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Class of 2012 Valedictory Address

Greetings:

Administrators of the School District, members of the faculty, staff, guests, proud parents, grandparents, families, friends, and most remarkably, my distinguished fellow colleagues of the graduating Class of 2012:

First, if I may, on behalf of my fellow classmates, I would like to say that we are gratefully indebted to everyone for joining us on this momentous occasion at this fine institution tonight to celebrate the outstanding conclusion of an enduring, but fun journey, a challenging, yet memorable adventure. Thank you!

I am incredibly honored to have this opportunity to share with you a few farewell remarks before we part ways tonight. When I was informed of my privilege as a commencement speaker, I had no idea what I was going to say to you that would make any lasting impressions. Maybe I could tell you that you can be whatever you want to be? After all, in a world where Rebecca Black can get 32 million hits from her singing, and where suicidal birds crashing purposelessly into bricks and exploding in mid-air can catch people’s attention enough to go viral as a video game, anything really is possible. But no, no, that message is too cliché. Perhaps I could tell you that everything will get better from here onward? A glance at the US National Debt quickly dismissed that idea. Believe it or not, the notion of singing this speech had crossed my mind. But then I thought, “You have gone through enough.” So I searched and searched and searched. Naturally, where else would one look for creative inspiration? I found myself going through Disney animated films during the last few weeks of school. I came across the brave Rapunzel in Tangled singing, “All that time never even knowing, Just how blind I've been.” First, although I could not explain it, that song just spoke to me, putting me in my valedictorian mood to start writing this speech. Second, those words echo the mixed emotions I felt during the last few days of school that I had never imagined previously. I was totally “blind” to this strange combination of sensations before I experienced it. As the last few days of the our senior year rapidly approached their conclusion, I found myself almost wishing that everything would slow down just a bit, even though for the past 4 years, I have yearned for this very moment tonight. I am thrilled at the prospect of new and exciting adventures awaiting me. I am so looking forward to finally conducting an experiment that actually works for a change. I cannot wait to at last move on to bigger, better, and cleaner test tubes and beakers. At the same time, I am disheartened to learn that I will not be surrounded by my supportive family every day anymore. I am sad that I will not be in the presence of nurturing educators who care for their students as young adults for the past many years. I feel nostalgic that I will no longer be able to walk these fine halls every day and see all of your smiling faces every morning. It seems as though it was yesterday when we celebrated the school’s 50th anniversary of the proud tradition of excellence. It still is fresh in our memory when we welcomed a new principal to this institution who has served well for the past 4 years. It is as if it was just yesterday when we all gathered face-to-face as an entire class. Actually, it was yesterday at the senior breakfast. Vivid in our recollection still is that inheritance of a painful and damaging budget cut. But instead of taking it with bitterness and complaint, we took it as a challenge. And proudly, we as a class proclaim the highest math score in this school's history for nearly a decade now, since 2003. Our reading and writing scores are among the best since 2006. And for science, we still hold the record for the highest score since the inauguration of the test in 2008. We took the budget cut as a challenge, and we met it with radiance and flair. And that is just the character of the YS Class of 2012. Through our time here, we have witnessed the introduction of two AP courses, the creation of many new clubs, the construction of a brand new elementary school, the addition of Macbooks, the renovation of athletic facilities, and the reinvention of the Trojan spirit. We have seen this institution in all its glory grow and improve as it nurtures our own personal development as scholars, athletes, writers, scientists, artists, musicians, architects, and most importantly, as responsible citizens. With fond memories, we will surely miss this school.

As we reflect on our past experiences tonight to formulate our attitude and expectations for the future, I want to share with you a personal story that shaped my development as a scholar and a person for the past many years. When I was 10 years old, I was destined to leave behind the only environment that I knew, the only language that I could speak, and the only culture that I was familiar with. Worst of all, who knew how long it would be until I could see my beloved grandmother again, a strong individual who, alongside my parents, has raised me to be who I am today? As departure time neared, my apprehension heightened when I understood that my homeland, Vietnam, was about to become a distant country nearly 10,000 miles away. The world stopped for a moment. “Mom, where are we?” was my unanswered question when we landed in America. Suddenly, my grief was now overshadowed by fear. Everything was different! We, my dad, my mom, my brother, and I, were surrounded by so many people at the Chicago Airport, but we felt the presence of no one. The people, the language, the social expectations, the food, and the list goes on and on, were all abruptly new.

For months, I was in a state of mental instability, drowned in confusion and in fear. But what was I supposed to do? I missed my grandmother and my home dearly. Although my grandfather, uncles, and aunts here in America tried their best to welcome us to the new land, grief still dominated our presence. So life passively continued in hopes and prayers—hoped that this nightmare would end, and prayed for brighter prospects.

Without a doubt, the first few years in America were exceedingly difficult, both academically and personally. However, through challenges comes growth as I have learned so many lessons that continue to shape my personal character today. One of the many lessons that I learned is the importance of always remembering one’s roots. At the end of the day, it is truly a matter of personal identity to remember where we come from and what that means to us. Knowing who we are allows us to reach deep to the bottom of our hearts to find those concepts, those values, those principles that define our personal philosophy and guide us on the many paths of our lives. As we probe deeper and deeper into our existence, we find that at the core of our common threshold is a sense of unity and fraternity. That realization empowers us to extol and commemorate the crucial importance of compassion. What is more, searching our hearts and minds, we will come across so many contributions of others who enriched our lives and aided us in our journeys. I do not suppose that any of us here has gone through an average of 17 years of life without the bitter taste of disappointment. I know personally I have had many times. There are times when one is just ready to lose faith, when nothing in the world seems to matter. That candle of hope is flickering in the face of windy adversity, ready to blow out that any unpredictable moment, at which point all will lost. But please know that adversities will end, and that stormy nights will pass to invite the warmth of a sunny morning again. Please know that there is always this network of support consisted of individuals who care and love us. Although they may not be physically with us on every step of the way, keep them in our thoughts as they provide us with the support we need to make it through. They have done so much, and they deserve our utmost, sincerest appreciation. With that said, please allow me to express a few words of gratitude to my parents, grandparents, and family tonight in my native tongue:

Con thành tâm c?m ?n Bà Ngo?i, Ông Ngo?i, Ba, M?, Anh Hai, và t?t c? gia ?ình ?ã di?u d?t con trong nh?ng n?m qua, ?ã ?? con khi con ngã, và an ?i con trong nh?ng lúc khó kh?n. Con c?m ?n Bà Ngo?i, Ba, và M? ?ã t?n tâm nuôi n?ng con nên ng??i, d?y d? con l?i ?n ti?ng nói. S? thành công c?a con hôm nay là nh? có Bà Ngo?i, Ông Ngo?i, Ba, M?, và gia ?ình.

Trong Kinh ??i Báo Ph? M?u Tr?ng n, ??c Ph?t ?ã d?y:

?n cha ngh?a m? m??i ph?n ph?i tin | ?i?u th? nh?t gi? gìn thai giáo
M??i tháng tr??ng châu ?áo m?i b? | Th? hai sanh ?? g?m ghê
Ch?u ?au ch?u kh? m?i-mê tr?m ph?n | ?i?u th? ba thâm ân nuôi d??ng
C?c ??n ?âu b?n v?ng ch?ng lay | Th? t? ?n ??ng u?ng cay
?? dành bùi ng?t ?? ??y cho con | ?i?u th? n?m l?i còn khi ng?
??t m? n?m khô ráo ph?n con | Thú sáu sú n??c nhai c?m
Mi?n con no ?m ch?ng nh?n ch?ng ghê | ?i?u th? b?y không chê ô u?
Gi?t ?? d? c?a tr? không phi?n | Th? tám ch?ng n? chia riêng
N?u con ?i v?ng cha phi?n m? lo | ?i?u th? chín mi?n con sung-s??ng
D?u ph?i mang nghi?p ch??ng c?ng cam | Tính sao có l?i thì làm
Ch?ng màng t?i l?i b? giam b? c?m | ?i?u th? m??i ch?ng ham trau chu?t
Dành cho con các cu?c thanh nhàn | Th??ng con nh? ng?c nh? vàng
?n cha ngh?a m? sánh b?ng thái s?n

C?u nguy?n cho Bà Ngo?i, Ông Ngo?i, Ba, M?, Anh Hai, và t?t c? gia ?ình ???m nhu?n m?a Pháp, t?i di?t ph??c sanh, B?-?? tam t?ng tr??ng, trí tánh th??ng minh, Bát Nhã khoa kai, ??o tâm b?t th?i.

Nam Mô ??i Hi?u M?c Ki?n Liên B? Tát

I hope that you too will sincerely thank your parents and grandparents tonight, give them a hug for the night, be kind to them tomorrow, and keep them and their wisdoms in your good thoughts always, wherever you go. Know that their love for us is unbounded and invaluable. And our love for them is the same.

Of course, we cannot forget those who have invested in us one of the greatest assets of humankind--knowledge. If I may speak on my colleagues’ behalf, members of our wonderful faculty, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Perhaps we will not remember that lovely Jane Shaffer style, but we will carry with us that analytical ability you have taught. Perhaps we can no longer recall the name of the 110th element on the periodic table, which by the way, as of November 2011, has been named Darmstadtium, but we will be able to utilize our problem-solving skills in time of need. Most of us probably have forgotten the president of Barbados, but we certainly will not forget the elements of an effective debater. I am confident to say that few remember the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra, but we will undoubtedly know how to use the TI-84 to our aid. We will remember you as caring adult mentors who have not only monitored us academically, but have watched us grow as individuals. We have made it here tonight, but not without you. Please accept our sincerest gratitude for all you have done!

Administrators and staff of the School District—Your behind-the-scene work is the reason this building stands tall and proud. We cannot thank you enough for your dedication to keep this school a safe and educationally-enriching environment, creating an atmosphere suitable for the fulfillment of the mission to “educate, challenge, and prepare students to shape the future.”

To all guests gathered tonight to celebrate our special occasion, we are honored to have your presence. Thank you!

My fellow classmates, the fact that you are sitting here tonight is a living testament that all of you are mature, bright, and perceptive young men and women. Thus, there was little that I could say tonight to send you out with any knowledge greater than the wisdoms that you have already acquired in your lives thus far. However, I hope that the messages I imparted tonight may serve as small reminders in some capacity of your post-secondary journey. I truly hope that we will forever remember who we are, and what we value most. It does not matter when, where, or what I will be, I will always be a Vietnamese; I will always value my cultural heritage and religious devotion as they guide me through life. I will always be a proud son of my parents and a proud grandson of my grandparents. Let those principles guide us through both pleasant and unpleasant phases of our lives. Allow that root to grow and develop alongside with our personal advancement so indivisibly intertwined that it becomes an inseparable entity from our thoughts and our actions. Let this tree, nurtured by compassion and appreciation, grow to become a proud member in the forest of humanity. Wherever your calling takes you after tonight, I wish nothing but the best of luck. Be proud of your accomplishments, and be true to who you are!

In the wise words of Dragon Warrior Po from Kung Fu Panda, “There is no charge for awesomeness.” So, I hope that you will agree with me when I state that no matter where we will be or what we will become, we will always be proud members of that awesome Class of 2012.

Congratulations the Senior High School Class of 2012! We have made it!



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