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History, pop song inspire Saranac Lake graduation speakers

History teacher Joe Thill gives a speech during the Saranac Lake High School commencement June 22 at the Saranac Lake Civic Center.

History teacher Joe Thill gives a speech during the Saranac Lake High School commencement June 22 at the Saranac Lake Civic Center. Photo by Andy Flynn.

— Graduation advice came from familiar faces at the Saranac Lake High School commencement Friday, June 22 in the Civic Center.

In all, there were 125 graduates and hundreds of family members packed on the ice rink and in the stands, with industrial fans humming in the back door trying to give relief from the heat and humidity.

After a short introduction by Superintendent Gerald Goldman, high school history teacher and guest speaker Joe Thill said he would give anyone $20 for a portable fan or $5 for a cold compress. Then he drew on history for advice to the seniors.

“The unchallenged life is not worth living,” Thill said, revealing that this theme is a variation of the teachings of ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

The message was clear. Live a full life of experience, ask questions and ponder your existence; otherwise, you are wasting your life. Challenge yourself.

“If it’s human nature to take the path of least resistance, then I say don’t,” Thill said. “Put yourself to the test. Push yourself to the limit. Be the best you can be. Did I miss any clichés? … By doing this, your life will not be wasted. Quite the contrary; it will be fulfilling and complete, and you will be happier.”

Thill explained that his early years in college were less than noteworthy, academically.

“It took me failing the geology class to shock me to my senses,” Thill said. “I mean, who fails geology? It’s rocks. That’s when I said to myself, ‘What the heck am I doing here?’”

Thill took a semester off, worked in a lumber yard, found his motivation and changed his major to history, a subject he loves and has true passion for.

“Then I did something I hadn’t done in three years,” Thill said. “I challenged myself.”

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