The Paly Voice acquired the following speeches from their authors, with their authors’ consent to publish. The authors wrote the speeches with the intention of delivering them at graduation, but were not selected. Each speech went through an evaluation process on May 19 by a panel of staff members. The views stated in these speeches do not necessarily reflect the views of The Paly Voice, nor those of its staff.
by Jackie Sun
Principal Diorio, members of the School Board, teachers, parents, friends, and fellow graduates, it is an honor to speak to all of you today. First off, I’d like to thank all the faculty who have devoted countless hours to making us better and more civilized people. I’d like to thank the parents who have sacrificed so much to give us opportunities to grow and expand our minds. And, most importantly, I’d like to thank the class of 2014 for shaping my Paly experience and molding me into the person I have become.
Here I have 5 minutes to pass down some meaningful advice and inspiration to you all. Well, I’m only 17 years old. I haven’t even technically graduated from high school yet! I’m probably one of the least qualified people to be giving any advice. So instead of giving advice, I’m going to tell some stories, and hopefully something will be gleaned from them.
Four years ago, when I moved to Palo Alto, I felt like a failure. I was not very sociable, my middle school years were not particularly pleasant, maybe most people can relate, and I felt isolated and distant from my fellow classmates. I came to Paly with no real sense of who I was. I was a just a face in the crowd, exacerbated by the fact that I knew no one and nothing about the culture of Paly. I was unhappy, mainly because I hadn’t found the group of people I wanted to spend time with. On Club Day, however, I signed up to join the Speech and Debate team. And suddenly, my life improved tremendously. Here I found a bunch of students, from all different grade levels, seniors to other freshmen, that I had a connection to, a common interest. I filled a gap that I hadn’t even realized was there. I felt I was finally a part of something. I learned so much from this team, not only about public speaking and research, but about also life, and how life gets so much easier when you share your experiences with other people.
And therein I learned my first valuable lesson from Paly: discovering yourself is not a singular activity. It involves the people you surround yourself with, your peers, your collaborators, your friends. When you’re driving on the road that is your life, you’ll have a number of blind spots. So choose good friends that will look out for your blind spots, support you unconditionally, and love you for you, and you’ll be more than fine.
I want to share another story. Over the summer, I had the wonderful experience of being a counselor at a summer camp for middle school students. I can safely say I understand how teachers feel when they are teaching second semester seniors. We had the challenge of injecting passion and enthusiasm into the adolescents, seeing as most of them were there because their parents signed them up. I was tired and frustrated at the time, because it was hard to motivate the students to do the activities we gave them. However, when I saw a fellow counselor bounding in from another room and how sociable and eager her charges were, it didn’t take long for me to realize that my students weren’t excited because I wasn’t passionate about what we were doing. How could I expect them to share my enthusiasm when I had no enthusiasm to share?
Those kids taught me something important. When you are passionate about what you are doing, others will share in your passion as well. This leads to a wonderful symbiosis where everyone is united in their interests. Something like Spirit Week. All it takes is for one person to start a cheer and others will follow. It is not enough to achieve your own dreams; you must inspire the dreams of others. In the case of the summer camp, I found that once I perked up, the students started perking up and their excitement and achievements were so rewarding to see. So, going forth in my life, I will take the lesson that those kids gave to me: to lead with spirit and heart, and to include those important to me in my passions.
I chose these two stories because I feel they illustrate something important: choose a group of people that will inspire you, and in turn, you will inspire them. Share your passions and others will share there’s. Give back to the community in any way that you can, because, after all they were the ones that made you, you. Life is not fun when you don’t share it with others, something that I learned my freshman year; and I am so glad that I got to share my years at Paly with these graduates here.
Actually, now, that I’m thinking about it, I lied at the beginning of my speech. I do have a piece of advice to give: don’t forget to turn the tassel on your way down the stairs! Thank you and congratulations to the class of 2014!!