Valedictorian Clayton Gowan, right, hugs his mother, Shannon, a member of the Board of Trustees, after she presented him with his diploma during Temple High School’s graduation ceremony at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton on Saturday.

BELTON — Many challenges lie ahead, valedictorian Clayton Gowan told the graduating Temple High School class of 2019 Saturday morning at the Bell County Expo Center.

“I’d like to focus on the topic of challenges today, as it is the way in which we deal with challenges that will often define who we really are,” he said.

He quoted President John F. Kennedy’s argument for the U.S. choosing to go to the moon in a decade: “because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

“Just as the United States conquered the challenge of space travel and putting a man on the moon (on July 20, 1969) to further prove its greatness as a nation, we must now go out into the world and prove ourselves through the overcoming of our individual challenges in life,” Gowan said. “Many of us will go on to further our education, establish a career, and eventually start a family. None of these things are easy, but they are some of the most worthwhile and rewarding pursuits in life.”

The capacity crowd in the 6,000-seat Garth Arena cheered the 597 graduates as they walked across the stage. The ceremony was enhanced by music from the Temple High School band, directed by Brent Mathesen, and The Polyfoniks, directed by Cameron Roucioux.

In her remarks, salutatorian Emily Seela chose to reflect on the past 13 years.

“The involvement and opportunities that we’ve had and the memories that we have made have been great,” she said. “We must also remember that we have many more memories to make ahead of us. We have learned so much over the past 13 years, both academically and socially, and I hope that we can take that knowledge and experience with us into the next chapter of our lives.”

She quoted the poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

“The lives ahead of us are going to be scary and full of uncertainty, but they are also going to be full of joy and the adventures that come with new experiences,” Seela said. “So much of our lives have been spent being guided in what to do, what to learn, and how to act. Now we have the chance to determine our own actions and lives. We’ll decide what to learn in class. We’ll determine what to learn in life through our choices, and how we act will be up to our own conscience.”

The graduating class heard words of encouragement and praise from various speakers, including a short video by Lt. Gen. Paul El Funk II, commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood.

“As you graduate today, you demonstrate one of the greatest of all traits — tenacity,” he said.

Dan Posey, president of the Temple school board, introduced the rest of the trustees and told the class: “Your walk across the stage would not be possible without these dedicated people,” he said. “Never forget your heritage and tradition.”

In her address to the graduates, Kelli Powell, associate principal of THS, said that when she came to Temple three years ago she didn’t know “about the spirit of this community.” She learned that “we always wear blue on Friday to show our pride in being Wildcats.”

The school also has a tradition of excellence, she said. She asked all former THS graduates in the audience to stand, and told the students they have a legacy of excellence in those people, who include elected officials, professional athletes and other proud community members.

“You have upheld those traditions of excellence,” she said, and listed some of the class’s accomplishments. “Now as you look forward to the next stage of your journey, I challenge you to remain committed to your standard of excellence.”