As we gather at the official closing of our Williston careers, looking at you for all one last time I am reminded that while we may be de jure leaving Williston, de facto what we’ve created here, the memories and the friendships will stay with us forever. As my final words to you I’d like to thank you for all you have done for me, each and every one of you. In the words of an African Proverb, “I am because you are.” You have been my world for the last six years and I won’t ever forget, so here are my last wishes:
I wish for you the ability to embrace the uncertain. Live not just through it, but in it. Williston has taught me that uncomfortable moment usually matter the most.
I wish for you continuous chances to expand your comfort zone, until you find yourself doing things you cannot imagine as you sit here today.
I wish you the ability to embrace what Williston has made you and the courage to keep changing. So that you are never entirely satisfied with who you are but always happy with who you know you can be.
My name is Maddy Stern and I have had the pleasure of being the president of this class.
In all my other speeches, I tried to avoid clichés, attempted to create some new piece of writing. But graduation is a time for clichés, the moment to reminisce in the most painfully stereotypical way possible. To listen to the songs that make you cry, and watch the movies you bonded over freshmen year, to look through old yearbooks and laugh at the horrible haircuts you had and think about all you’ve gone through together.
The theme of this speech is supposed to be transitions, about leaving Williston, about moving on. But honestly I can’t even think about that, even though in less than 24 hours we will graduate. I want to enjoy the last clichéd moments of high school with you all.
Faculty, staff, guests, students, class of 2014 welcome to the 173rd Williston Northampton Convocation,
My name is Maddy Stern and I am the president of the senior class. I’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone here at Williston, to the teachers and staff who’ve spent the past weeks preparing for our arrival, to the guests who have traveled to join us, to the senior class for giving me the opportunity to stand up here before everyone. And also I probably won’t be getting a ride to school tomorrow or the necessary Dunkin coffee if I don’t thank my family for everything they’ve done for me. Since this is my only opportunity to get up and address the entire school I’d like to take a picture of you all real quick. Thanks. Please like that when I Instagram it.
But now to the real reason I’m up here. This speech is something I have been thinking about for a long time and I knew that I would be talking to the entire student body, therefore I should write a speech everyone could relate to. So last spring I began asking people what made a “good” convocation speech. The two pieces of advice I continually received were, “be funny” and “please keep it short.” If you know me, I really like to talk and I’m not that funny, so after ruling my only two pieces of advice inapplicable I did what any well-educated student would do, I went to Wikipedia.
So I’ve already spoken to you a bunch, and as soon as I realized how much I would be I had a somewhat frightening realization. There was absolutely no way I could come up with three or four life-changing, inspirational speeches, in fact I’d be lucky to come up with half of one. But after a couple stressful, caffeine-fueled 2 a.m. writing sessions, I finally understood something: Just as every speech can’t be life changing, not everyday at Williston is going to be the best.
There will be some days when getting up at 7 a.m. to finish the physics problem set seems impossible and when you don’t think you could possibly write one more supplemental essay. We’ve been here anywhere from 18 years to two weeks, but that’s not important, that’s not what defines us. We are all seniors.
Editor’s Note: Senior Maddy Stern presented the following speech to her class on Sept. 8, 2013 during orientation.
First off, congrats. We finally made it—senior year. Every other grade on campus basically wants to be us right now. Simply by virtue of being seniors we are in a position to make a large impact on the school; people look up to us (physically and metaphorically). Some days it may not feel like what you do is important, but it is essential to remember that even if you only impact one person, you’ve made a difference.
Everything we’ve come to love and will continue to love about Williston doesn’t just happen, we make it happen. We paint the lion; we put embarrassing posters all over the school for people’s birthdays; we throw the best dances; we are proctors, captains, tutors, artists, leaders—but these are all just parts of a much larger whole. Just as you shouldn’t make the mistake to categorize the people you will interact with, Williston isn’t simply a label, or a shield. It is the sum of all our individual parts.