A bold high school valedictorian who recently took the stage and delivered a memorable speech filled with biblical truth is surprised her powerful address spread so rapidly.
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Lydia Owens told CBN’s Faithwire the reaction to her words going viral has been “overwhelming,” though she’s elated to see her speech pointing more people toward the Gospel.
“It surprised me a lot, the amount of people who were so impacted by it,” she said. “That’s exactly what I’d want to happen. I want people to know Jesus because of what I said.”
Watch the valedictorian share why she spoke so boldly:
Owens, a recent graduate of Woodmont High School, a public school in Piedmont, South Carolina, drew applause during the address from the audience when she reminded her peers they are “made in the image of God,” and their worth should be found in eternal rather than temporal things.
Lydia specifically mentioned how her mother’s death two years ago showed her the importance of leaning into the Lord to find peace.
“When everything else in my life felt uncertain, the only person that I could depend on to stay the same was Jesus,” she said. “My perspective of success drastically changed, because I realized that the many years I spent placing my worth in my academics meant absolutely nothing in light of eternity.”
Christ, she said, is the only person who “will ever satisfy.”
Video of the speech quickly spread, with positive and encouraging comments flowing. Lydia, who said she has received some negative feedback as well, simply didn’t expect the video to have such a massive footprint.
Leading up to her valedictorian address, the teen said she considered for a long time what she would say.
“I could have talked about absolutely anything, but, when I was thinking about it, I knew that I wanted to say something that would leave people thinking,” Lydia said, noting she endeavored to make a positive impact. So, she used her own struggle with perfectionism and overcoming the odds to deliver a timeless message to which others could relate.
“The reason that I’ve been able to work through my struggles with perfectionism is because of Jesus and the reason that I’ve been able to overcome a lot in my life is because of Jesus,” Lydia said. “So, I knew that I wanted to share about my faith.”
In the end, she decided to be bold and go all-in on the Gospel message, pondering when she’d have another chance to directly speak before thousands of people.
Brian Owens, executive pastor of First Baptist Simpsonville Upstate Church in South Carolina, and Lydia’s father, told CBN’s Faithwire it was “surreal” to watch his daughter deliver the faith-filled commencement speech.
“From a dad’s perspective … this is great, because everything that you pour into your children, you’re hoping that it will take root, that it will grow, that it will flow, it will flourish,” he said. “I know one of the things that her mom and I … tried our best to do was to instill in all of our children that … all of life is centered around Christ.”
Owens said he wasn’t surprised to see his daughter speak out so passionately from the stage.
As for Lydia, she said she didn’t want the audience to hyper-focus on the candid story about losing her mom, but wanted to use the tragedy as a “stepping stone” to explain why her faith has grown — and how to overcome difficult moments.
“She and my dad were the reason that I do have such a strong faith and they have taught me so much about God and putting Him at the center of my life,” Lydia said. “And I knew that many people in that room have gone through very difficult things.”
She continued, “So, if they — if I can be an example to them [on] how to walk through something so terrible and so tragic and use it for God’s glory, then that’s all that matters to me.”
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