I’m afraid we took an incomplete for this school year and are only now getting to posting about the fine graduation speeches made by Wellesley High Class of 2017 President Tony Shu and class speaker Nadine Richardson. As Shu says, his poetry-focused speech is better heard than read, so we’ve included both the transcript and video of his speech. We’ve also published the transcript of Richardson’s speech, and a link to Wellesley Public Media’s video of the entire ceremony.
Congrats again to the WHS Class of 2017!
WHS 2017 Class President Tony Shu’s speech:
Good afternoon Class of 2017 and welcome to the 148th Commencement of Wellesley High School! My name is Tony Shu and I am honored to have served as president of this incredible class. You’ve worked so hard these past 4 years, so now is the time to sit back, relax, and just enjoy these last moments we have together as Wellesley High School students.
Today is not only a day of celebration, but also a day of immense gratitude. I would like to thank Wellesley Superintendent Dr. Lussier, our principal, Dr. Chisum, and our assistant principals, Mr. Bender, Mr. Kelton, and Ms. Novogroski. Additionally, Ms. Novogroski and our class advisors Ms. Lord and Ms. Marquedant have spent these last four years helping us make the most out of our class activities and we are grateful for their advice and enthusiasm. Thank you to all the teachers for sharing your life wisdoms, words of encouragement, and your smiles in addition to your knowledge. And thank you to our custodians, secretaries, and all the staff who ensure that our school runs smoothly. Finally, I want to thank all of our families and parents for your unparalleled generosity to our class and your unconditional support of your children.
As you may know, I’ve written poems for every class election, so keeping with tradition, I’d like to share one final poem:
We sometimes define our years spent at Wellesley High by our major class events.
We can track our evolution from freshman semi shy kids to classy prom ladies and gents.
And today we’ve arrived at our graduation.
We’ve waited for all of these days with anticipation,
Perhaps with the expectation that we will leave changed, accomplished, and thus happier.
Although our hearts right now might be beating with eager joy, and rightfully so,
when we go and depart from these moments, will this joy last?
We certainly have treasured memories in tow, but will we feel the same pleasure when these times have passed?
I realized that sometimes in school, my happiness was dependent on others:
It became linked to numbers on paper, the words of peers, success of class events, and other external factors.
So after these four years,
let’s all take a look in our mirrors,
and each one of us should ask:
Have we found happiness at last?
I looked up what great minds had to say about happiness and learned that asking if we’ve “found” it might itself be an instance of defeat: As poet James Oppenheim said: “The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.”
Then, perhaps happiness isn’t something to be stumbled upon, or something to be found, something given, or something bound to the outcomes of actions or events like this.
Perhaps happiness stems from what we already do have [under our feet] and not what we still have to do.
For Albert Einstein, happiness was not another discovery or another calculation to compute; happiness to him was “a table, a chair, [and] a bowl of fruit.”
From these two we can learn that happiness can be created from consistent gratitude for what we have both large and small.
I myself never truly took this to heart until I made a silly mistake one day at the beach.
I dropped my iPhone and it fell into the water.
And by drop it I actually mean I hopped into the ocean with my phone in my pocket – and then swam – for 20 minutes.
In a panic, I went home and stuck that wet phone in a bag of rice.
And I let it sit overnight.
But when I brought it to the store, they solemnly said my phone was no more.
In an instant, I felt lost and despondent.
And I went phoneless for a week before I received the replacement.
When I did receive that iPhone 5s, identical to the one I had possessed, I cheered, I danced, I professed my love for the world because I felt blessed.
Even though for years I had felt nothing owning that phone.
As we move on with our lives, it is important to remember that we don’t have to first lose these prizes, like our phones, our health, our families, before we pause and realize that what we have right now is already more than enough to thrive.
By wasting time waiting for more achievements or accolades, we only evade the happiness that already exists right now.
But before I commit to this idea that happiness can grow from a cognizant changing of perspective,
I want to emphasize that this does not diminish or delegitimize our respective challenges.
We can’t control the challenges life throws at us and sometimes we can’t control our mood.
But we can all learn to reclaim power over our reaction and our attitude.
Adversity is not antithetical to happiness and difficulties are not negative reflections of our own abilities.
Facing new challenges means we are trying new things, they show that we are growing.
So, when faced with adversity, let’s promise to tell ourselves to reframe these situations and view them as stepping stones to our growth: Like how a ruined phone is helping me become a more grateful dude.
Or how my nut allergies, pushed me to learn to cook my own food.
Or how almost passing out while climbing walls in adventure class, helped me fight my fear of heights.
Yes, you need that stark contrast in your life, the light and the dark, or else happiness will lose its meaning.
And yes we are all human and sometimes we glitch and lose control of our thoughts and minds.
But that’s okay. Because happiness is not as simple as a light switch and it’s not something we have to force or drill into place, it is a habit and a skill to be developed like any other that we learn in school.
So let’s choose to prioritize happiness over money, fame, power, or whatever and to talk more and think more about what happiness means to us.
For each and every one if us is inherently, unequivocally worthy of happiness. But unlike our diplomas today, happiness is not something that will be handed to us.
It’s been a fantastic four years. Congratulations Class of 2017!
WHS 2017 Class Speaker Nadine Richardson’s speech:
Hello classmates, teachers, families, and friends. We have grown and experienced so much over the last 13 years of schooling, and tomorrow it will be over. Completely and finally over. Crazy! Absolutely mad — but true.
When I walked into the high school the first day of freshman year, the possibilities seemed endless — I could do anything, I could be anybody. I had this chance to morph into someone new, and start high school as a new person. The whole summer, I thought about the perfect outfit to mark my transition to Nadine 2.0. I planned how I would walk, stand, and talk, starting then. And when that coveted day arrived and I walked through those double doors, nothing about me had changed, aside from a few of my outfits. I had worked so hard and planned everything to a T, but my goal of going from tomboy to girly girl in the blink of an eye remained out of my reach. My sense of self couldn’t be changed overnight, nor could my questionable fashion sense.
When we became high schoolers, we were enthusiastic and wide-eyed. That enthusiasm may have pushed you to sign up for a sport that you had never played before, or take a leaflet from every single booth at the club fair, or, like me, audition for EVERYTHING. I honestly think I spent the entire fall practicing for, going to, or waiting to hear about an audition. And after all of that work putting myself out there over and over again I only got into one thing — Legally Blonde. They took every single person who showed up, but in my mind, this was all I needed. I had a chance to be involved. And even though I hate pink, I put on my sorority girl costume and left my heart on that stage. After that, my involvement grew, and by senior year, I became an intensive student for acting, choir, and band, I student-directed a show, and I became Nadine 2.0 in a way I had never expected.
Who you are today is most certainly not the person that walked through those two sets of doors with me freshman year. We are all better for it. The change was inevitable and your power in it was limited. Where you invested yourself and found success shaped how you changed. You became and will continue to become you, and the you who sits in a seat labeled with your name, graduating college, or walking into your first day of a real, full-time job, will be absolutely different from the you that exists in these chairs today.
Talents like, Nikola Tesla, Dizzy Gillespie, and Serena Williams did not come upon success as a four leaf clover plucked from fields of green, but rather by time spent hard at work. It took truckloads of caring to fuel late nights practicing and perfecting their craft to make the impact which is visible to us today. They were driven by unstoppable passion and that is why we have not forgotten their names. I am not saying everybody sitting in front of me will become famous — I am saying how selfish of you to deprive the world of your 100%. These people put in the work to be the best version of themselves — this benefited them and the whole world after. It doesn’t matter what you decide to do with your life, but pick something you care about.
If you have ever walked through the halls of the Louvre with the masterworks lining the walls, the elegant silhouette of The Winged Victory and the brazen eyes of the Mona Lisa — you would know they are physical symbols of individuals passion. Hundreds of years down the line, every single day, they inspire young artists to create. Passions furthering passion. You may find your life’s passion right away or it may take you a decade to discover, but however long it takes, it is worth finding the thing you can commit wholeheartedly to. For we might reach out and influence people we have never met – just by caring for what we do.
With the diplomas we are handed, we are also handed opportunities. With this achievement we have unlocked so many paths for our lives to follow. There are a million “you 3.0s” you could become. Now knowing that where we invest ourselves shapes us, we are ready to choose the right path, the path that matters most to us. We will walk through more sets of double doors with a new set of people and a new sense of conviction. And again, we will come out changed.