We're not aware if the Tamaqua Area School District administration has selected a guest speaker for this year's graduation ceremonies. If they haven't made their choice yet, we'd like to make a suggestion.

How about inviting Dr. Paul Vanek to address this year's graduating class?

We're confident he will bring a strong message to the young people about values and compassion.

In keeping with tradition of bringing back successful Tamaqua graduates to address the student body, Dr. Vanek certainly qualifies. He's a native of Tuscarora and a 1981 graduate of Tamaqua Area High School.

He operates a private plastic surgery practice in Mentor, Ohio, and he's an Eagle Scout, one who lives up the Scout oath of "helping other people at all times."

All of us have been shocked and grieving over the massive destruction brought on by the earthquake in Haiti more than two weeks ago. An estimated 200,000 people have died. Hundreds of thousands more were injured and left homeless. Thousands of youngsters, many of them now orphans, are trying to survive in the devastated country.

While many of us have prayed and sent contributions to help the earthquake victims and the recovery process, Dr. Vanek went a step farther – a big step farther.

He climbed on an airplane and flew to Haiti so he could offer his help and expertise to assist some of these victims. He joined hundreds, maybe thousands of medical people, doctors, nurses, specialists, along with countless rescue personnel, to try and save lives.

Dr. Vanek joined a medical response team and became stationed at a medical facility near the airport, where he is attending to the earthquake survivors. He expects to spend at least a week up to 10 days in Haiti. He left his private practice to perform this task.

Before he even left the U.S. he was hard at work beginning the rescue. He went to pharmacies and purchased items he'd need. He also asked the pharmacies for donations of medical supplies which he took with him. He even contacted his brother, who is president of a pharmaceutical company in Maryland, to pitch in.

We're anxious to talk with Dr. Vanek when he comes home from Haiti. We're sure the stories of survival and destruction will be beyond most of our comprehension. The message that he can deliver to all of us back home will be something that will last with us for a long time.

Tamaqua students are already on the right track. On the same day (Friday, Jan. 22) that the story appeared on Dr. Vanek's mission, another story appeared reporting that Tamaqua students held a dress-down day and collected more than $4,000 for the Haiti relief fund.

Students would relate to his message and he would be the perfect kind of role model we'd want all of our children to imitate.

Bob Urban

rurban@tnonline.com