Hello, Class of 2018 you look so beautiful from up here. First of all, I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to all of our teachers, parents, faculty, and peers, it wouldn’t be the same without you all. And a special shoutout to our honorary class of 2018 graduate Mr. Bakr for giving us the best four years together. We will miss you more than you know, thank you.
For the past month, I’ve tried to figure out and accept the reality of all of this. The fact that you have blessed me with the opportunity to lead, to make this speech, and to close out our four years together. But as I was thinking about the magnitude of where we stand (or sit), I couldn’t help but think back to our humble beginnings as innocent little freshmen or even beyond as wide-eyed sixth graders, and for me, as a naive fifth grader. I remember a sixth grader who had not yet discovered that the bowl cut was out of style, who was afraid to talk to girls and kept his feelings to himself, who was moved to accelerated English but acted dumb as a facade to the cool kids, an attempt to fit in. Who the teacher made sit next to the loudest boy in class as an attempt to dilute his personality (Thank you James Henry). Who kept his head down and let the world fly by him. I remember a seventh grader, who had just begun to make friends and discover the awful truth in becoming self-aware. Who still struggled to find his place in school, unsure of what his purpose was. I remember a freshman, wide-eyed and determined to reach for the stars.
Unsatisfied with who he was, but undoubtedly sure of his potential, he faced all of his fears and decided to affirm to himself the person that he wanted to become. “I’m a happy person” he spoke, “vote for me and I’ll make this school a happy place”. And you did, you did vote for me. But that was just the beginning. I remember surviving Edline and the zika virus, and when Chipotle had E Coli, that was a rough time for all of us. I remember all the snowdays and the ironic excitement of picking up the phone and hearing, “Hello, this is superintendent of schools John Doherty calling.” But on a more serious note, I remember a sophomore who began to realize that the role of class president was not for himself. Who took a long look at the people around him and realized that it did not matter how happy he was, it was about the “awesome” people and class that surrounded him, it was about you. Who spoke about their opportunities and potentials and genuinely wanted to inspire a class to chase their dreams. Who spent many nights twisting and turning in the knots of his blanket, because he wanted his peers to see what he saw in them.
Whose mind was constantly occupied with a desire to share his experience, even if it were just to one person. I remember this year. I remember people constantly calling us the class with no spirit, the ones where enthusiasm was lost on. Sure, we were the obedient ones who didn’t cause trouble but on the last day of school that changed too. Soon enough we became uncontrollable, and our moniker became “administration’s headache”. But as I thought about all of this, I was infuriated because these past four years and three years as class president have taught me that that opinion is the opposite of who we are.
Many times this year, I have been discouraged by the events around us. There were times where I felt like our education followed Paulo Freire’s banking concept of teaching. And, to those who have no idea what that is, it is the concept that students are defined by their teachers, that the purpose of secondary education is for teachers to fill their students with useful information, only for students to regurgitate it on command.
Now if that sounds familiar or beneficial to you, I’m sorry. The Banking Concept is reflective of an oppressive society, not the diverse and growing one that we should embody. So who are we? Are we mere products of our teachers? Are we mere members of an oppressive society? Are we defined by the opinions and judgments of others? Are we unenthusiastic and spiritless? No, class of 2018 we are The Class of 2018.
We are a class of free-thinkers and individuals who will not shut up and regurgitate information, we are a people who will use our education and apply it to the world we are about to encounter, who will reach for the ceiling and strive for the roof and try not to get caught again, for we define who we are. And, as of today, we are the greatest class to ever exist. So as we enter into the real world, we must remember that we have a voice and we will not stand to let others speak for us.
But no matter what experience high school was for you, no matter how great or disappointing it has been, one day as future generations look up to you for your wisdom, in awe of how old you are, we’ll proudly say “hell yeah, I was class of 2018”.
So I leave you with this, I remember a class who graduated as one of the brightest to ever do it at Reading Memorial High School. Who stood up for what they believed in and paved their own paths. Who spoke up in a broken and divided world that needed them the most. And who exceeded all the expectations of others.
So go, class of 2018 remember who you are and where you came from, but note that all of this is just rising action for who we will be.
And I’ll end with this quote from The Office, this ones by Darryl. “Everyday when I came into work all I wanted to do was leave, so why in the world does it feel so hard to leave now?”
I will miss you class of 2018, thank you for everything.