Josephine Menard welcomes class of 2023 to St. Francis Indian High School

By Rich Winter

During St. Francis Indian School’s 8th-grade graduation last Wednesday, each of the students was asked to stand up, grab a flower and give it to someone special in their life.

St. Francis 8th-grade student Josephine Menard grabbed her flower, headed directly to her family, handed the flower to what most likely was her grandmother.

And then, she reached down to give her loved one a hug. Not just an ordinary hug, but a 30-second moment of sharing this most special moment with someone she loved. After 30-seconds, Menard pulled away, looked at her relative, kissed her and  came back for one more hug. 

Later in the program, Menard stood to give a student commencement speech. 

For most 8th-grade students, standing up in front of a large assembly of people can be hard. Most student speeches are short, hard-to-hear and often under whelming.

But as Menard stepped to the podium, there was no fear. She spoke with a clear and distinctive voice before delivering a magnificent speech to her class and those in attendance.

“Everything is changing whether we like it or not, but that’s a part of life,” she said. 

Menard spoke to her 8th-grade classmates, encouraging them to do their best and remember where they came from.

“As you start this journey, keep in mind you represent  your family and your Tribe,” she said. “As Lakota people, no matter what you do, or what decisions you make, I wish you the best during your high school years.”

Menard told her fellow students she was proud of them for making it through 8th grade and reminded her classmates to never give up, even when times are tough because “we” are the future leaders.

“The fate of the Tribe might one day be in our hands. As the prophecy said, the 7th generation would rise and be heard,” Menard said. “We are the 7th generation. We will one day be leaders. Don’t be afraid if you see something going on that’s wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up.”

Menard encouraged her classmates to be mindful. “If we want something done, let’s do it ourselves,” she added.

After noting her appreciation for the St. Francis Indian School teachers, educators, school board, principals, advisors and parents, Menard encouraged her fellow graduates to dream big because “we are capable of doing whatever we want as we continue to grow up.”

“Let’s continue going through school and trying our hardest, because what we do now will impact us for the rest of our lives,” she said. “There are opportunities out there to become teachers, doctors, engineers and future leaders that can come back and help our people.”

Author’s note: Very impressed with this young lady. Immediately following her commencement speech, Menard stood and performed/SIGNED Bette Middler’s, “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Not too many dry eyes in the house as this young lady was absolutely brilliant.

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