After weeks of preparation for Graduation Day and a crazy week leading up to Graduation Day of studying for and taking final exams, taking care of end-of-high-school business, last-minute speech writing and editing, and State Track, I made it. The Graduation Ceremony, the most important event of Graduation Day, was here. I was going to graduate!
As I walked down the center aisle toward my seat during the processional, I was beaming. But, although I was full of happiness, I was also full of butterflies because I had just one more task to complete before I was completely, finally stress free: giving my Valedictorian speech.
After the processional, the seniors of Bella Voce, my high school’s honor choir, sang the National Anthem; the superintendent welcomed everyone in the gymnasium to the ceremony; and the high school principal called to the stage the seniors graduating with honors, high honors, and highest honors. I was called to the stage as a senior graduating with highest honors, and as a Valedictorian, I was decorated with my medal onstage. It was special and rewarding to receive my honors medal in this way.
Upon being decorated with my medal, I anxiously waited onstage as my fellow Valedictorians gave their speeches to deliver my own. As I listened to the speeches, I was grinning from ear to ear “like the butcher’s dog” with joy and pride, laughing enthusiastically, clapping earnestly, and enjoying the moment. I also looked to the spot in the bleachers where members of my family were sitting; I wanted to somehow say “hi” and share with them the awesome emotions that I was feeling. I did a double-take when I saw my uncle Steve among my family members. Steve? From Italy? I quickly comprehended that my uncle Steve, who lives in Naples, Italy, had come to celebrate with and support me on my Graduation Day. I smiled and waved excitedly at my uncle, not caring if my delight violated proper etiquette.
Soon, it was my turn to speak. It was my turn to stand in front of my classmates, teachers, coaches, family, friends, and community members and give them the speech that I put my heart and soul into writing–the speech that meant so much to me. I was nervous, yes, but I was not as nervous about speaking in front of so many people as I was nervous about how these so many people would perceive me and interpret my words. But, I knew I could do it. It was my time to shine.
“Good afternoon! First, I would like to thank my classmates, teachers, coaches, family, friends, and the entire Solon Community for making my time in Solon memorable. The four years of high school taught me two lessons I feel can be applied to all of our futures. These lessons are connected by a common concept: time. Lesson Number One: Embrace every moment in life: from those that bring happiness, serenity, and success to those that are challenging, frustrating, and seemingly insignificant, for the time we have to experience all of these moments is limited; once gone, these moments can only be remembered. However much we want to remain in a specific instant or period in time, however much we want just a little bit longer here or there, or however much we want to relive an adventure, the truth of time will not allow it. Time passes at a rapid speed, constantly pushing us further along in our lives, whether we are ready or not. So, it is up to us to make the most of every moment in our lives: each enjoyable occasion and each difficult situation because the opportunities to experience these moments will quickly slip away. Lesson Number Two: Live in the present. The moment we live in, the now, today, only happens once. Too often we get caught up in what will happen tomorrow, next week, or next year, that we fail to recognize and appreciate what is currently happening in our lives. I hope we are all excited and optimistic for our futures, wherever they will take place, but if we are always looking forward, if we are always trying to look around the next corner of life, we will never completely treasure the present. Tomorrow will come, next week will come, and next year will come, so live in today. Time, because it is always moving quickly forward, encourages us to embrace and enjoy each and every experience in our lives and to live in the present moment. Time is a gift. Revel in it. Congratulations Class of 2012!”
My legs shook throughout my entire deliverance, but I was later told that I appeared to be relaxed. Also, I later worried that not everyone in the gymnasium heard my speech because I am naturally soft-spoken, and I did not adjust the microphone for me before I started speaking. But, my dad put my mind at ease when he responded to this worry with something like, “Those who wanted to listen did.”
After my speech, I introduced Bella Voce and left the stage to take my seat on the floor. As Bella Voce sang “For Good,” I cried. My tears were mostly tears of relief (There were tears of happiness and sadness, too.). I was done; the stress and worry were gone. I could fully relax and enjoy the rest of the ceremony and the rest of the day.
I received my diploma and officially became a high school graduate.
My smile was big, proud, and sincere as I walked out of the gymnasium and outside.
With the rest of my class, I threw my cap into the air. It was time to celebrate!