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Fairfield High School’s Class of 2019 listens to the valedictory address during commencement Thursday evening.

It took only a little more than an hour Thursday night for 90 high school boys and girls from Fairfield to turn into young men and women on the way to the rest of their lives.

Graduation ceremonies took place in the high school/middle school auditorium, with the usual pomp and circumstance attendant on such occasions, including the playing of Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” march, without which no graduation ceremony is complete.

In the audience and onstage tears were blinked back; friends of graduates yelled mightily from the darkened seats; and 90 young lives launched into adulthood, heading for wherever their paths take them, but with plans for studying law, biology, welding, cybersecurity, medical technology, and the military.

The choices were roughly equal to the number of diplomas handed out.

“All that remains is to decide what to do with the time that is given us,” said Valedictorian Claudia Mae Rudisill, quoting British author J.R.R. Tolkien, adding a thought from Martin Luther King to “do great things, or do small things in a great way.”

Salutatorian Jason Dean Yeager urged his classmates to be the best versions of themselves they could be, and reminded them of a Russian expression, which he quoted first in Russian, then translated as “Adversity is a good teacher.”

The keynote speaker for the evening was state Rep. Frank X. Ryan (R-Lebanon), a retired colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and, 50 years ago, a graduate of Fairfield High School.

His family moved to Fairfield from Baltimore in his youth, and he said the experience of living in Fairfield left its mark on him and would on them as well.

“The charms of Fairfield will never leave you, and you are better off for it,” he said.

T.W. Burger began is journalism career at the Gettysburg Times in 1985. He worked for several other newspapers in the area during the 1990s and 2000s before returning to the Times as a correspondent in 2013.

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