Five years ago when I came to Williston, 2017 seemed like generations away, and now it’s just around the corner. Five years ago I was 12 years old, it was 2011, and I was only about 2 inches shorter. Five years ago I never thought that I would be on this side of the stage. I hardly even had the courage to stand up and present in front of a class, and now here I am talking to the entire school. But that’s just what happens at Williston: you become someone that you only ever dreamed of being. Whether you’re in seventh grade, ninth grade, a PG, or anywhere in between, I guarantee that at some point in your time at Williston, you will feel the Williston magic. Williston is what I believe to be the friendliest place on earth. If you haven’t noticed it yet, I’m sure you will in just a matter of time. I’m somewhat convinced that to be enrolled in Williston you have to constantly be smiling, and I think that might be the first thing the admissions office checks when you come to visit campus.
All summer long, giving this speech was stuck in the back of my mind. I had absolutely no clue what it was that I wanted to say, or what it was that I was supposed to say. But then I realized that what I said to you today does not really matter in the long run. Because for the past five Convocations I have been in one of those chairs, listening to these speeches, and I do not remember a single one. I’m sure that they were really great, and trust me, while I was writing this I wish I had remembered them, but in about a week what I say to you will merely be a distant memory.
Now besides the fact that you will not remember what I say, what I say really does not matter because everybody here probably already has an idea in their head about how they want their year to go. Maybe you’re like me, and see yourself becoming Williston’s next best pole vaulter. Now I hate to break it to you, but you will not be the next best, or even the next next best, but you will have a lot of fun trying. Or maybe you’re like Mr. Doubleday who envisions the year as following strictly to plan, but the reality is that there may be a snow day or a fire drill that takes away one out of the precise number of extremely important, valuable classes. I hate to break it to you Mr. Doubleday, and everyone, things will not go exactly as planned. There will be ups, but there will most certainly be downs. However, one of the most valuable things I’ve learned here at Williston is from Coach Fulcher, and that is that it’s not about what gets thrown at you but it’s about how you respond to it.
This year you will face an infinite amount of obstacles that you did not plan for. Whether it’s a bad grade on a test, a falling out with a friend, or tragically slamming your back on the pole vault bar, the obstacles are inevitable—whether they are physical obstacles or not. But when we face these obstacles we are given multiple choices on how to handle them. You can tuck away the test in the back of your folder and pray that it doesn’t show up again on the final, or you can meet with the teacher day after day until you’ve mastered the material. You can pack away the pole for the season, or you can slam against the bar time and again just to clear the astonishing height of 5’6”. But that’s why we’re so lucky at Williston-because we’re given all the right ways to handle the inevitable. We have a community of teachers and peers eager to help us with any of the obstacles that come our way.
So whether you remember this speech or not, my point is to not be afraid of the inevitable. Do not be afraid of using all the resources given to you, because you do not have to conquer any obstacles alone. Feel free by all means to set goals for the year, and have an idea of what you want to accomplish, but do not be discouraged if things do not go exactly as planned. Remember that the way we respond to what we don’t plan for is what shapes who we are-because you may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.