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By , reynoldsburg, OH

Today, I spoke.

I spoke to my graduating class of over 400 students. I spoke to thousands of attendants and administrators and teachers. I spoke the words that I wrote, and that the principals chose to be spoken. I spoke.

Class of 2017, I hope you listened. Some of you I called my friends, and in return you called me painful and slanderous names. Some of you I didn't know at all, and in return you crafted rumors about me, designed perfectly to spread like wildfire. Some of you called me a try-hard, and overachiever, or opted for more profane names. I'm sorry you felt that way. I'm sorry I am your salutatorian, and it was me who gave you life advice and encouragement today.

Some of you knew me. None of you knew I've spent the past four years of high school overcoming generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and panic disorder. None of you knew the hours spent in cognitive-behavioral therapy, or the fight to find the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor that my body would accept. You just didn't know me like you thought you did, did you?

So yes, some of you called me malicious things, not truly knowing what I was battling. You called me a try-hard without knowing the things I was trying the hardest to hide. Giving a speech to thousands of familiar faces and strangers alike is not something I could have even thought about 1 year ago, so don't try to tell me how you feel about my efforts. I am proud of myself whether you are or not. And, of course, some of you called me a Puritan for my beliefs. I hope that one day you will experience the strength that Christ gave me today.

Today, class of 2017, I gave a speech wishing you a successful life. Despite the hatred you poured on me, despite your wishes for my failure, my speech was genuine. I wish you the best of luck, but more than anything, I wish for you to learn how to treat people. We are all broken, we all face battles on our own. It is the grace of God that I overcame mine. Go make oceans out of pond water, graduates, and please, love people relentlessly along the way.

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