Zoe Wray made, arguably, the most significant statement by a graduating senior this spring. Wray is graduating from Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School in Cumberland County, PA.
She recently was honored by The Patriot-News in the 20th Anniversary edition of its “Best & Brightest.”
Every year since 1993, the newspaper has recognized the 20 high school seniors in the region who, it feels, represents the cream of the high school crop. That doesn’t mean each of the 20 is the valedictorian of his or her class. The students are evaluated by a panel of judges (who are not employees or affiliated with the paper) on academics, activities, athletics, community service, plans and honors. Leadership also is a key component.
The fact that a left-leaning newspaper singles out 20 students for recognition when many schools, themselves, are deleting honor rolls for fear of hurting the feelings of students who don’t make it is a story for another day.
Each honoree is photographed in a unique and personal setting, and a quasi short biography is included next to the photo. The student has a personal statement, which is followed by accolades and praise from others.
In her personal statement, Zoe Wray said, “I strive to be No. 1 without seeking a trophy or praise.”
I’m shocked that the newspaper printed that statement. I’m equally stunned that Zoe wasn’t arrested and locked away by the Politically Correct Police. How dare Zoe Wray, young person extraordinaire, make a published statement that’s so counter to public sentiment?
A friend of mine sent me a sizzling message a week or so ago because his son came home with a participation award. He was pretty fired up. My friend is retired military, so the thought of someone getting an award for just showing up has never sat well with him. A lot of people, military or not, agree with that sentiment.
Many schools and youth activity organizations, from athletics to band to the debate team, no longer recognize our best and brightest. Either everyone gets a trophy or nobody gets one. The PC Police have gained the upper hand in this debate, and it’s a tragedy. For decades, the United States has celebrated and recognized its military heroes, it’s brilliant inventors and creators, its savvy businessmen, outstanding doctors and star athletes.
In recent years, those celebrations and recognitions have been condemned by those too ignorant to see the damage done by such rhetoric and behavior.
I talk to my daughters all the time about working hard to be the best that they can be in whatever it is they endeavor to do. Second best never is. I want my daughters to understand the difference between working hard to be the best and just settling for the participation trophy. I want them to be leaders, not followers. Thankfully, they don’t jump for joy when they receive a participation award. It usually ends up buried in a drawer or in a box in the garage.
I do realize that everyone can’t be the best at everything…everybody can’t be No. 1. But it’s the work ethic and the desire to be so that’s equally, or more, important than where it is, exactly, that you finish. Because if one has the right mindset, when he or she doesn’t reach the goal, they’ll continue to work to get there, not settle for something less than what it is they desire.
So just when I was beginning to doubt whether or not our next generation was going to be lethargic and lazy, due in part to the “participation trophy” mentality, Zoe Wray restored a glimmer of hope. She wants to be No. 1 without receiving a medal or a pat on the back.
P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.