Dover High School Salutatorian Address 2013

When I began writing this speech, I knew that I didn’t want to include some “cheesy” quote about growing up or how “we are the future.”  Instead, I found a quote about cheese. 

Charles de Gaulle once asked, “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” Similarly, upon graduation, I ask myself, “How can I describe a high school full of such a diverse collection of people?”

Of course, we are different in all the obvious ways. We are male and female. We are black and white. We are athletes and musicians, but these are not the differences that we will be remembered for.

We will be remembered for being the friendly one, like Rendell, who I didn’t have a class with until this year, but said “hi” to me often throughout high school.

We will be remembered for being the smart and sweet and quiet one, like Tamara who I found to be the best person to sit next to in class over the last few years.

We will be remembered for overcoming adversity and for continuing to struggle against it.

And of course, we will not only be remembered, but will remember as well.

We’ll remember our best friend–the one who stuck with us through everything. The one who we’ve fought with and laughed with and cried with. The only one who really understands us. The one who’s become like a sister.

We’ll remember walking into Ms. Beck’s classroom as a frightened freshman and finding a window there to our future endeavors and success. We’ll also remember walking into Mr. Leighty’s classroom a year later and having déjà vu as a sophomore.

We’ll remember walking into school on the last day of senior year and passing freshmen in the hall who we see ourselves in and hoping that they will make better choices than we did.

I will never forget the way Mr. Whitenight has made my heart sink and soar, with music and bad metaphors and stories and love for his family. I will never forget Madame Smith’s enthusiasm as she taught me French for two (unfortunately not four) years. I will not forget the memorable anecdotes that both Mr. Leighty and Ms. Beck taught me with. I will not forget actually enjoying a science class with Mr. Peppard.

Not everyday of high school has been unforgettable. So many days have been pure monotony. However, what makes it memorable is, without a doubt, the people we have met. Friendships have flourished, withered, and bloomed in the past four years. Teachers will remain in our hearts as sparkling bursts of light, silently guiding us through difficult years to come. 

In these coming years, it will be important to remember the things we have learned in high school. The things we’ve learned to satisfy curriculums and standardized test are not what I am talking about. The most critical things we have learned in the past four years come from people, not from textbooks. I think the most important thing that anyone can gain in high school is a sense of humanity. Learning that all people, no matter how different from us, are in fact, still people, is the most valuable thing that anyone can learn. It will ensure us jobs, scholarships, friends, and love someday.

We have learned to accept that every individual in this “Senator” family is different and special and unique. But we are still a family. In this graduating class of 313 people, we may not all know each other personally but we are all connected. We are connected by the invisible web that connects all alumni of our school. We have spent four years together: growing together, laughing, and crying. Those connections are not easily dissolved.

No matter how different the paths we take in the future are, we will always be united by the fact that our class was the one that got gypped out of the new high school and the new auditorium and gym at Central Middle. We will always be united by the excited electricity in the stands as we barely won (or barely lost) the Homecoming game. We will be united by the countless pictures, tweets and statuses that will remain available to us online for perhaps the rest of our lives. (Don’t worry, no matter how embarrassing we think they are when we delete them in 3 years, someone is surely saving all of the worst ones to put in a “throwback Thursday” post 30 years from now.)

The class of 2013 now stands at the stem of a the proverbial, many-pronged fork in the road. In the next few months, we will begin our journeys. Some of us will begin on the same path and diverge later as we attend DelTech, DelState, Wesley or UD in the fall. Some of us may be joining the armed forces, getting a job, or going far away to college. But we are all starting from the same well-worn road. The education that we have received at Dover High School will serve us well, not matter in what direction life pulls us. 

While some of us ran the high school race, others walked. (Admittedly, some crawled.) But all of us are here, at this single line in the sand that symbolizes both an ending and a beginning. We all have a fair shot and an even playing field, a chance to start over and create a new life for ourselves. We can be whatever we want to be. We are going out into a wide, wide world that has no preconceived notions of us. It has heard no rumors, it holds no grudges. We could move to the other side of the country, or the other side of world if we wanted to. As we exit this stadium, we are given the permission to become our person, make our own choices and live life to the fullest.

And, students, I sincerely hope that all of us do. We are a family, yes, with a similar background, but we are individually remarkable. We are friendly. We are sweet. We are thoughtful. We are strong. We are smart. We are kind. Use the strengths you have been given and take a little lesson from every person you meet. Everyone has something that they can share with the world, whether it be a hard lesson life has taught them, or their glowing optimism, or their harrowing realism. So use all of the people you have met, or will meet, as resources. Use them as unofficial teachers and counselors and a web of support. 

Speaking of support, brings me to the parents. While we have developed the net of support that we now have at Dover High, that cannot replace the support system that we are born with. Our families have clothed, fed, and housed us to the best of their ability for 18 years. Without that steady rock to lean on, who knows where any of us would be. To those who are sitting here today missing their family, in part or whole, I cannot express how proud those who are not here would be if they could see you now.

The vital instrument of contemporary American success, the high school diploma, will soon be bestowed upon us, seniors. I cannot put into words how grateful we must be, not only for living in a country that provides us a free education, but for the people that made that education possible. To the teachers, who shared their wealth of knowledge with us: thank you. To the administrators, new and old, who made sure this knowledge was being taught and absorbed effectively: thank you. To our honorable guests, who are here today to support us in our future endeavors: thank you.

We have put in hard work for four long years. Hopefully, we will look back on these years with fond memories of growing and learning together. And if these were not the “best years of your lives”, at least they are now over. Please carry with you all that you have learned and do not forget from whence you came as you embark on your next great adventure, whatever it may be. Best wishes to each individual, and good luck to the entire class of 2013. We did it!

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So I just started writing my Valedictorian speech tonight.

How do people do this without being boring and awful and cliche? I think I may have run out of things to say without starting in on some shit about “we are the future”…at least the beginning of the speech is slightly amusing. Or stupid. Hopefully the class of 2013 thinks it’s funny.