Valedictorian Emily Liao MTHS Class of 2018
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To the administration, esteemed guests, friends and family, thank you all for coming. And to the class of 2018- congratulations!
A couple of days ago, I sat trying to decide what I wanted to say in this speech. I wanted to perfectly encompass that confusing feeling of asking of having to ask for a pass to go to the bathroom one day, and then deciding what you want to do for the rest of our lives the next. For inspiration, I went online and watched other people giving their speeches, but I quickly realized I would have major problems if I did anything similar. I watched as one kid solved a rubix cube during his speech, but the only way I know how to solve a rubix cube is breaking it to little pieces and gluing each square back together, and that would be a bit time consuming. Another kid wrote his entire speech as a poem, but the only rhyme I could come up with was “Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m graduating and so are you!”,which, in fairness, is an amazing poem, but doesn’t include 50 thank yous necessary in all graduation speeches, so that didn’t work either. Most of the other speeches I watched contained some elaborate metaphors about being an eagle among chickens or something.
So I was back to square one. Back to the beginning. So let’s go back to the beginning. In the beginning of our academic careers we left our parents, the familiarity of our homes, and ventured into the unknown. We had to trust in the process, trust that after stepping on that school bus, at the end of the day, we would learn more about the world and more about ourselves. My parents tell me that I climbed onto that school bus and didn’t looked back. My brother, on the other hand, refused to go on the bus and bawled his eyes out for the first week. That second half of the story is actually irrelevant, but I wanted to embarrass him.
From there, we went through school. We went through some awkward phases, doing, wearing, saying things we are embarrassed about now. Come to think of it, maybe we’re still in our awkward phase. High school has been a collection of memories of ranting about our problems to friends and laughing so hard that we couldn’t catch our breath. We have the most amazing fan section rooting for our sports teams and a couple of people ready to drop mixtapes. We are a collection of different people, somehow working together to make up our class.
Many times in momentous occasions like graduations, the speaker will stand and explain the importance of being the generation that changes the world. The pressure is suddenly on each and every one of us to be the singular person who solves world hunger, maintains world peace, and fixes the Earth’s environment all at once. There is a push to leave a legacy, a name that everyone will remember.
But I’m standing here before you today asking you to think about our world as a collection of personal perspectives. Each personal world is made up of the people, places, and distinct experiences each person goes through. We will never truly see the breadth of each person’s world, yet our actions have the ability to change these worlds.
What I am offering you here is not a chance to be complacent. Rather, I’m offering you a perspective in which to work from. Class of 2018, we have seen enough. We have seen enough discrimination; we have seen enough violence; we have seen enough grief. We have bowed our heads in too many moments of silences and honored too many lives cut short. We are living in a precarious society that can progress forward to gender and racial equality or that can topple back to times of oppression. We have to recognize the privilege we have, and use it to change our personal worlds, and by proxy, the world around us.
In order for us to get to this point where we are graduating, we have had thousands upon thousands of interactions with others, thousands and thousands of worlds have collided. We may not have realized the impact we have on others, but I invite you to look at those around you. You gone through highs and lows with your friends and family. You have offered a helping hand and reached out to receive help. These are the daily interactions that shape the world of those around us. The culmination of all of our actions will change the world, so go forth with no fear of being forgotten because the people that are the most important to us will remember us.
Of course, we would be amiss to not acknowledge the people who have changed our worlds. As we moved through the grades, we met teachers that are completely dedicated to their students, pushing us to exceed even our own expectations. Our teachers have taught us more than academic lessons- they taught us life lessons as well. I want to especially thank Ms. Gormley, an English teacher, a forensics coach, but most importantly a friend who has always been there for me throughout all four years. Next, the amazing guidance counselors who helped us interpret our feelings and figure out solutions to our problems. Thank you for giving us a place to go with no pressure or judgement. Finally, we have to thank our friends and loved ones who give us strength and a safety net to catch us when we fall.
I’m sure each and everyone one of us have experienced loneliness during our high school career. I’m talking about that feeling that it’s you against the world, with no one in your corner. Our friends are the ones that relate to us, letting us know that we are not alone; we’re far from it. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to my friends who make me laugh when I’m happy, calm me down when I’m nervous, and hug me when I’m sad. You guys are more important to me than you’ll ever know.
While I may have gotten on the school bus that first day of kindergarten without looking back, I knew that my family was there behind me, giving me all of their love and support. To my brother, thank you for looking out for me and protecting me. Recently, I was reminded of a story about how my brother would protect me from doctors and nurses who were trying to give me my flu shot because he knew it would hurt. Though the dangers in my life have changed, Nicholas, you have always looked out for me, so thank you.
To my parents, thank you for making me feel like I am the most precious girl in your lives. Thank you for always knowing when I needed a hug, and knowing just the right way to support me. A lot of the time while I’m studying, my parents don’t know how to help me solve some difficult math problem, but they bring me things like water and fruit and remind me that they love me and that they’re proud of me no matter what, which is the best help I can receive. I could not have made it here without them, and I love you guys more than I can say.
Looking back on the last four years, our class has made it through a lot. We’ve eaten too many Gertrude Hawk chocolate bars from our fundraisers, we’ve collapsed in front of each other after doing half a push up in gym, but most importantly we’ve developed friendships that will last a lifetime. Before I conclude this speech, I want to leave you with one final message: you are enough. When you have done your best, trust in your work, and trust in the people around you. You will always have a home here where people will support you, so rest assured, believe in yourself, and work towards achieving your dreams. Once again, congratulations Class of 2018, we’ve officially made it!