Senior Commencement Address by Cade Zawacki

Photo by Matthew CavanaughHello and once again welcome to everyone who is here today.

For the first time, perhaps in my life, I feel wise. I feel as though, by this point in time, I have gained enough knowledge, gone through enough personal experiences, succeeded and failed enough times, that I have accumulated at least some valuable information that others can truly benefit from hearing. And of course, as I continue to grow, so will this wisdom, but for now, I am honored to be given the opportunity to share with you today some of these things that I have learned. `

Now, the graduating class already know what this speech is about. But for the rest of you here, and for those who have forgotten, let me recap: this speech, it’s going to be odd. This speech, it’s going to be different. And I hope, more than anything, that this speech will be memorable. Because, you see, too often I have witnessed speeches become lost in their own words – perhaps eloquently written, but in the years or even days following, you can’t seem to remember what they were about, you cannot recall those reflections, life lessons, and stories that the speaker referred to and referenced. The challenging part however, about trying to write a memorable speech for graduation is that it is impossible to expect one person to sum up the infinitely diverse experiences of many into a single, all-encompassing, climactic address – and so faced with this challenge, I cheated.

Having always dreamt of giving a speech like this, over the past two years I wandered around the Williston campus and casually approached members of my class with simple question: “Given complete freedom, what one topic would you like to hear discussed in a graduation speech?” In other words, instead of trying to guess what people want to hear today, I took the easy route and simply asked. Of course, having done so, I then needed to somehow incorporate all of these answers into my speech whether that be through allusions, metaphors, puns, direct quotations, personal life experiences, etc. etc. In other words, if something in this speech sounds really strange, it was probably because someone just shouted out the first word that came to their head and I was then obligated to put it in the speech.

Unfortunately though, as much as I tried, I could not include all of the suggestions that people gave me. For instance, Maisy Glick requested that I try and give this speech in a Scottish accent, but so that I may leave this podium with some dignity, and for the safety of all yours ears, I respectfully declined. Furthermore, plenty of people requested, or should I say demanded, that I give them some sort of shout-out in this speech – the biggest offender being one Milo Cowles. Well I am very sorry Milo Cowles, but I cannot give you, Milo Cowles, a shout-out in this speech as it would be unfair to the rest of the class… Milo Cowles. I did however, as per Mr. Rutherford’s suggestion, go out and purchase the cheapest joke book that I could possibly find. It’s called “101 witty jokes” and so for only $0.99, interspersed throughout this speech, you are in for some hilariously unfunny treats. So unfunny in fact, that you may not even notice them.

But now that the recap is over, let’s get back to the wisdom – Williston is like a giant chocolate chip pancake. Part of me really wanted to end the speech right there and leave you all wondering. And, yes, that was one of those random topics that I made a promise to write about – so let me explain: I am not a morning person, given the choice I won’t willingly wake before noon. But on occasion, a warm smell drifts in from the kitchen and lifts me from my bed. My mother has made a fresh plate of chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and the morning becomes infinitely better. Williston is those pancakes. Some people might view the obligation of having to come to school every day as something to dread, but I, and as I expect all of you, have come to enjoy, or at least appreciate all that this wonderful school has to offer. So there’s my first piece of wisdom: Never, not even for a moment, take for granted all that Williston has done for you and don’t be afraid to say “thank you.” Try to stay optimistic and turn every situation into a positive one.

To quote Verdi, “Here’s a weird transition.”

I intend to live forever. I mean, so far, so good, right? (That was from the witty joke book.) No, what I meant was that I wish that I could live forever. Attending Williston has shown me that there is so much to learn, so much knowledge out there, that I cannot possibly absorb it all in one lifetime. Every day I spent here, I got to see the people around me doing fantastic things. Whether it be in the theatre, the photo lab, the art studio, the playing field, or the classroom, pursue what you are passionate about, but also don’t be afraid to look for new passions. If it were not for my spontaneous decision to take the “Intro to Film” course freshman year, if it were not for the endless support of my advisor, Mr. Hing, I would have never discovered my love for film making. If it were not for Mrs. Talbot(-Syfu), the Cross Country Team, Christian Knapp from the class of 2014, Mr. Gunn and his microeconomics course, I would have never discovered my passion for finance and my curiosity for computer science. So there’s my second piece of wisdom: Never stop learning, and try to have fun doing it. I have found that whenever you get genuinely interested in whatever it is that you are doing, things can only get better and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. Another one of the requirements for this speech was to quote an animated Disney film, so as my favorite superhero always says, “to infinity and beyond.”

Now, I expect that most people here have heard this next piece of advice: if at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you, but more importantly, and for everything else, try, try again. Don’t be afraid to fail. You might say this is my cliché paragraph, but some things are just too good to not include. This saying reminds me of a story from eight grade here at Williston in Mr. Neidz’s English class where we had a vocabulary quiz at the end of each week. Firstly, I am sorry Mr. Neidz, but I do not remember the Wordly Wise definition of the word defenestration; instead, I remember your unique philosophy about grading. If I remember correctly, you told us that: “A student should be able to get at least one question wrong on any sort of quiz or assessment, and still get an A.” See, Mr. Neidz you understood that it’s okay to fail. You understood that life rarely gives us perfect 100s. After all, experience is something that you don’t get until just after you need it. So my third piece of wisdom is to try everything, go everywhere, and meet everyone that you can. Oh, and just because someone told me to include it, the definition of the word “definition,” is “a statement of the exact meaning of a word, especially in a dictionary,” and, I lied, I do know the definition of the word “defenestration,” it is to throw someone or something out of a window.

My last point is on reflection. Just the other day, I was going through the closet in my house that holds all of our books – rightly named, the book closet. And as I was looking for a certain book, I kept coming across all of the old books that we had to read for different classes here at Williston. For me, those books are like time machines that transport me back in time. For those “dy-no-mite” students who have been with me here for six years running, do you remember reading The Pearl, Welcome to the Monkey House, the Devil’s Arithmetic, how about Animal Farm? Or in eighth grade, The Old Man and the Sea, To Kill a Mockingbird and the Inbetweeners. How about Romeo and Juliet, The House on Mango Street, and Montana 1948, Catcher in the Rye, Frankenstein, Othello, The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, Hamlet, Jane Eyre, the Invisible Man, The Tempest, and The Stranger? Wow, hearing that list really reminds me how much we have accomplished and how far we have come. True, it is important to move on and explore new avenues of life, but learn from your experiences. Looking back at the day when I first visited Williston, I had without a doubt the worst tour imaginable. My guide was fine – it wasn’t his fault; instead, my bad day was merely a series of unfortunate events. The first class that I went to that sat-in on that day was Spanish. Knowing absolutely no Spanish at all, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to follow along. Luckily however I wasn’t in there long as a fire drill quickly sent us onto the outside lawn for the rest of class. My guide’s second course was English, okay cool, I liked English. So he and I walked over to the Middle School building and had just barely sat down when, you guessed it, there was another fire drill for this new building. In other words, I never actually got to sit in on a class. But then I went to lunch, ironically getting a bagel, but not even this would go smoothly for me because while waiting in line for desert, another student accidentally spilled his juice all over me and the bagel. What a day. Even after this terrible tour however, I still went home wanting to attend Williston and that is truly special. There is something about this school that draws you in and not even a juiced soaked bagel can make you feel otherwise.

There are still some more quote on quote “requirements” that I promised to include in this speech and so I am just going to get them all out of the way right now:

Someone told me to talk about firetrucks. So here’s a quick story. There used to be a kid at Williston who whenever you asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would say a firetruck. Moral of the story? You can do anything you set your mind to.

Someone told me to talk about rainbows. Rainbows are pretty, take time to appreciate the beauty of life.

Someone told me to talk about the State of Oklahoma. Sorry, I really can’t come up with anything.

I was actually supposed to give you two quotes from Disney movies, and so far I have only given you one, so here is a quote from the movie Up spoken by Doug, the talking dog: “I was hiding under your porch because I love you. (No moral to that, I just thought that it was funny).

And finally, someone told me to answer the question, “Which came first the chicken or the egg?” The answer is the egg, don’t question it, sometimes life doesn’t make sense.

They say a conclusion is the place where you get tired of thinking. I have said all that I can possibly say. Part of me is afraid to stop talking, because I know that when I do, it will all be over. That my time here at Williston, after six long, brilliant years has finally come to its inevitable end. I truly cannot put into words how grateful I am towards this school, and everyone who has ever been a part of it. There is not a moment in the future where I won’t smile looking back on all of the great memories that I have made here.

Thank you and goodbye.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.