As Morristown-Hamblen High School East graduated the Class of 2019 at Walters State Community College’s Great Smoky Mountains Expo Center, Principal Gary Johnson presided over his final graduation after 22 years at East.

The word to describe the Class of 2019 that came to Johnson’s mind was “life.”

“This class has enjoyed its life as a Hurricane,” Johnson said. “When I think of this class, I think of a quote by Jeffrey Glotmer, ‘When you love life, life will love you back.’ This class has definitely loved life, no doubt about it. Do not stop loving life, do not stop doing or achieving.

“Author H. Jackson Brown Jr. said ‘Twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.’

“Don’t stop dreaming, don’t stop reaching, don’t stop living life,” Johnson said. “High school has given you the tools that you will take with you the rest of your life.”

Hamblen County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeff Perry told the graduates that they will go through four separate stages of their lives: uncertainty, searching, accumulating and realization.

“Uncertainty is when you’re not sure what you even want to do yet and even though you think you have that plan already, you will find out that you are a little hesitant and have some reservations about that,” he said.

Searching is when one will begin searching for that job, a mate, a role in life, what it will take to make one successful and productive.

During the accumulation stage, Perry said that one just wants to accumulate as much stuff as possible, such as a house, boat, and so forth.

“While you are busy accumulating things, life will pass you,” Perry said. “I think we as parents spent time searching and accumulating for our children throughout and we have missed a lot of life”.

The final stage one will go through is realization, Perry said.

“You will get to that point in your life when you realize that the only way to live life is to give your life to others. The only time you feel satisfied is you make sure those around you have a better life. The only time that you are going to be totally full is when you give everything that you have so others will be successful.”

Max Laughlin McKinnon, the 2019 student body president, started the festivities by discussing the freedom the class received by graduating on Friday.

“You sit here on the brink of the rest of your life. Now you are ready to move on to the next big thing. Your presence here today proves you are driven, intelligent, motivated to live your best life. As you leave here, take those same qualities with you in whatever path life leads you down. You are the next generation of a better world in your image. You are the future of our country. Be brave in your adventures. When you feel like there is no right direction, make one. Make a difference to those around you. Realize the decision you make in life comes from the trials and errors of life,” he said.

McKinnon closed his remarks to his classmates by telling them not to be afraid to make mistakes, take risks and above all, be themselves.

Paxtyn Bailey Lawson talked about this graduating class being the last class to depend on books for studying.

Lawson thanked her parents, her sister and all who supported her during her high school years. She also thanked Johnson for all of his years of service.

“Just remember, once a Hurricane, always a Hurricane,” she added.

Sara Nicole Pinkston noted that the Class of 2019 is full of dreamers, movers and blazers.

“For the dreamers, now is the time to go out to the world and create our own destinies,” she said. “We all have made mistakes, but we must move on past them in order to succeed and be the best versions of ourselves as possible. We all dream to become someone that our younger selves can be proud of.

“For the shakers, it’s time to shake up the world and break those standards that are in place. As Carol Burnett said, ‘Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.’ We must adapt and celebrate our successes, learn from our failures and not let ourselves fall away from our callings.

“For the blazers, it’s time to blaze a new destiny for ourselves. To blaze a path to our greatest challenge we have faced yet as grown adults. Blazers must be willing to make the sacrifice of what is comfortable in exchange for what we strive to gain,” she said.

Senior Class President Jake Matthew Gibson found himself struggling with putting together the speech he was to deliver.

“The last four years have been the best and you all are amazing. I love you, all 353 of you. While tomorrow brings a new journey, today marks the end of a chapter in our lives. No longer will we eat together in the cafeteria, no longer will we walk the main hall at East High School. The world is now our hallway. Our hope is when we meet later in our lives, we will have amazing stories to tell.”