May 2008, East Jessamine High School, Nicholasville, Kentucky, USA
I want to say how honoured I am to stand before you all.
My friends, my classmates, my family, my academic adjudicators, and the people who thought their connecting flight to Chicago was leaving out of this terminal.
Go outside. Take the moving sidewalk. But before we begin, Southland has kindly asked me to point out your emergency exits on the left, and the right of the building, and in case my speech crashes, your seats do double as a floatation device.
Now I’m not trying to start off by making fun of Southland. I don’t think you realise what a rush it is to speak in a building of this size and magnitude. I google earthed this place on the way in to give to some of my family as directions, and it took up two pages. It’s very impressive.
Yet before I stood before this crowd, I thought I wouldn’t see any friends. I thought there’d be too many people for me to pick you out one by one. But that’s what I found to amaze me standing before you. When I look around, I see people who over the last twelve years, I have grown very close to. So close to, today, instead of giving the speech I had in theory planned, I’m going to tell you about a dream I’ve had.
No not that dream, don’t worry.
But over the past twelve years, I’ve had a some sort of reoccurring dream about this day. I dreamed that I would stand before you all, and I would get to say those words that you’ve been waiting to hear over those twelve long years ... twelve long hard painful years. Congratulations East Jessamine High School Class of 2008, [singing] ‘looks like we made it after all’. Sorry I forgot to tell you. Sometimes I dream in musicals.
And then after I sang that song, some [ ??] would come up here, and ask us to take these funny looking cat toys off our geometrically shaped hats. And moving to the other side. And then in my dream, they play that awful, 'As We Go On' song, and I would shed a tear. Now today is the day I get to live out that dream, standing before you all today. Someone’s going to come up here - tell us to move our tassles, and god forbid they play a different song at graduation one year!
I suggest Freebird if you’re looking for something for next year’s ceremonies.
But one thing that’s different about today and my dream. Okay a couple of things are different. You’re all fully clothed. You don’t have animal heads and angel wings. And I’m not going to have to change my sheets when I leave here hopefully. But one thing solely is different. Standing before you today, the most emotionally charged day of my life to this point, the first major milestone on the path to my inevitable successes, I thought I would need to cry, but for some reason, I have no urge to tear -- happy or sad.
Partially because I know if I did, WK would never let me live it down. For how many times I’ve told the story over the years, how in fifth grade every time Wes would steal my chocolate milk, and I’d poke him in the stomach, and once he cried. But a more legitimate reason for my lack of tears would be this ... and I can’t express it better than Dr Seuss said before me:
'Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.'
But when I read this quotation, when preparing for this speech, I felt kind of selfish thinking that I would cry today standing before you all. Would I look back at the memories we’ve shared together as a class over the past twelve years? I should be smiling for the rest of the summer, maybe even longer if I didn’t have to go to college at the end of it.
And for the record, I am going to college, I’m sorry if you lost that bet.
Standing in the cafeteria, tenth grade, watching AH teach our grade the very practical definition of collateral damage in a food fight as he hit everybody around us. Hitting JB in the face by accident in French class. Winning ‘Air Band’. Losing Air Band, even though, we kinda shoulda won, whatever.
The West Jessamine student section holding up a picture of Justin and I in a very compromising position. I have somebody else, I don’t want to talk about it in front of everyone.
These memories are more important than anything else I had over the last twelve years. More important that this cap and gown. Or this ... [class of 2008 scarf] ok whatever that is. But here’s what I want to make sure that you know this. These should not be the best twelve years of your life. That is a pain I don’t wish on any of my enemies. If CATS testing and portfolios are the best years of your life then you have done something wrong.
So this is what I want to stress to you today. As my last, and honestly I never expected very much from any of you, first demand as Commander-in-Chief, I want all of you to leave here today, and make memories so happy, so great, that if these memories that we’re talking about today’s sole job was to make a shelf for your new ones, they would fail the weight. Because that’s what life’s about.
So as I sit down today and have somebody come up here and tell us to turn our tassles, because I doubt they’d let me do it for fear that I’d sing again, I start to put this day to memory. Because that’s what I realised I want all of my memories to come from. Dreams I got to live out, I can now reflect upon down the road. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has dreamed about walking across the stage in this ridiculous attire. It means a lot to all of you, it’s why you’re still here. So that’s what I want to tell you. Live out your dreams, quickly, because you don’t know how much longer we all have left. Live them out, but once you have, lay them out, fast enough to make new ones, live them out too. So one day, when I meet you all again down the road, we’ll have some awesome stories to talk about.
Congratulations, I honour you all, and good luck. Not that any one of you should need it.