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As Assistant Principal Sean McKenna was midway through introducing former Congressman Rob Simmons during Friday night's graduation ceremony at Fitch High School, Simmons cut him off.
"It's not about me," he cried out, to massive applause from about 320 graduates and their families, friends, and supporters. "It's about you!"
Simmons, who had been running for Senate until days after the state's Republican convention, told the graduating class that they had to work hard to succeed.
He said that though the senior class was entering a world with many challenges - including a bad economy and two wars - they face a plight similar to their parents and grandparents, who lived through wars and depressions of their own.
"Give thanks to the fact that you are moving into a world of freedom and opportunity where you can earn your own success," Simmons said.
Valedictorian John Pothier said he wanted to give a speech about the memories and experiences of high school, not one filled with platitudes and inspirational quotations.
"I've decided that instead of going on endlessly about graduation, sprinkling in inspirational metaphors and cliches straight from every commencement speech ever given," he said, "I think it's better to rather look back on our days in high school and reminisce, laugh, cry, blush, and let out the biggest sigh of relief that we're finally out, yet still fondly looking in at our good times."
Principal Joe Arcarese, who just completed his first year as an administrator, told the graduates that they should work hard to excel in whatever career they choose.
"Some of you will work in medicine. Be that nurse or doctor who takes a few extra minutes with your patients to hold their hand and calm their fears," Arcarese said. "Some of you will work in business. Be the boss who appreciates employees more than profits. Some of you will work in the arts. Be the painter who imbues a canvas with a soul."
Among its successes, the entire senior class was eligible for graduation. Earlier this month, Newsweek named Fitch one of the top high schools in the nation, one of only 15 Connecticut high schools so recognized.
"We began high school as naive and immature kids, and we end high school as young adults who are capable students of the world," said Class President Kevin Chan. "I see that as quite an achievement."