Tears at a graduation ceremony are nothing new.  Tears of joy, tears of pride, and tears of 'where did the last 18 years go' tend to fall when graduates receive their diplomas.  However, at the 2018 commencement exercises for Pineywoods Community Academy in Lufkin, it was what a certain mom and dad received that brought out the tissues.

I was asked to give the guest address at this year's event, and I graciously accepted.  After witnessing what this year's valedictorian did during her speech, I'm so glad I was there.  Many in the audience concurred that this was one of the best graduation moments they had ever experienced.

Photo Credit/Gary Stallard

Elizabeth Eng was at the podium delivering her valedictory address and she was starting to thank those that had played large roles in her success.  She started talking about her parents and how they came to America at a very young age with not much more than the clothes on their back.  Her dad and his family had escaped Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge.  And here, a few short decades later, their daughter was graduating at the top of her class with her sights set on someday becoming a pediatrician.

Eng's parents had sacrificed so much, overcame more than many of us could ever imagine, and Elizabeth knew this was the time and place to show her respect, appreciation, and admiration.  Eng knew that words would fall short in this situation, so she decided to invite her parents to the stage and allowed the crowd gathered at the Angelina College Shands Gymnasium to experience a beautiful tradition of her homeland.

Once on stage, each of Eng's parents was presented with a floral lei by their daughter.  Then, THE MOMENT. Elizabeth went down to her knees, touched her head to the floor, and bowed at the feet of her mom and dad. In this one moment in time, Eng not only showed her thanks to her parents, but her action spoke volumes on humility, respect, honor, and love.  The best speech writers in the world could have prepared for months and not have come close to the lessons and guidance provided by this one deed.

Photo Credit/Gary Stallard

I've been to quite a few graduation ceremonies and many times I've heard principals, administrators, and board members get on stage and tell the students that this night is all about them - the graduates and the culmination of their hard work...and, indeed, it is.  But, for one night, one graduate taught us all that the accomplishments of one are not possible without the sacrifices of many.

Photo Credit/Gary Stallard

I would also like to thank Gary Stallard from Angelina College for allowing me to use the wonderful photos which captured this event.  Gary seems to always have a knack to be at the right place at the right time.