I graduated from Mandeville High School (class of 1998).
Here is a transcript of a speech I wrote — but since
I was not selected to be the graduation speech-giver — here is the
speech verbatim (that I never gave).
Our journey through these Halls of Learning has been like a journey through the woods. Close your eyes and remember your school experience. Remember your discoveries, remember your first-grade teacher, remember your favorite teachers, remember the evil teacher, remember music class, remember recess, remember dances, remember the bully -- were you the bully? — remember tests, remember labs, remember football games. Remember school like a walk through the woods. Pick the wildflowers of your school memories and don’t forget the poison ivy. Remember the sweetness of the one you loved. Just sit and remember, and it will all come like a stream flowing.
For twelve years, we have been offered a platter of knowledge. We were given the chance to pick from its variety of choice fruits. The Homeric metaphors and the rhythms and workings of the body have been offered us. E=MC^2. Supply and demand. Manifest Destiny. Endless conjugations of foreign language verbs. We will leave these halls with a diploma. It will say more than a graduation certificate. It says we have gone through the treasures of boundless knowledge and survived. We have survived the words. We have been led by Puck, Heathcliff, Virgil, and Prospero. We have been led by Newton, Einstein, Madame Curie, and Michelangelo. We have been led by Franklin, Lincoln, Luther, Douglass, Dix, Charlemagne, and Tubman.
These woods can be dark and brooding like Snow White in the forest with living trees clawing out at us. Other times the woods are bright and copious. Wolves are sparse and goodness is near. Sometimes the skies open and torrents of rainfall, like King Lear in the heath, and cleanses us. We have been nurtured through our journey and now we find ourselves at the edge of the forest, peering out into the wide expanse. We can’t turn back now but must plow forward.
I like to think we are all knights of knowledge on our horses prancing toward the rising sun, singing in our heads the Simon and Garfunkel song, “I’ve got my books and my poetry to protect me. I’m shielded in my armor — safe within my room [or shall we say safe with our diploma?] — I touch no one and no one touches me — I am a rock; I am an island.” It has always given me comfort to know I have all the poets, saints, sinners, builders, politicians, princesses, kings, slaves, and singers behind us. We can carry the Divine Comedy, the Principia Mathematica, and the Holy Scriptures, all tucked beneath our arms — ready to go beyond the woods and into the mountains.
We have so many experiences and emotions that have welled up in us these many years. My English teacher Melanie Plesh said it so correctly, “We are tender creatures, so affected by words and actions from other people.” We have been molded by so many people, words, and actions that have sculpted us. We have watched ourselves develop in our souls spiritually, mentally, and physically. We were babes, now we are mature — nourished by our fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. Thanks for the woods, the cleansing.
Now we can offer the world our pain, our laughter, and tears. We can share our poetry and our logic. I am girded by my friends — my mail is heavy, but I remind myself: “We are the stuff dreams are made of.”