“The Cosmos and Us” by Emma Chiu

    The Paly Voice acquired the following Graduation speech from its author, with the authors consent to publish. Student speaker senior Emma Chiu delivered this speech at Graduation on June 3. The views stated in these speeches do not necessarily reflect the views of The Paly Voice, nor those of its staff.

    The Cosmos and Us” by Emma Chiu

    Much of my high school career has been defined by flashbulb moments. They include storming the basketball court when the varsity boys beat Gunn on our senior night, and also taking one too many selfies with James Franco. Even though so many of my memories of Paly are overwhelmingly positive, there were also some moments I wish I could forget but just can’t. One that will never leave my memory was the morning when I came to school and a Caltrain sat motionless on the tracks.

    Later that same day, my English teacher showed our class an article titled “The Cosmos and You,” about a young woman at Dartmouth College who asks her Astronomy professor, “How do you keep from despairing at the immensity of space and the smallness of us?” A shortened version of his reply goes as follows:

    “Johanna, you are most certainly an infinitesimal in the cold, vastness of the cosmos, and your life is barely a mathematical instant in the span of time. But you are also, just as certainly, a miracle: you are a creature capable of thought, of wonder, of awe. You are capable of love, and so need not despair of insignificance. Having said that see you Monday.”

    Now, this response resonated with me so strongly that day, because I think at Paly many of us, including myself, have at some point questioned our self-worth or significance. You don’t need to have studied Astronomy for that thought to come across your mind. But because all of us are here today, each and every one of us had someone in this community who reminded us of our potential and of our importance.

    In my mind, what defines the Paly experience is going through the highest of highs and lowest of lows, but when confronting those lows, there is always someone who is more than willing to be there for you. Because of what we’ve gone through and how countless other people have been that support for us when we needed it most, I think our class is especially aware of the significance and magnitude that a touch of kindness can have on another person.

    Knowing this, we stand poised and ready to be that potential rock for someone we may barely know. We are prepared to be that light, as others had done for us, when we ourselves slipped into darkness.

    It is this compassion from others that has allowed us to be here today. It is this compassion that made it so we can truly enjoy those flashbulb moments. And it is this compassion that let us become aware of our significance. I am forever grateful for these people who have allowed me to feel their love, where I feel most alive and most significant. They are the moments where the words of the Dartmouth Astronomy professor ring most true: that we are capable of thought, of wonder, and of awe, and that we are, just as certainly, a miracle.