LITTLETON -- Valerie Higgins noted Friday night in her valedictory address that when her graduating classmates climbed 3,166-foot Mount Monadnock, "We didn't see a single hawk until we stepped off the mountain."
And when Matthew Scott Wodzinski picked up Littleton High School Principal John Harrington in a long bear hug upon receiving his diploma, Harrington probably felt like he was atop a mountain. In reality, he was on a stage at Alumni Field where the Tiger football team posted a perfect 13-0 record and won a state championship last fall.
Indeed, the heights scaled by the 94 graduating seniors were both physical and virtual, but each journey through school -- and through life -- takes courage, a message conveyed by many of the speakers.
Paying tribute to the recently departed Maya Angelou while commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, Harrington said: "We wish for you courage in life," while paraphrasing Angelou by adding, "One is not necessarily born with courage, but born with potential."
Superintendent of Schools Kelly Clenchy quoted from Angelou, country music group Rascal Flatts and John F. Kennedy in his speech, but focused on a similar theme.
"Courage is the most important of all virtues," he said. "Take this notion of courage with you. Courage is what moves us and drives us to be all we can be."
School Committee member Paul Avella said: "View each day as an opportunity to be your best. Approach each day with enthusiasm.
Co-salutatorians Andrew MacGregor and Julia Pitino shared memories of their time in Littleton, with Pitino advising classmates, "In your life, happiness come first."
Class President Stephanie Gentile reminded her fellow graduates to "be kind, be open and be a friend to anyone you meet. Remember where you came from. Littleton has been good to us. We are all the MVPs of the class of 2014."
Higgins gave the final speech, looking back wistfully. "When I look out at you, I see us at the age of 7 singing the heart song, I see us at the age of 10 playing Scrabble on Fridays and at age 14 graduating from middle school. I wish I could pack all of you up and take you with me."