Rundle College Valedictorian Address
Grade 12 Graduation
Hello everyone! Students, faculty, family members, parents - Hi Mom and Dad! Friends, honoured guests, and of course, my fellow graduates-- it is my distinct privilege to be representing the Rundle College graduating class of 2015 as your Valedictorian.
Just a quick disclaimer: I have a minor concussion so if this speech starts to flop I’m probably going to fake falling into a coma-- that way I avoid making a fool of myself, and I get to fulfill one of my lifelong goals-- make a scene at an important event!
First off, I would just like to congratulate my fellow classmates for making it to graduation! I hope you are enjoying the festivities and the thought of all the classes we will be missing this week!
Now, I notice that every year, this year being no exception, Dr. Evans always takes several unrelated, seemingly random things and relates them to abstract concepts surrounding grad! I am always so impressed with his creativity and ingenuity that I thought I might try it myself. So graduates, today I will be talking about a Sandra Bullock movie, questionable rubber footwear, and an epic vampire-romance tween fiction novel.
Now, lets get started! I want everyone to stop and picture this. And I really want you to concentrate on this ok?! Grade 4’s tune in (snaps). You are the noble, beautiful, courageous Sandra Bullock, floating through space alone in a shuttle. Every 90 minutes you are assaulted by a storm of deadly space junk orbiting the Earth. As you are confronted with obstacle after obstacle in your attempt to return to Earth safely, you begin to give up, and your oxygen tank has been at critical levels for an obscene amount of time. However, a hallucination of the handsome George Clooney convinces you with his trademark boyish charm to keep trying. Finally, you manage to make it home safe to Earth. I’m sure you’re all thinking “Sam I hate you please stop for the love of god stop talking! Others may be thinking “what does this long, boring, reference to the award-winning movie Gravity have to do with the Rundle College graduating class of 2015?!”
Well I have absolutely no idea! But I’m going to take a wild guess here! The graduates sitting before me are the radiant and glowing Sandra Bullocks, constantly faced with challenges on your path to achieve your goals. The space junk is the frustrating, recurring obstacles in our lives, particularly diplomas that keep coming back every semester! Heartthrob George Clooney is your family, friends, teachers, and administration, that keep you motivated and on track despite an overwhelming and constant sense of imminent doom! And finally, space is really representative of our lives, because it is empty and dark and devoid of any meaning!!
I’m just kidding! I know we’re all getting a little exhausted, perhaps cynical, and frustrated as the school year comes to a close, with all the deadlines and exams and the stress of grad events. For example, sometimes in the oppressive silence heard during a calculus test, you can hear Jackson Coles begin to whisper softly at first, but then with increasing volume and passion-until you realize he is voicing the thoughts of our entire class by muttering colourful profanities! Sometimes, there are moments like these where we all feel this frustration at some point. School has been a marathon--it’s very rewarding to complete and there are moments along the way where you really feel proud of yourself, but it also is a gruelling test of endurance that pushes you to your absolute physical limits. I speak for most of the graduating class I think when I say that long-distance running is not our forte maybe with the exception of Noah, Cal, and Carina.
Despite our occasional frustrations, school at Rundle has been an absolute pleasure and an unforgettable experience. We are so privileged to go to a school where the staff care so much about the students and making sure we have every possible opportunity to be successful in our studies, as well as extracurriculars. It is so comforting to walk down the halls everyday and see friendly and familiar faces. Throughout the years, we have had the opportunity to attend graduation and see our friends in grade 12 graduate. I have attended Rundle since preschool, and it seems surreal today that I am graduating today with my classmates.
It is significant times like these, graduations namely, where we are expected to reflect on how much things change. As our Rundle family grows up together, like any other family, there are moments of tension, love, drama, reconciliation, and sometimes no reconciliation! Some aspects of our changing identity are more superficial-- fashion choices, haircuts- particularly the Justin Bieber hair fad of 2008 that I unfortunately fell victim to. Other things that change are more significant-- friendships, values, beliefs, and our perspective. Some of these changes are conscious, for example, when you get viciously shamed for publicly wearing crocs, the questionable rubber shoes, you choose to give them up-- except for you Meg! Way to be yourself no matter the horrible social implications! So many other students in the graduating class are a little quirky too-- Elise has a shy chinchilla named Cornelius, Kathryn can fly an airplane, and Robyn is the undisputed master of Chess and the disputed master of the Rubix Cube. But more often than not, we are unaware of the minute changes in our identity that occur constantly as we experience new things. Today, I challenge you to find yourself, become aware of your changing identity and be honest about who you are.
This concept of being true to yourself is disgustingly cliched and prevalent in pop culture so much so that talking about it makes me vaguely nauseous. But it’s not enough to stop me!
First, to be true to yourself, you have to know who you are! What are your core values and beliefs! Who are you, who do you like, what do you think is important, and what is right and wrong. This can be the hardest part about being true to yourself-- finding yourself. Sometimes one might have an identity crisis even much later in life. Did you notice all the flashy cars in the parking lot... can someone say mid-life crisis? But you know, some people do find themselves later in life. My twin sister Ellie has only recently rediscovered her passion for the Twilight Saga books, in which the heroine is constantly torn between choosing two equally beautiful and moody men, one a werewolf, the other a vampire. It’s just a timeless epic love story with so many parallels to our lives!
So first you have to figure out who you are. Next, you have to be willing to stand up for your identity, even if you face societal pressure to change, just like Meg and her crocs, or Ellie and her interesting choice in literature! People may not agree with or particularly like you for it, but eventually you will find a group of people with common interests and beliefs. The world is a big ol’ place, there are plenty of fish in the sea to befriend!
Finally, I just want to point out that “being yourself” is not an excuse to be rude or cruel or lazy. We should not allow ourselves to use our inherent inabilities as a reason to give up or stop trying. We should strive to be better, be kind and be non-judgmental to other people!
In every generation, there are trailblazers who push the limits of what is acceptable when choosing to carve out their path authentically. I think of artists such as Picasso, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles, and the backlash they faced for their individual expression. More recently, I think of Caitlyn Jenner as another example of a bold individual choosing to live their life the way that makes them happy. I hope the graduating class finds what makes them happy, and fights for their right to express themselves authentically.
And now, for some other thank you’s. I would like to thank the teachers and administration for your tireless work all year to ensure we succeed and have some fun at school; thank you to parents, family, and friends for your support, your time, and for loving us despite our many flaws. Thank you to my parents who have kept me grounded-- my mom has been crying continuously throughout every significant event in my life, and today is no exception. Thanks for being my rock, Mum! I’d like to thank Ms. Kim for ensuring some of the more “edgy” jokes were removed from this speech and for maintaining a calm facade as grad approached rapidly and I had not finished. Finally, I’d also like to thank Ellie, my twin, for helping me write this, for putting up with my general irritability and crankiness, and for correcting me in that vampires are beautiful, not hot. I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself in front of everyone like that.
It has been an absolute honour to get to know every graduate sitting in front of me. I wish you all the best, and I hope we find the courage to be ourselves! Congratulations again, and thank you.