By Olivia Chan
Class of 2022 Salutatorian
Good afternoon to all the family, friends, classmates, teachers, administration, and everyone in between, welcome to the graduation ceremony of the Class of 2022 and thank you for being here. It is my greatest honor to be here as your salutatorian today. I’m sure that the Class of 2022 would have liked to see someone they actually know on the stage, but sorry, you’re stuck with me. Going into writing this speech, I was tempted to steal the jokes in the speeches I saw online, but then I realized that I wouldn’t be able to pull them off anyway.
I’ll save everyone the trouble of hearing the whole COVID spiel because I think everyone is tired of hearing about it. If it must be mentioned, I’ll let someone else do it, so I’ll skip that.
Well, what I really want to focus on today is the journey that we’ve all been taken on through our high school career. I’m sure we all started high school as clueless freshmen without a clear path in life and with a scrambled web of social relationships. So I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the people who were central to this journey.
To my teachers: You have inspired me to do so much. There are those who fostered my love for history, those who made every biology class fun, those whose passion for math almost infected me, and those who helped me work through my fear of public speaking. Though, I think that last one still needs some work because my knees are knocking into each other right now.
Once upon a time, I talked to one of my middle school teachers, and she complained about how when everyone gets up on the stage they start talking about all their high school teachers, but what about the middle school teachers? You know who you are. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten. I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to all of my teachers – elementary, middle, and high school – for shaping me into the person I am today. You guys did a great job, but unfortunately even you can’t fix my scoliosis, my myopia, my terrible athletic ability, and how I forget how to do basic math. I don’t think anyone can.
Now, we as teenagers like to talk about independence and how we’ll be able to tackle the world without the nagging of others, but I want to highlight the importance of the people we’ve met around us. Without the friends that I met in high school, I would still be the teenager who wouldn’t dare talk to a teacher even if I split my head open. I would still be the teenager who thought that talking about my feelings and anxieties was a form of weakness.
They are the people who have been by my side when I had no one else to turn to. They are the people who were willing to listen to me vent when I had sunk to my lowest point. For that, I am eternally grateful for their patience and their influence on me to turn into a more social person – a person who is willing to dance like a chicken with their head cut off at prom. I’m still not perfect at communication, as you can probably tell, and I’m still in the process of trying to break completely out of my shell, but that’s all part of the process, a process I couldn’t have done without the people around me. I’m sure that many of you can say the same about a precious friend or group of friends.
I’ve talked about how both teachers and friends have helped us get through these past years and how they’ve helped mold us into the people we are now, but there is one other person who often goes unrecognized: yourself.
I’ve met so many kind people during the past few years, but I’ve noticed one problem and I’m guilty of this as well: the problem of self-worth.
Despite how amazing these people are in my eyes, they don’t see themselves the same way. We as a class have overcome so much, whether it was the pandemic, family issues, financial struggles, or internal strife. We have shown determination and unity in the face of adversity.
I’ve talked about myself in this speech, but this day is about each and every one of you – about all of your current achievements and the achievements you will reach in the future.
Many of the people I know give themselves a hard time because they think that they could have done better. Our worst critics are often ourselves, and we can’t see all the good qualities that other people notice in us.
Being sappy isn’t my style at all, but I think I can let it go just this once because it’s graduation. Reconcile with your past self, forgive your past mistakes and look fondly on how cringey you think you used to be. Appreciate your current self, always strive to be better in the future, but do not discount who you are now and what you have achieved. You are not a singular embarrassing or disappointing action, you are the result of all of your actions, forged from trials of fires and determination of steel.
Whether we’re the best of friends, classroom acquaintances, or perfect strangers, the fact that you are right here, right now, is proof to me that you are enough. Even though we might not know each other, your hard work is evident to me because you are here, you are graduating.
Even though these words are cliche and I feel awkward saying them to all of you, I think that everyone doesn’t hear these words enough. Sometimes they’re the words that you need to hear. A lot of the time they’ve been words that I needed to hear but didn’t.
You are worth it. You are worth all the love you receive. You deserve all the fortune that comes your way.
Remember all of the people who helped you get to where you are now: your family that has acted as your backbone (shoutout to my mom, dad, and brother, cough), your teachers that have supported you, and the friends that you have made countless memories with. But also remember to acknowledge your own role in your success. Today as you step up to receive your diploma, bask in that moment because it is fully yours. Whatever you do after today, I know you’ll walk on a path of success. Thank you.