Salutary Address – Anson Huang

Hello family, friends, faculty, and soon-to-be graduates.

So this is it. In a few hours, we are going to leave this place, and many of us will never come back. So before that, we’re gonna do one last group bonding activity here at RMHS. That’s exactly what you want, more of those, right?

I want you to turn your head and face the person on your left. Audience too. And because they will also be looking to the left, I want you to really get acquainted with the back of their head. Keep it in mind for a bit. This is important; it’ll be on the test.

And now if you would please do the same for the person on your right.

I want you to imagine your favorite person in the room. Your favorite person in the world, even. Imagine the back of their head.

And now I will present to you the back of my head, for your examination.

Some of you out there are thinking, Oh my god, it took a hundred years but the Reading school system finally drove someone to insanity. But I want you to hear me out, okay?

For most of your lives so far, you have spent an appalling amount of time staring at the backs of other people’s heads. You see them in front of you in classrooms, across the cafeteria, in single file lines. Those of you going on to higher education, you’ll be dealing with them for a little while longer. But after that, you won’t be seeing them quite as much. Unless you become a barber or hairdresser, once you leave, the backs of people’s heads are going to be much less prevalent in your day-to-day lives. So you should soak it in, really get to know the backs of people’s heads while you still can.

Have I made you laugh? I think a little levity takes the edge off what can be a heavy day. Humor’s relaxing, and it helps where I usually find people intimidating. They’re hard to talk to, don’t say what they mean or mean what they say, and they’re all flawed but I don’t always know how. You’re all adults or practically there at this point; you know your own flaws well – and maybe you know others’ flaws, but never to the same extent. I think that’s intimidating. I also used to think other people found me intimidating. You know, the academic Asian kid, seems to lord everything over you. Ooh, spooky. And then I got to RMHS, and fell asleep in class and bombed history tests and tripped in gym and realized that intimidating is probably not the word people use to describe me. I dunno, maybe you do. In which case, I ask you to 1. remember this speech and how ridiculous it is and how ridiculous I am, and 2. to imagine the back of my head.

People say education or death is the great equalizer, to which I say no, no, no: it’s the back of your head. We’ve all got one. It’s so easy to get caught up in people’s facial features, to start thinking about who they are, their good sides, bad sides… But you look at the back of someone’s head and they’re just a person. Maybe the back of their head is really attractive, absolutely stunning, in which case, fine, maybe that’s a little intimidating. But mostly you’re going to see that they’re like you. Like me. Like anyone else on the planet who has a head.

We’re going to leave this place. We’re going to go off into the world and meet other people who have heads, and these people will be intimidating. Where we’re going, we’re starting from the bottom all over again. We’ll have our chosen fields of expertise, and there will be someone, multiple someones who are light years ahead of us. We’ll meet people who will make us feel woefully incompetent at everything we do. So imagine the back of their head. Bring them back down to the mortal plane of existence. And then spin them back around to face you, because most people want to be talked to face to face. You can talk to the back of people’s heads all you want, but if you really want to get things going, remember that you have to turn them back around eventually. Face to face is where all the interesting things happen. That’s how people connect – to be seen for who they are, and communicated with accordingly.

We’re gonna try this group bonding again, but different this time. Face left, face right, whatever, but take in the faces of the people sitting next to you. For some of you this is exceedingly uncomfortable, like Hi, Person I Barely Know, Hi, Stranger, I’m Looking You In The Eyes Because The Wacko Up Front Said So. So if you feel that, turn them around in your head – you did memorize the back of their head, right? I said this would be on the test. Turn them around in your head, and remember that this is a person who is probably as confused as you are, and then face them. Life is so much more fun when we’re able to face each other as we are.

My part has come to a close here, so I will offer you all the back of my head one last time. Goodbye, and thank you.

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