Aspen High valedictorian Kevin Mehall’s commencement address
Before I begin, I’d like to thank my grandparents who traveled from Denver and from Michigan to be here with me today. I’d like to thank my parents and brothers for always supporting and encouraging me.
At Aspen High School, we have some of the most dedicated and inspirational teachers. I would like to thank you for the impact you have made on my life.
Lastly, I’d like to thank my friends. My high school experience wouldn’t have been the same without you. You’re such a great group of people.
When preparing this speech, I e-mailed two of my uncles who were also valedictorians here at Aspen High School a generation ago, and asked them for ideas. Unfortunately neither had a copy of their speech, so I had to write my own.They did have some good, profound and moving advice: short, is good — shorter is better. You can thank them later.
Fellow classmates, Congratulations.
Here we are ending a significant chapter in our lives.
We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve worked hard. We’ve spent sleepless nights finishing assignments … or more often than not, chatting with friends on Facebook until realizing that an assignment (or a graduation speech) was due in 4 hours. (By the way, teachers and parents, those experiences helped us master the art of accomplishing tasks under pressure– a skill that will become very useful later in life, I’m sure.)
We’ve stressed over grades, losing a lot of sanity. Those pesky, arbitrary symbols that seemed to rule our lives…. What did they get us? The chance to wear these….. fashionable gowns? Those grades that we worked so hard for– or didn’t– are not what we’ll remember. They’re simply too arbitrary, too limiting,yet too important to ignore. Grades don’t measure our growth or what we achieved. They don’t measure our friendships, our character, or our ingenuity. Ex Ed, lunchroom conversations, and athletic endeavors had more impact onshaping who we are today.
Now, here we are, ready to open a new chapter in our lives. We are faced with endless choices. We can be bystanders– or we can get up and do something. We have the power to make a difference in the world; we just have to choose to try.
Without people like you and me asking questions and choosing to investigate, we wouldn’t have electricity, airplanes and the Internet.We’d still be sitting in the dark. We need to know when to break away from the structure and create something new.
It’s not the facts you memorize that matter; it’s the connections you create between the facts that make the impact. This is not something that can be measured by a test and assigned a grade.We need to take the initiative, not just follow along.To quote John Cage, “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” It’s up to us to to make change where none have dared.
We’ll face challenges. It won’t be easy.Closed minded views sometimes make it difficult to move forward.Greed often takes precedence over what is right. Generations before ours have looked the other way while destroying our environment.It’s up to us to do something.
We all leave here with unique talents and unlimited possibilities. We, the Aspen High School Class of 2010, can shape the world. We need to be unafraid to explore.
We are getting a diploma today, but we are taking with us so much more. Our hard work and our experiences have made us ready for the next step in our lives. We each get to choose what to do with it. Dare to dream.
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