Valedictorian Speech

Maeser Prep Academy Class of 2017

I am honored to give this speech, I really am, almost as much as I am under-qualified to give it. My speech will be kind of like high school: the best part is when it’s finally over.

Street philosopher and leader of the free world, Drake, once said “Came up, that’s all me, stay true, that’s all me. No help, that’s all me, all me for real.” I just have to say, those lyrics are the opposite of how I feel right now. I am inexpressibly grateful for the people who have shaped me, inspired me, forgiven me, and helped me in endless ways.

First, my parents and family. Their patience with me is inexhaustible, and there is almost nothing that they haven’t done for me. I’m sorry I don’t appreciate you enough. I’m thankful for my friends and fellow students; you almost certainly don’t expect it, but I look up to so many of you. You have made high school an exciting, enlightening, and sometimes strange experience. And of course, our teachers. We have the most inspiring teachers the world has ever seen. There are so many teachers here who could give better advice than I ever could.

Thank you to Mr. Watabe for teaching me that math is simple, and more importantly, life is simple. If you put in the effort, you will get faster, you will get better, and you might even learn calculus.

Thank you to Mrs. Plott for making me realize that velocity is more important than speed; what direction you’re going matters more than how quickly you’re going.

I am grateful to Mr. Dowdle for redeeming humanity despite the horrors of our past, for your effortless humor, and for your life-changing analysis of literature. I’m finally in uniform, by the way.

Thank you to Mrs. Frampton, for showing me that without art, writing, and even poetry, we cannot understand the sacredness of life.

Thank you to Mrs. Martinez, for encouraging us all to be more compassionate. Through her character, she showed us there is no qualification, no skill, and no aspect of your resume that is more valuable than the effect you have on others.

And Mr. Simmons – ah, what can be said about Mr. Simmons that he has not already told in excruciating detail to his freshman Socratic class? Thank you Mr. Simmons for demonstrating the meaning of education as sacred, and for your genuine dedication to your players and students.

Thank you to Mrs. Slade, for showing us the wonder of the natural world, the miracle of the human body, and the power of human potential.

Thank you so much to Mrs. Sidwell, who isn’t here today. You introduced me to the sound of my own voice. The impact you had on my life cannot be underestimated.

I can’t list all of my teachers and mentors, but I have been changed by every class I took at Maeser – yes, even Financial Lit. Especially Financial Lit.

Maeser is one of the at the best high schools in the state. Honestly, it is easy to feel intimidated and inadequate in a school of stars like Maeser.

After all, not all of us have Logan Norris’ relentless determination;

Not all of us are as kind as Morgan Millet;

Not all of us have James Johnson’s flawless ability in acting;

Not all of us have the perfect calves of Felix Resendiz.

Few of us are as fearless as Bennett Felsted and Jared Drake,

None of us can do as many pull ups as Jacob Radmall,

And David Van Horn isn’t here, but few of us are as mature, contemplative, or understanding as him.

Not all of us are as ready to give compliments as Brittany Oveson.

None of us can beat Taylor Brand’s scoring record;

Few of us have the constant cheerfulness and optimism of Ben Hailstone or Maliana Corniea;

Few of us have the easygoing attitude of Braden Christensen;

Few of us have the quiet wisdom of Tashara Muhlstein;

None of us party as hard as Dakota Clubb;

None of us work as hard as Lia Joo;

We can’t all jump as far as Sammy Windley, sing as high as Varia Aird, or play the piano like Anastasia Felt.

None of us can parkour like Olle Hansen.

Few of us have the resilience of Mustafa Hamidi;

And even fewer of us have the hope and strength of Sophie Cannon.

I could keep going, I promise you.

But despite the fact that we can’t compare ourselves to the people around us, each of us has an opportunity – no, an obligation – to share our unique and powerful selves with the world. Growing up with you all in the last few years has been an incredible experience. Because of this, I will ask that you remember one thing after this speech: never think you have nothing original to say, never think you have nothing important to do, and never think you have no purpose.

Often, our endless routine overwhelms us like the numbing smell of burnt popcorn in the cafeteria microwaves. The beating repetitiveness of everyday life causes us to reduce ourselves to just another student, just another worker, just another brick in the wall.

People often say things like this: “I don’t have time for philosophy. I have bills to pay.” If you have not yet said this, then just wait – in college, you will say it or at least think it. How do I know this? Well, I don’t, but I’m up here making sounds, and that’s the important thing. That’s what I’m here for.

But honestly, it is easy to become swallowed up by the mundane parts of living. We should all be terrified that without even noticing, we will slip into a trivial life of grinding for grades, working for mere money, depending on empty praise, obsessing over flimsy worries and meaningless stresses, becoming something we aren’t to impress people we don’t like. Unless we watch closely, the ordinary will consume us. Unless you pay attention, your purpose will disappear like quicksand. Smooth and natural. With barely any sign you can notice or suspect. And you walk on it easily. When you’ve noticed your purpose is gone, it’s too late.

So when you find yourself saying “I don’t have time for philosophy,” remember that this is not philosophy, this is life. You don’t have enough time to not think about it. With every day, you should consider the fundamental, the deep, the sacred, the truth beyond the mundane. Otherwise, why wake up each morning?

Clear away all the debris that separates you from that essential, bright, illuminating part of yourself – that core that is much deeper than personality – your soul, your life-force, your chakra, or maybe it’s just your appendix or something. Avoid the things that reduce you and make you trivial, and look for those things that make you passionate, deep-thinking, and full.

Lin Yutang said that “Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.” Reject the idea that you can afford to merely fill or kill time; your busyness will prevent you from seeing beyond routine.

Well, as Dylan Armstrong said, I’m sorry Maeser, but I’m breaking up with you. Luckily, I’ve already set someone else set up so the rebound will be quick. She’s kind of out of my league, so I proposed to a bunch of backups in case she rejects me. Also, I’m going to need her to pay me like 50,000 dollars or it’s not going to work out. That’s basically what applying to college is.

I’ll eventually forget about my times with Maeser, but I will remember what I learned from the relationship. After all, it lasted four years, and I have done so much with Maeser – my sweat is on her field, my tears are on her desks, and yes I admit it, my popcorn is in her microwaves. I learned that the pursuit of truth, the process and journey itself, is always worth it – even if that truth is as difficult to find as a high-quality meme on Facebook. I learned to always remember my real purpose. To live beyond the mundane. To be inspired by those around me.

Now is the time to put these principles into action. As Epictetus said, “From now on, whenever you encounter anything, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event.”

And most importantly, pretend my last line was super funny.

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