Jun 13

Graduation Speech 6/12/21

I'm putting this one up here for myself to hang onto; that being said, it's a message I'd like to extend to any 2021 grads! :)

Good Morning. To begin, I want to thank our teachers, parents, and supportive adults who have allowed us, the class of 2021, to stand proudly before you on such an important day. 
My classmates, I want to speak directly to you this morning. I want to remind you that we’ve learned just as much from each other as we have from our marked-up textbooks and grass-stained cleats. 
Among our peers, I couldn’t pick out the most compelling voice or brightest star--podiums and awards measure recognition, not impact, after all. They say a jack of all trades and master of none is better than a master of one. But a class of all trades can turn the subtlest moments into fascination. I’ve learned about Irish history in the hallways, movie magic at the lunch tables, and the perfect frisbee catch in the grandstands. Maybe that spark inside of us is chemical; maybe it’s spiritual. Either way, you know it when you see it. It’s in the half-graffiti artwork on the desks, the too-hard high fives from our friends, that way-too-interesting forty-minute lecture on video game speedruns from a kid you’ve met twice. When you mean what you say, you glow. No passion is too small or humble, and even if you don’t think you have that spark, you’re experienced enough to have a lighter. 
There’s a flame within each of us. Indomitable, irresistible. That’s half the battle, but the world is wide and waiting. As we begin to act on our passion, we have to be aware of power. By power I mean the unequal relationships between individuals and resources that define our society. Power is electric--it is all around you, and in the very still moments you can hear it humming. On the good days, you can feel it passing through you. You can sense it through the halls of government and the walls of your math class. It flows and pools constantly, and collects intentionally. There is a grid, one built long before us and one painfully difficult to deconstruct, that is the framework of power. Through no fault of our own, some of our houses feed straight into the main line, and others are way off-grid. Maybe we thought this is just how it works. Maybe any change feels superficial. 
But in this period of chaos, there’s been a blackout. It was too abrupt, too tragic, too quiet. But the hardships we’ve faced gave us a moment. An opportunity to start with a blank slate; a power grid in desperate need of rewiring. Sometimes the quietest, most isolated moments let us block out the rush of shiny jobs and cars and streetlights and envision what the world could be. We fumble around in the dark and close our hands around that lighter once again. We look around and our lights come back on, one by one. 
A year and a half ago, we jokingly rang in the New Roaring Twenties in our tinsel hats with the friends we had the luxury of holding in our arms. Hundreds of millions of vaccines later, the glitter is gone and the future is uncertain. I don’t know if the grid is too entrenched; I don’t know if all problems are solvable. I just know that the human mind has an unflappable capacity for connection and hope and finding beauty in our messes and contradictions. We’re on the cusp of something new and those bold, big, and slightly reckless ideas inherent to teenagers may be exactly what we need. 
So whether you grew up, found yourself, fell in love, learned from your mistakes, or just hung on tight and made it to today, you have something that the world needs. You still have that lighter. 
Our years of education are a tool to stop us from burning ourselves or starting wildfires. We’ve learned that change is intentional and cooperative, and, when backed by need and passion, inevitable. When you feed that spark--what you love, who you love, why you love it--you’re taking power into your own hands. At the very least, your enthusiasm will make someone smile. At the very most, it will save lives, transform perspectives, and start movements. 
Class of 2021, be safe and burn bright.

Thank you.