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 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.
Graduation Speech: Alexander Gouyet
Earlier this year, I was leaving soccer practice, when, completely on a whim, I said “why not?” and I signed myself up for a yoga class the next day at Ananda, a Buddhist Meditation Temple right here on El Camino. When I arrived at 9:30 the next morning, I uncomfortably noticed that I was the only male in the class and the only person under 60 in the entire building. During the next hour and a half, I received cramps in places I had never experienced. Even though I prided myself on having a diverse array of interests and being in shape, I was not expecting yoga to be so hard.
You may know me as the co-president of the Jewish Student Union, a rapper, or the French curly haired senior who shaved his head for no apparent reason. You may be wondering, what qualifies me to give you a speech? I have lived in prosperous Palo Alto my whole life, and I realize that I have had a truly blessed childhood. People are perplexed anytime I complain, saying that students like you and me don’t recognize how fortunate we are to attend Paly. Well, I understand people in Syria are grateful just to be alive, and that we’re sitting here complaining about having chromebooks instead of Macbooks. This does not mean that even in our positions, with everything handed to us, we can’t feel pressured at times. With so many life choices ahead of us, it is normal to be overwhelmed. Well, here is where I can help you.
The reason I told you about my painful yoga experience is that if I invited all of you to come to a yoga class this weekend, I’m not sure how many of you would join me because the idea of attending a yoga class with 60 year old women may seem a bit odd and not worth your time. Well, you know what? After finishing the class, amid all the pain from that yoga, I felt renewed. I had explored something different, and that is an invaluable feeling. There are many activities during life for which you can say “Why would I try that”? Well, I say : “Why not?” During my four years at Paly, I have heard many students complain about the system, about how we are forced into schools with little freedom for exploration, and we are all coming out like robots. I have a solution. My antidote is why not? Try new things. We all have opportunities, but we usually avoid looking at them.
After adopting this attitude, you know what? I feel the most liberated I have. Ever!
Steve Jobs said “why not?” when he reinvented the computer. Elon Musk said “why not?” when he founded Tesla. So I challenge you.
Why not go to that yoga class? I will now be taking a gap year and spending three months at a Buddhist meditation temple.
Why not try out a new club that seems a bit different and maybe a bit scary? I joined the Jewish Student Union even though I am not Jewish, and this was one of the greatest decisions of my life.
I can tell you today that I am truly happy, and I am living my life to the fullest. We are all going on to bigger, better, things, but the one element that remains constant will be the options that we are given, and whether or not we choose to use them. Class of 2016, Paly has given us a springboard, and we have the privilege of using it. The next time that an opportunity outside your comfort zone arises, think twice.
I challenge you to say why not? And maybe I’ll see you at a yoga class one of these days. Thank you!