“The Power of Free Will and Our Freedom to Choose”


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

May 27, 2004

Editor’s Note: On Friday, May 21, 2004, at 7:30 P.M., Ms. Sankan Worhwinn Nyanseor, youngest daughter of Mr. Siahyonkron Nyanseor, Chairman of the Liberian Democratic Future, publisher of The Perspective, graduated with honors and distinctions from Tri-Cities High School in Georgia. She was the recipient of several honors and awards: Honor Graduate (88 average and above); National Honor Society; Beta Club; VPA Magnet; TAG (Talented and Gifted); Senior of Distinction; Outstanding Senior Science Award, Pepsi Cola Academic Award, Star Achievement of Excellence Award and Old National Merchants Association Award (monetary award given annually to Salutatorians and Valedictorians of high school students in the South Fulton Community), PPG Industrial Foundation Community Scholarship, Governor’s Scholarship and Georgia’s HOPE Grant. The Commencement Exercise was held at Tri-Cities High School’s Stadium, 2575 Harris Street, East Point, Georgia. This fall, Ms. Nyanseor will attend Georgia Tech (majoring in Biochemistry). As the Valedictorian of the Graduating Class of 2004, she spoke on “The Power of Free Will and Our Freedom to Choose”. Find below the full text of her speech:

Sankan Nyanseor
Madam Principal, Mrs. Amelia “Mimi” Davis, Members of the Faculty, Fellow Graduates and Students, Our Parents, Family Members, Friends and Well Wishers, Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of the Tri-City High School graduating Class of 2004, I bring you greetings.

First, I give thanks to the Almighty for making this day possible, because if it wasn’t for His blessings, we could not have made this journey successfully. And to our parents and teachers, we give special thanks for putting up with us through it all. We realize it was not an easy task to put up with our generation – especially our MUSIC and style of dressing, the same way your parents did not understand yours. But we applaud you anyway - because you served as good role models for us on our journey to come this far . Therefore, in this public manner, we say to you – we love you and highly appreciate all you have done for us.

Fellow Graduates, my message to you this evening is on the topic: “The Power of Free Will and Our Freedom to Choose.”

In philosophical discussion, WILL is usually paired with reason as one of two complementary activities of the mind. WILL is considered the faculty of choice and decision, whereas reason is that of deliberation and argument. Thus a rational act would be an exercise of WILL performed after due deliberation.

WILL has figured prominently in the thought of many philosophers, among them the 19th-century thinkers Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Historically, debate has centered on the issue of WILL's freedom, a question of prime importance for the analysis of human action and moral responsibility.

Philosophers have often thought that persons are responsible only for those actions that they have the option either to do or not to do or to WILL or not to WILL.

In my opinion, the issue of free WILL is like so many great truths – a paradox. On the one hand, free WILL is a reality. We can be free to choose without conditioning or being forced to do so; while on the other hand, we may not choose freedom. This paradox was best expressed by Jesus Christ when he said, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it. And whosoever shall lose his life, for my sake, shall find it. (Matthew 16:25) However, in reality there are only two states of being: submission to God and goodness or the refusal to submit to anything beyond one’s own will – and that refusal can automatically enslave one to the forces of evil.

We must choose therefore, to do good or evil; choose to listen to our parents and teachers or choose not to listen to them; choose to be a good student or choose to be something less than a good student. These are the choices we make as individuals. Remembering, too, that the choices we make carry with them the consequences we have to live with.

To the graduating class of 2004, I say congratulations! Our day of recognition has finally arrived. All of the late nights spent preparing projects and research papers or cramming for tests to be given the next day have finally paid off. We have reached this milestone in our lives, thanks to the love, the guidance, and the support of our loved ones and also because of our own free will. Free will is what allows us to make our own choices and life is about making choices. Now whether those choices are positive or negative is up to us.

I stand here before you today as Valedictorian of Tri-Cities High School not because I am any smarter than the rest of you. I am here because of the choices I have made throughout my high school experience, mainly, the choice to excel in all of my classes even if it meant making some sacrifices. Sometimes I had to choose to study rather than hanging out with friends or picking up a book instead of watching TV. But you see, I made these choices because I had a goal and goals are critical to have in life. Dr. Benjamin Mays once said, “The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.” My goal was to be the best in all of my classes and that is the reason I am here today.

For you see, our capacity to choose changes constantly with the life patterns we practice. The longer we make the wrong decisions, the more difficult it is to make the right choices. The more we make the right decisions, the easier it becomes to use good judgment. Each positive choice we make in life increases our self-confidence, our integrity, our courage, and our conviction. It also increases our capacity to choose the desirable alternative, until eventually it becomes more difficult for us to choose the undesirable action.

In life the degree of freedom to choose is different from moment to moment. If the degree to choose the good is great, it needs less effort to choose the good. If it is small, it takes a great effort, help from others, and favorable circumstances in order to choose the good and make right choices.

Most people fail in the art of living not because they are inherently bad and cannot lead or refuse to lead a better life. They fail because they do not wake up and see when they stand at a fork in the road and have to decide which direction to go in. They are not aware when life asks them a question, and they are unaware of the alternatives available to them. Then with each step along the wrong road it becomes increasingly difficult for them to admit that they are on the wrong road. Often because they refused to admit that they have wasted energy and time, and will not acknowledge that they are on the wrong path and continue to live out a wrong decision.

This is a practical description of young people of my age – some described us as the “digital” or “electronic” generation. Unlike our parents, we are the most privileged of all generations. Why? because knowledge is at our fingertips. We have the computer and the Internet at our disposal. Yet, we are lacking the basic experience of our grandparents, parents and teachers. We need to draw from their experiences; this way, we might save ourselves some unnecessary experiences.

Life is made up of choices, not chances. It is up to us – not to our parents to make the right choices for our lives. The great thing in the world is not so much where we are but in what direction we choose to go.

Once again, congratulations class of 2004! I wish you all the best of luck in the future and never forget that with God, all things are possible.

I thank you.