Aspen High valedictorian Maxwell Zimet’s commencement address
Before I start this speech, the administration would like me to make a few announcements:
1. By popular demand, every day will be enchilada day at the cafeteria. (Mmmm… enchiladas).
2. Because there were no snow days this year, there will be only snow days next year. Anyone found at school will be given detention. (Serves you delinquents right…trying to learn).
3. As Josh Berro Appreciation Day was such a big success (Josh was really appreciated), the fourth school day in April every year will be Josh Berro Appreciation Day. (Good work this year everyone. I saw Josh get hugged a lot that day).
4. In the interest of political correctness, students will no longer learn at school, as the knowledge they acquire could cause them to do something that someone will disagree with. (Seriously, Sesame Street got rid of the cookie monster – now he’s just the veggie monster. The cookie monster raised me – he’s one of my role models! This is an affront to enthusiastic cookie eaters everywhere). Students will now be forced to watch “An Inconvenient Truth” through all four years of school.
5. The Supreme Court has ruled that calling Kirk, Andy, and Ian bald violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, so anyone found calling them bald (or any synonym, including shiny) will be expelled. Kraunz is still OK, as he just got a haircut.
I additionally have an announcement of my own that I forgot beforehand, so I’ll just say it now: I am selling ad space in my speech to pay my way through college. I am charging $100 for a simple sentence, $200 for a compound sentence (with $100 extra for each conjunction), and $500 if you have no idea what any of that means. Just come up and whisper it in my ear, and I’ll throw it in when I feel would be most inappropriate.
Now for my speech: I’d first like to clarify our class’s motto – “2010: Best Year Yet” – or something like that, which I think can be incorrectly construed as us gloating. We aren’t the best because we are so great – everyone before us was just terrible.
Now there should be some transition words I don’t feel like adding.
Aspen High School provides what I believe is one of the best high school experiences in the world. We have a work/life balance, as opposed to students going to school in penitentiaries in New York like Stuyvesant and Horace Mann. We live in Aspen, CO, giving us athletic opportunities that others cannot even dream of. My cousin just flew in (and boy are her arms tired!). But seriously, she hasn’t seen snow in four years! We have great XED trips. I tried kayaking on XED, which I probably never would have tried otherwise. It was awesome! Additionally, we have a great athletic program that the entire community takes an interest in. Nowhere else in the world are there programs comparable to those offered to students by the Aspen Institute.
Our school also offers a great edumucation, err…eat-a-cation, err… well we got most of the letters. We have ridiculously devoted and passionate teachers who take an avid interest in the intellectual growth of their students. These teachers’ enthusiasm does not end when class does – the teachers are always available to discuss a cool new idea or to help a student. We have every program imaginable, including gifted and talented, special education, English as a Second Language, speech and debate, model UN, National Honor Society, and International Baccalaureate. We also have the Student Achievement Center, an amazing resource to help students to get work done. I have spent all of my available free periods for the past few years in the SAC. As well, we have modern and quality technology.
Our school is flexible – teachers and administrators bend over backwards to ensure that the needs of every student are met. Skiers’ schedules allow them to miss school to pursue their athletic passions. Independent study courses are available for students to learn online or outside of school hours in order to meet their personal demands. For instance, we have concert or jazz band almost every day before school. I have taken math for the past few years on my own from resources on the MIT website.
The point of all of this is that whatever one’s passions, interests, and needs are, Aspen High School provides every opportunity one could dream of to enable one’s success; however, AHS also provides every opportunity to make bad decisions. It gives every student enough rope to climb up or to hang oneself. Our school’s drug use far exceeds the national average, and absenteeism and cheating are problems that hinder student growth. Bad decisions are not limited to flagrantly stupid choices – they also include not utilizing our school’s amazing resources. If Student Achievement sounds like a fancy new drug, you have not fully utilized our school’s resources. In AHS, like in the rest of life, your choices determine your success.
People ask me why I’m smart, as if intelligence is some cool innate quality one is born with. This marginalizes the academic and removes personal responsibility from the equation. Integral calculus did not decide one day to magically waltz into my head any more than Barry Bonds found some secret to hitting home runs…Well, maybe not the best example. The point is that in learning, there is no way to cheat. What people term ‘intelligence’ is simply the product of years of learning for the fun of learning. As Einstein famously stated, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Learning requires the attitude that school is a job that is not always fun and easy, but from which one reaps great personal rewards. In learning, like in any other endeavor, if the effort is always fun and easy, then something is wrong. It truly astounds and disappoints me that parents and children in developing countries would give anything for education, while some students here ignore the opportunities they are presented with. Especially thanks to the availability of information through the Internet, education today is truly what one makes of it.
I remember one day when the people from Freedom from Chemical Dependency came to meet with our school. They asked why students used drugs and there was a consensus that students used drugs because they were bored. The FCD people said, “Really, because the kids in New York say the same thing.” Everyone was shocked and couldn’t believe that kids in New York were bored. The FCD people said the kids from New York felt the same way about us. I remember sitting in the back of the room thinking, “I’m not bored.” From that day, I took away the realization that you are only as involved in your life as you choose to be. You are responsible for how your life plays out.
Now, even the shiniest diamond has some tiny imperfections. I’d like to make a few comments about how our school could be even better. First is XED. Kirk has been following the Ute for years now, but he has yet to catch any. Maybe we’ll just get him a map. Also, Storm Chasers never made it to Oz. More seriously, our school has invested tremendous resources in its technology, so why don’t we have programming classes?
Some procedural advice for students continuing their education at AHS. Take classes from Jamie and Wheatley before lunch if you want to be at the front of the line. Also, stay away from the cookies and enchiladas: anything that addictive can’t be good for you.
I would like to emphasize my personal gratitude and the gratitude of the entire graduating class for everything this community has done to foster our development. It really does take a village to raise a class as special as the class of 2010. I feel fully prepared for whatever I end up doing during and after college, whether it’s building a robot-mounted death ray or a satellite that can pick your nose from space. Thank you all for making Aspen such a wonderful place to grow up in. In leaving Aspen, we are all losing a wonderful home, but in doing so we are now ready to go out into the world and make a new home.
I’d like to thank our class for being so awesome. I’d like to thank Mr. P, Wheatley, Klug, and anyone else who made me sit down and write my speech. Lastly, I’d like to thank the universe, since we wouldn’t be here without it. Thank you universe for providing the particles in our bodies.
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An inspirational piece of 20th century artist Herbert Bayer is being installed on the staircase next to Aspen City Hall by his granddaughter, Koko.