Before they bid adieu to and, essentially, childhood, the graduating Class of 2012 listened as Valedictorian Victoria Lin presented a speech offering advice, anecdotes and a little dose of humor–all of which can be found in its entirety below.
Good evening parents, teachers, administrators, family, friends and fellow graduates. Today we come together to celebrate a turning point in the lives of the remarkable people who have made their way through high school. We have learned, laughed, loved, gotten in trouble and matured together and I'd like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to my fellow graduates who are about to embark on a great but daunting journey. This speech was going to be me quoting the movie Mean Girls, but in the spirit of pomp and circumstance, I’d like to give you all a speech to carry with you as we all take the next step.
Mark Twain once said, "The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense". Morristown High School is much like a bookshelf – filled with books of all shapes and sizes, each one with a tale to tell. Once upon a time, we were five, our handwriting was shaky and some letters were backwards. But today, we emerge confidently to pen the end of this chapter.
In fiction, there is truth. The words printed on pages reflect our strengths and our flaws, our loves and our losses. The lessons we’ve learned from literature are overarching, and I'd like to remind you all of some today.
First, be bold. LMFAO tells us, "wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle, yeah" and Oscar Wilde says, "Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative". I ask you all to not be invisible men and women, but to stand with sound and fury. If Sam I Am can try green eggs and ham, then so can you. Stretch not only your palates, but also your minds and your hearts. Do not tremble in a valley of fear, but build a fire on the mountaintop. Lead by example and with action. Joseph Campbell tells us when we come to a great chasm, to jump; it is not as far as we think.
Second, be kind. The sun not only rises for you, but also for others. Live with consideration and compassion; make peace rather than war. Harry Potter gave Dobby emancipation with a dirty sock. Even the smallest gesture can have an impact. We may not have house elves to set free, but we can hold open doors, say ‘good morning’, or give back to the community with service. We can contribute everything from a smile to our tireless efforts, and in doing so, together we can not only make a difference, but be the difference. As we share this earth, remember that man not only has responsibilities to himself, but also to others.
Lastly, and most importantly, be happy. Remember that there is no perfection, only life. The vast majority of literature deals with man trying to find happiness, fulfillment, resolution, or d, all of the above. Remember that things like GPAs, test scores and projected yearly income are just numbers. The things that matter, things like family, friendship and lifelong dreams, are values. The human capacity for experience is infinite, and numbers, limited by mathematical bounds, will never get you any closer to filling the gap. It’s life’s intangibles that cannot be measured in ones and zeroes, and it’s life’s intangibles that allow us to approach infinity, to experience all that life has to offer. It's the essential parts of humanity that make you achieve the impossible.
So today, we stand here 1,384 days older, 80 fire drills alerter, survivors of one hurricane, one tornado, one electrical fire and one food fight. We stand here wondering the places we will go, what will come of our great expectations and prepare to enter a brave new world. I encourage you all to live life as you like it, find your own side of paradise and be satisfied with the remains of the day. As we graduate, we know that this ceremony is a commencement, not a completion. Even as this chapter closes, the next one calls us to go forth and reflect upon the world what we have learned, to write our stories with fire and flourish, and to find truth in fiction.
Congratulations to the class of 2012, and may truth illuminate your paths into the future. Thank you.