My Valedictorian Speech

Here is the speech I gave on Friday at my high school graduation, replicated here with the symbols and breaks I used in my notes:

Good evening fellow graduates, friends and families, administrators and guests

My name is [yourweirdlittlesister], and I am the valedictorian of the class of 2015.

As valedictorian, I am expected to encourage / with anecdote, platitude, and metaphor

And I will heartily meet those expectations

One day during my junior year, my mother picked me up after school/ on the curb. She was behind the wheel, and although there was no one in the passenger seat,

I sat in the back of the car with my book bag next to me.

And as we drove off, I noticed that an upperclassman was giving me a strange look. I couldn’t think why and soon forgot about it.

But the next day, this person turned to me and asked, “Why are you still sitting in the backseat?”

And with a question like that, the symbolism was much too ripe for an English major to resist plucking.

I gleaned that the backseat / symbolizes the things to which we have probably grown accustomed. Simple things like a locker, like afterschool, like fixed schedules / and chapel on Fridays.

It symbolizes the people we have grown to love and admire. The people who demonstrate what academic excellence means / by simply living righteously and with integrity.

In our high school careers, we have learned that I may see a diamond and you may see a square, but that if we put our protractors to it, we would both measure out 90 degrees

We have learned / that the universe tends toward disorder, decline, and unpredictability

We have learned that the cell splits without failing to give each piece of itself what it needs / to function

We have learned that Lady Day could not have been Lady Day / without the emotional scars that so enriched her voice

At home, we have learned how to juggle responsibilities to our friends and responsibilities to our parents, how not to turn our white clothes pink, and how to cook without burning the kitchen down

But that’s backseat stuff.

We have mastered and internalized these things, and now it is time to move toward fresh challenges.

We have shown our love to these people (our people) in word and in deed, and now it is time to share our capacity to love with the soon-to-be friends, soon-to-be husbands, soon-to-be wives / that most assuredly await us

We can agree that the backseat

is safe. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable.

But life does not stop there/ at the backseat

And we know that because this is graduation

And at graduation, we are asked to unbuckle ourselves

To step outside and stretch our legs.

We are asked to look at the car in its entirety

To see with our own eyes that we had been limiting ourselves

By thinking the backseat was our entire world

We are asked to see that the car, in fact,

has a front and a wheel and a key

Graduation /

is a door opening

So, class of 2015,

Let us head toward that square of sunlight that begs us come

Without fear of the future

Without fear of failure

Trusting / that God is real and that he will help us

If we humble ourselves to ask this of Him

Let us, class of 2015,

Head toward this open door

Ready to move past it

Ready to start our lives

Ready


Before the ceremony, I was very nervous and nauseous. The graduation was at 6, but the graduates were supposed to be there at 5. I was running almost 30 minutes behind, and I was quietly fretting. I was supposed to sing and play a song during the graduation, and I was nervous about that because when I open my mouth to sing, I really don’t know what sounds are going to come out; I just hope for the best. Adding to my nervousness, there were cues that we practiced the day before– when to stand, when to turn, when to move the tassels on our graduation caps. And because I led the march into the sanctuary and onto the stage, I had to be on point, or else make myself look ridiculous. All of this on my brain made me so nervous that when I arrived, I had a three-second cry in the bathroom. Dire.

However, the ceremony went off without too many hitches. My classmate sat down when she was supposed to turn. At one point, my scarf flew off of me as I took the stage. But it was fine. I got a Headmaster’s Award, which was an unexpected honor. My best friend (the one who was my prom date) gave his salutatorian speech. He gave me a MAJOR shout-out in the beginning of it. Part of the speech was a spoken word poem, and he dedicated it to me, his best friend. What an honor. I was smiling for his entire speech. My other friend received an award for doing about 250 hours of community service. That was good.

After the graduation, I had people waiting for me in the parking lot. Most of them weren’t even family, but they were so happy for me. They got me cards, balloons, roses. They told me how proud they were of me and took plenty of pictures. By this time, the nervousness was long gone, and I was as happy and excited for myself as they were. We went to IHOP afterward, as was my wish, and my friends decided to come eat with us. There were about 20 people in all. We had a good time there. I ate strawberry and banana pancakes, eggs, bacon, and sausage at 8:00 at night. Good eatin’.

It was a good day. SO much better than I was expecting. SO much more than I could have hoped.

I wanted to share with you that I am officially done with high school.

I Was Prom Queen

My sister’s friend is a makeup artist. She came to my house, did my hair, and made-up my face as a favor to my sister. I went to prom with my friend. We took lots of pictures at my house, and he said I looked like a princess. He put on my corsage. Our driver was cool. My friend and I talked about music with him the whole way to the prom. We were the first ones there, even though we were fashionably late. We were the first ones there for, like, an hour. We were supposed to vote on the prom representatives once everyone arrived, but the rest of the class hadn’t shown up yet. So my date and I were crowned prom king and queen. Eventually, my girl friend came with her date. He was cute and older and way out of my league. Unfortunately, the DJ played rap the whole time. We ate, danced to a couple of songs, made fun of a couple of songs. When prom was over, we (my girl friend, her date, my date, I) went to a Waffle House down the street. My date and I had to leave after a while, but it was nice. It was nice. On the way to drop me off, our driver played three tracks he had recorded himself. My date told him that I could sing. The driver wanted to hear if I was any good. I told him that I made a CD of original music. He gave me his card, so I could send it to him. I got home, my family took more pictures, I hugged my friend, and he left. It was a good time. And I get to tell my kids that their mommy was prom queen.

Whatever

A lot of things have happened since the last post.

You already know my grandma’s dead. But I missed a week of school to go to her funeral in Jamaica. That’s where everyone on my mom’s side of the family is from. But I don’t like Jamaica. It’s too hot. It’s too rowdy. It’s too unfamiliar. They drive on the wrong side of the road. People walk in the middle of the street. Cars swerve around potholes and pedestrians, alike. The people talk rough(ly). The language is raw and grammatically incorrect. And I don’t like it there.

At the funeral, I met some family members I will never see again. Part of me wondered what the point was. I don’t care much for family. A lot of them knew my older sister already, so it was like a reunion for them. I may be jealous of my sister. She’s personable and talkative, and people want to be around her. I am the polar opposite. I want to be nice to people and be happy, but I can’t.

You should have seen how I acted when we went to the beach. I talked angrily and in monosyllables to anyone who asked me anything. I stared angrily out at the ocean and refused all requests for me to dip a toe in the water. I’m not sure why I did that last thing. But the reason for my mood must have been my stress level; the AP exam was getting closer and closer. At the beach, my sister kept asking me how the studying was going. I’m sure she meant well, but she didn’t know how close I was to screaming and tearing my hair out. My college will only give me credit for a 4 or 5, but I felt so unprepared. I have this reputation for being the smartest person in my school (for my SAT scores and awards), and people would think differently of me if I got a 2, and I would think differently of myself. There’s a junior in our AP class. I was really upset about that, at first, because AP classes were originally reserved for seniors at my school, and because of what it would mean if she did better than us. I thought I was over that, until I had a bad dream that she got a 4 and I got a 0 on the test. Of course, you can’t get a 0, but every time I think about the test, I feel such anxiety. My sister did not understand all of this, when she asked how the studying was going. And I couldn’t make her understand, so I yelled “Fine” in reply.

I want to be nice and happy and like my sister, but I can’t. That is, apparently, not me.