The speeches that didn’t make it, Part IV
by Aaron Zelinger and Alex Carter
Published June 6, 2012
The Paly Voice acquired the following speech from the author, with the author’s consent to publish. The author wrote the speech with the intention of giving it at graduation, 2012, but was not selected. Each speech in this series underwent a judging process in which the author performed in front of five teachers, Tuesday, after school. The teachers were as follows: Matt Hall, Erin Angell, Julia Taylor, Grand Blackburn and Arnie Lim. The views in this speech do not necessarily reflect the views of The Paly Voice, nor those of its staff.
By: Shannon Scheel
Tonight, I am going to start things off with a little story.
My dad has taught me a lot of things. He and I, as most of you know, are similar in countless ways: wildly outgoing (almost too much sometimes), same sense of humor, passion for music (namely the Wildcats) and a love for sports, to name a few. But I would like to take a moment to highlight the single most important thing my father has taught me, and why the class of 2012 of Palo Alto High School should care about it.
As odd as it seems in retrospect, I was not in a good mood the evening of December 31st, 2010. My family was on vacation in Hawaii and yet all I could think about was the number of parties I was missing back home. I was sulking unnecessarily, almost childishly in my hotel room and was glued to my cell phone. I was about to go to bed and call it “the lamest New Year’s ever” when my dad grabbed my arm and pulled me outside.
“Walk with me,” he said calmly. It was his business casual voice. Which for Jeff, means business.
Silently we walked for about five minutes until we hit the beach. My dad stopped under a palm tree and stared straight ahead, pensively. It was simple: no fireworks, epic party or ridiculous sendoff. But it was the best night of my life: my dad, a beach and me. It had been about a half an hour of the two of us talking about life in general: junior year stress, SATs, boys, our family, everything. After a pause in conversation, my dad broke the silence.
“In high school, Shannon, you will learn a lot of things,” Jeff said, exhaling deeply. “But most importantly, you will learn how to learn.” He sauntered back to our hotel room then, leaving me with his words. I let them sink in.
Zac Brown Band’s song Chicken Fried has a lyric that is somewhat of a mantra of the wisdom I obtained that night: “There’s no dollar sign on a peace of mind, this I’ve come to know,” it reads. When you learn how to learn, you gain that peace of mind.
One thing that I’ve discovered throughout my time at Paly is that this “peace of mind” isn’t necessarily one defining moment, or one particular instance where suddenly everything that has ever confused or challenged me in my high school career settles and becomes clear. Instead, the best way I can describe it is some sort of evolutionary process of small awakenings that contribute to an overall understanding of the “bigger picture.” I honestly feel like Hannah Montana every time I throw around the hackneyed phrase “everybody makes mistakes!” like it’s some sort of cue for all of my Disney sponsored backup dancers to pop out of nowhere and for you all to roll your eyes. But the little (and yes, sometimes big) mistakes each serve as a small learning experience, and as we’ve realized through our countless hours of hard work over the course of four years, the little things do add up. Essentially, through each of our mistakes, we’ve learned what method of studying works, how to handle problems between ourselves and our friends, and how to best support each other in times of need. This is what I mean by we “learn how to learn”: we’ve gained priceless knowledge from our past mistakes that will carry us forward, through college and beyond.
I can see some of your faces are still a bit confused about my “learn how to learn” pitch. I’ll clear things up for you now. For example, some things I wish I had “learned how to learn” during my time at Paly include:
- The fact that “American Spirit” is a completely superfluous text to “American Pageant” and did not need to study it for APUSH…ever
- Not being so utterly starstruck by high school boys boyfriend (but I guess Taylor Swift’s song “Fifteen” sort of taught us girls that…)
- Streaking is something to embrace, not shy away from, and that before partaking in that tradition you should make sure your younger sibling exits the premises of the school
- Dressing up for spirit week is a MUST
- Breathalyzers shouldn’t put a damper on your fun at school dances
- Don’t deck change on the Stanford University pool deck, no matter HOW late you are for hell week practice
- Seniors don’t want to beat up underclassmen (I only learned that once I was a Senior)
- The fact that playing on a Paly sports team has shaped me in ways I could never have imagined. Because of my time as a Paly athlete, I can now say that I have grown to be a competitor, teammate, and truly a more well-rounded person. (Also, Paly’s sports community helped spark my love for Michigan…GO BLUE!)
- Which brings me to my next point: college decisions (good or bad) totally reveal people’s true colors. So for those of you in the audience who have yet to go through the process, I am sure my fellow classmates will back me up when I say there’s a difference between being enthusiastic and being pretentious.
- Not to spend so much time on Facebook. Breaking this habit is still a work in progress, but trust me when I say news feeds really aren’t that interesting
And finally, and most importantly, Palo Alto High School is my home, and home to 475 of the most wonderful, intellectual, talented individuals I will ever have the pleasure of knowing.
I know I keep quoting country songs, not only because I am a huge country music fan (to my family’s bewilderment), but also because the words really do exemplify more eloquently than I could the central tenets of my mindset about graduating Paly. In Miranda Lambert’s song “The House That Built Me,” she sings: “You leave home, you move on, and you do the best you can, I got lost in this old world and forgot who I am.” This certainly is true: each of us, with our newly obtained and ever-evolving “peace of mind” as graduates will go off into the world and pursue whatever we set our minds to. I am confident in that much. But what most people overlook is that there is always the looming possibility of getting lost. In most graduation speeches, this aspect of life is severely overlooked, so I would like to draw attention to it. It is certainly a possibility that some of us will get lost, despite our awakenings and discoveries during our four years here. But are we ever truly lost? The simple answer is no. Because 475 other people, other than yourself, and the campus that we currently stand (or sit) on, will always be the “home” that you left. It will always ready to accept you back into its community at any moment. As long as you have Paly to call your home, which each of us have the priviledge of doing, you, my fellow graduate, will never truly be lost. And the green and white will always tell you who you are. GO VIKINGS!
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