Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Valedictory Address from the Past

This is the season for graduates of high schools and colleges to hear what noted speakers and classmates have to say about the future. While going through some old files recently, I came upon the Valedictory address I gave at my graduation from Repton High School (a rural school in South Alabama) in 1948. If asked to address the same subject at age 80 that I addressed at age 18, I would not change anything in principle. My only observation is that tomorrow got here much, much more quickly than I could have dreamed 62 years ago.


Thomas Lane Butts, Jr.


Class of ‘48

As one wakens at the beginning of a new day, he feels the freshness of the morning air, he is conscious of the new sunlight, a feeling of renewal in all nature. He wonders what the new day will bring. There is renewed energy, anticipation, and a degree of mystery as one begins this new day.

Just as the individual faces the new day with all of its possibilities, so we, the class of 1948, face a new day with all it has to offer.

Our parents and our teachers have given us all the opportunities for learning that they were able to procure for us. At this time, as a representative of the class, I wish to express appreciation for those things which have been furnished to us that we might be better prepared for meeting life situations. We trust that we may ever be worthy of the time, energy, and money which you have spent.

We realize that we cannot use this learning in exactly the form in which it was taught, but through it we have learned to think, and evaluate and what is even more valuable, to choose values. We know that facts and customs may change. In fact, the only thing that we can be certain about in this future which beckons to us is that there will be changes.

Customs are changing. Customs which our grandparents accepted as permanent are not the customs which we use today. People coming to our country from other lands have shown us that people may be just as fine as we, even though their customs and manner of doing things may be very different.

The young people of today must think in new terms. They must try to forget the slow moving ages of the past. They must try to forget the old days of strong nationalism. They must try to think in terms of world development.

The people who are today graduating from high school find themselves faced with the problem of adjusting themselves to a world of new thought and new ideas. This world is doing new things. There are changes being made every day. Even vocations may change, with the expansion in the fields of atomic energy, television, and such, there is no end to our possibilities that tomorrow offers.

Only values and principles remain unchanged. We rise to meet tomorrow with all its challenges, to become the best kind of men and women we can be. To meet all these new demands in the best possible way we can, we realize there are a few principles which never change. A few qualities of personality have remained the same throughout the ages, from the time of Moses, of Jesus Christ, and of our great statesmen of all times. These are the qualities of honesty, of loyalty, of faithfulness - in fact all these qualities which help to create a good character in the individual and which provides a good citizen for a community.

So with our preparation and our ideals, we go forward into tomorrow.