Liu muses about ‘worst class’ as 473 grads celebrate commencement
Despite impending threats of rain, Farragut High School’s Class of 2022 graduated under sunny skies Sunday evening, May 22, before a packed stadium on the school’s Bill Clabo Field.
The event was pushed back 30 minutes, from 6 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., earlier in the day, to circumvent a rainy forecast. FHS principal Dr. John Bartlett decided last minute not to give a prepared speech.
“If I haven’t lived my speech in my job over the last three years, I haven’t done my job anyways,” Bartlett later said. “Pretty simple, live justly, love mercy and walk humbly – that’s it.
Bartlett did briefly address the grads: “Class of 22, I am so proud of you, not for what you’ve done, not for what you’re going to do, but I’m proud of you for who you are.”
Twelfth-grade principal Cara Vaughn said 473 seniors graduated, and Bartlett said the class received more than $30 million in scholarships, performed more than 24,000 hours of community service “during a pandemic” and had 16 National Merit Finalists — “50 percent of Knox County’s total.”
Class valedictorian was Raymond Jin and salutatorian was Alice Tang. Jin addressed his classmates, as did Rena Liu, who recalled the class was described as “the worst freshman class that has ever come through FHS” by an administrator following the group’s initial high school visit.
“We didn’t know whether to laugh, or cry,” Liu added. “Apparently we had been loud, and engaging in horseplay, and that was disrespectful ... but you know what? Four years later, look at all of you ready to graduate. I mean if your worst class regularly places at national competitions — HOSA, dance team, raising 30,000 cans to address world hunger (Student Government Association drive for Knoxville’s The Love Kitchen) — making school history with Lady Ads basketball — you have got to be one incredible institution.
“We have had to wade through some truly stormy waters. Interesting that we, the supposed worst class, have had to sail through, are still sailing through …. such unprecedented times. After all, we came of age in a pandemic, witnessed wars, hunger, inflation. … the list goes on and on. The times we are living in are not easy. My question to you, how do you navigate the storm?”
Continuing her speech, “That’s why I remember, the first storm we navigated together, being called the worst class in history,” Liu said. “We looked around at each other, our shipmates, our fellow admirals, and made the decision to care for one another, care for our school, and care for our community.
“That’s where the accomplishment comes from. That’s what drives us. ... We are Admirals. We will make the decision to try and ride the storms and keep sailing, and take care of our shipmates and our world.
“Class of 2022 Full Speed Ahead!” she concluded to enthusiastic cheers, taking from Adm. David Glasgow Farragut’s famous order during the Civil War.
Air Force Academy appointments were announced for grads Cade Austin and Paul Kronzer. Also honored was retiring KCS superintendent Bob Thomas; CTE teacher Michelle Brossett as Teacher of the Year; and retiring educational assistant Eric Mauer, who received the school’s Binnacle Award.
Knoxville’s first ever youth poet laureate, FHS junior Melody Dalili, wrote and read a poem specifically for the class.