak before you,” the President said.
As the speech ended, the graduates, along with their families, gave President Nygren a round of applause as he went back to his seat.
The ceremony ended with the graduates releasing biodegradable balloons into the air, a symbol of their accomplishment and the beginning of a new journey.