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Watertown High graduates told to 'appreciate the everyday hero'

Posted by Leslie Anderson  June 7, 2013 08:24 PM

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WATERTOWN — Watertown High School graduates were told to welcome the future, even with all of its uncertainties following the Boston Marathon bombings, during their commencement Friday in the school’s gym.

View photos of the graduation ceremony here.

Valedictorian Aaron Siegel recognized “everyone who kept us safe” after the bombings and the ensuing manhunt, including doctors, first responders, and an MIT campus police officer “who responded to a routine call, only to have his life taken.”

Watertown found itself in the national spotlight during the massive manhunt for the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died during a shootout with police in the early hours of April 19, and his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, was captured in a boat in a Watertown backyard following a day-long search.

Watertown School Committee Chairwoman Eileen Hsu-Balzer recalled how a crisis counselor met with students in the aftermath of those events. That counselor, she said, stated that losing the illusion of control is a big part of trauma.

Hsu-Balzer, however, told graduates that “yesterday does not predict tomorrow.”

“Take the opportunity to embrace a tomorrow that is different than today,” she said. “Life offers a series of doors. … Do not be afraid of the open door.”

She ended by saying, “Welcome to life on the other side.”

In his valedictory address, Siegel said it was important to recognize the heroes who are found in everyday life, from underappreciated nurse practitioners to teachers to garbage collectors.

“We all appreciate the fearless firefighter,” he said, but added that it was important to take time “to appreciate the everyday hero.”

Class President Brenna McDonald recognized the importance of trying to accomplish great things in an uncertain world. She said graduates now had a “chance to make big decisions on our own.”

“We will be choosing what kind of people we want to be,” she said. “This is your game. The ball is at your feet. Kick it as hard as you can.”

“Make it a priority to find happiness in what you have … and what you are,” said Watertown School Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald in her speech. “I have every confidence you will shape your destinies well.”

Headmaster Steven Watson, who is leaving the school to become a full-time pastor, had graduates applaud their parents. “Your achievements are yours as well as theirs,” he said. “Your journey will be at times wonderful, at times absolutely miserable … but it is all yours.”

John Swinconeck can be reached at

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