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
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
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.