When someone discovers this one tidbit from my past, there are several usual responses.
What? You’re smart!? Ummm…I’d like to think so…
Oh, you’re one of those people… Yep, a nerd, I guess.
No, really, you’re smart? Gee, thanks. Is it really that unbelievable?
That’s right. I was a high school valedictorian.
Please try to contain your gasps, eye rolling, and snickers. Over-achievers have feelings, too, you know.
In honor of the graduation season that is upon us, I climbed up in the attic and retrieved my valedictory speech that I delivered on that monumental May day in 1999. Here it is, written with all the wisdom of a seventeen-year-old kid:
Tonight is a very significant milestone in all of our lives. My classmates and I now stand before you as high school graduates. I can remember entering my freshman year and thinking this day would never come, and now, looking back, it seems that high school flew by. High school was not only a time of academic learning, but we also learned many life lessons. I would like to take a few moments to share some of the things that I learned in the past four years.
First of all, what I’ve learned through being selected as valedictorian is that anyone can achieve any goal if they stay focused and committed. Remember to pray and make God a part of everything you do. He hears your prayers, and He will answer them. My encouragement to you is to set your goals high, and stay focused and committed, and work with your whole heart at achieving your goals. In the end, it will not matter if you win an award or if you are recognized for your efforts, but you will be successful knowing you have done your best.
Another important lesson that I’ve learned is to stand up for what is right. Sometimes it is difficult to stand alone, but it is always more rewarding than going along with the crowd. Standing up for what is right is not always fun, but you will become a stronger person, your character will be defined, and God will bless you. You will realize who your real friends are, and you will become less dependent on other people. I challenge you to stand up for what is right and good.
I have also learned not to take for granted people who love you. I am proud to say that my parents are some of my best friends, and I cherish the relationship that I have with them. They have been an encouragement to me throughout my entire life. It is almost scary to think that I am graduating high school and I’m not a little girl anymore. My parents have told me they love me every single day since I can remember, and that has made a huge impression on me. I encourage you to always make sure to tell the people that are important to you that you love them.
I have also learned not to take for granted a solid Christian education. We have been blessed with a sheltered environment, godly teachers, and constant spiritual guidance. It is easy to forget how blessed we really are to be sheltered from the world, until you watch the news and see the terrible things that are happening in communities and in the schools of America. Thank God for Christian teachers who really care about their students as individuals, and strive to help us meet our full potential academically and spiritually. They deserve our heartfelt thanks.
It is my privilege and duty as valedictorian to wish you all a final farewell. I pray that God will bless you all, and please pray for us as we endeavor on new roads in life. Thank you all for coming to take part in this memorable evening. And now, on behalf of the Senior Class of 1999 at Sumter Christian School, I wish you all farewell.
I’ll give you a moment, because I know that you probably need one after that inspiring speech. Even though the entire thing is a grammatical nightmare and is severely lacking in substance, I know you are touched.
I guess they didn’t teach split infinitives at my high school.
My original intention with this post was to share what my actual speech said and then to write a new speech, written by the Mandy of today. I didn’t really remember what I said all those years ago. But, you know, now that I’m reading over it and considering the long hours I tormented over this speech back then (knowing full well that I was ill-equipped in my inexperience to say anything truly credible), I think it’s not truly all that bad.
I was going to make fun of graduate Mandy’s naivety. I was going to give her a more realistic picture of the future, of what the real world is like.
But, I can’t do it. I can’t tell young Mandy that sometimes doing your best isn’t good enough. I can’t tell her that her speech was straight out of a Hallmark card (a poorly written one, at that). And I sure can’t tell her that many of the godly teachers she thanked so sincerely would forsake their own standards in outrageous ways.
Because when it comes down to it, graduate Mandy was hopeful, grateful, and, yes, rather naive. But that’s okay. No need to rain on her parade – life will (and did!) take care of that.
So what if I was an overachiever (nerd?) with a sub-standard, shallow speech? It doesn’t matter. I stood up there on that stage and delivered a speech from my heart. I thanked the people who were important to me and was enthusiastic and hopeful about the future.
I’m just glad I learned how to write in college!