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Valedictorian’s Address by top-ranked student at Malden High graduation

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By Ryan Li

MHS Class of 2023 Valedictorian


Good evening, everyone. My name is Ryan Li, and I want to congratulate everyone for getting to this point, because, wow, we made it. Beginning with our first steps up that staircase in 2019, through two years of isolation and limited physical attendance, to finally solidifying all those connections we made online our senior year, we survived the tutorial known as high school.

However, who would have thought that our four years would pass by in the blink of an eye. To all my fellow graduates here, raise your hand if it feels the same way, how time passed by in the blink of an eye (wait for audience). To be honest, I felt that way, and I cannot believe that it ended all so quickly when there were still so many lessons to learn, quests to complete, and joy to be had. But the past is in the past, and now we look to the present, and the fact that we are graduating today.

When I sat down to think about how to write this speech, I thought about how I could bore you for eight minutes. However, I decided against doing that, because even I would not want to speak for that long. So here it is, the speech that you are all waiting for, about the future.

But before we speed off into the next sunrise, I want you to look at those on your left, and those on your right, and reflect on the past. All those bonds we created, all those friendships we made, and all those thoughts we kept, do not lose them. No matter if five, seven, or twenty years have passed, remember that there will always be a happy memory to return to. Our class has triumphed in one of the weirdest times, made normal what the world experienced was abnormal, and our precious memories will be our strength that continues to make the world a better place.

However, these abnormal times also serve as a lesson: moving forward does not mean moving alone. Just because we triumphed through the toughest years of our life through an unforgettable endeavor does not mean that we can conquer problems alone. I will not talk about the current state of the world, but remember to keep your mind open, and believe that there are others close around you that will come to your aid, no matter if you possess disagreeing opinions. Pushing forward is a very lonely adventure, but finding the right friends that will always support you makes that journey ever nicer.

It might seem tough at first, but I urge you to try striking up conversations, talk about the basics of life, and find a connection that you can create a lifelong bond on. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that states, 人不可貌相,海水不可斗量 (ren bu ke mao xiang, hai shui bu ke dou liang): A person cannot be judged by their appearance in the same token as the sea cannot be measured with a bucket. You cannot just judge a person by their appearance because their character is as vast as the ocean and their ideas as diverse as its species.

My parents, and especially my mother, came to the United States with the belief of the American dream. They worked hard, learned English, bought a house, and built up two successful restaurants in their name. And I did not understand until recently that they were more than just caring parents; they were hardworking people that continued to build a better future despite everything else being thrown at them. And I thank them for that.

And fellow graduates, that is what we all have. An untapped potential that is waiting to gush out whenever we achieve something with a goal in mind. It doesn’t matter if it is art, STEM, or trade skills because the world needs all of them. Instead, the key is to find what excites you, what you know you will continue doing no matter what. Thus, I also urge you to be confident, to take those risks, and to find whatever you believe to work for you, and achieve it.

And with that, I want to say, good luck on your journey. Wherever life takes you, no matter if it is a different dimension from the overworld that we know now, take it one block at a time, and always think before you take that next path. After all, building a better self through better decisions means a better lifestyle and a better future.

But before I end, I want to thank all the teachers and students that suffered from my antics. I want to thank Malden High School for four years of education, and I want to thank all the adults who get to see their child move on to their next stage in life. And remember, Class of 2023, be the best you can be, no matter where you are in the world. Congratulations, and I look forward to seeing you on the other side.

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