Thursday, June 4, 2015

Graduation Season

Exactly 15 years ago today, I spoke in front of nearly 200 of my fellow graduates, along with their loved ones, as one of four valedictorians of the Caro High School Class of 2000.

Some context and general notes:

  • The technology gap between when this was filmed and now limited my ability to get it onto YouTube.  I filmed it with my iPhone as it played on my TV, so I apologize for the quality.
  • The joke I make at the expense of the class president did not harm our friendship, which had only begun that year.  He and I were later Best Man in each other's wedding.
  • I mention that it "took some magic to get me where I am now" in the speech.  This was a twofold reference:  The first is very concrete.  In 9th grade, our first family computer malfunctioned in the middle of a major project for my English class.  I was able to finish it using the computer and printer of a family friend, and promised her that, when I graduated as valedictorian, I'd mention her in the speech.  Her actual given name is Magic.  The second meaning is an allusion to how amazing it was that cystic fibrosis had not been a roadblock to me graduating and achieving my goal of being valedictorian.  I chose to only hint at my illness because, in a town as small as mine, pretty much everyone knew about it, and at that point in my life I didn't feel that it merited anything more than a passing, cryptic reference.
  • My mom told me that when she sat down at the ceremony, one of the parents next to her in the football bleachers teased her a little bit for bringing a whole box of kleenex.  Then, during my speech, he reached over to borrow a few.  It is my father who can be heard chuckling and crying a bit on the video-- I inherited my "heart-on-sleeve" nature directly from him.
  • And lastly, please accept my apologies for beginning the speech in the manner that I did.  What can I say, it was 2000 and I was 17 years old.

The video and the full text of the speech are below:

     Whasssssuuuuup!  I would like to share with you today a poem, one that I wrote myself.  It is based on a true event, and is called Journey to the Bathroom.  

I open the door, empty dark foreboding.
Silently I scuttle throughout he living room.
bare feet slap the cold linoleum of the kitchen.
the red night like peeks at me as the door swings ajar.
cool water glides down the back of my throat.
my toe screams as it finds the door for me.
I escape well enough to complete the journey.
A cricket cheers me on as I make my way back.
Mounds of clothes come to life in my mind
A terrifying thump as my cat pounces at nothingness
The gurgling fish tank whispers of the trek's end.
I open the door.
Full light welcoming.
Safety under the blanket.
Journey to the bathroom complete.

     Now if there's one thing I learned in AP English this year, it's how to make two paragraphs seem like a page and a half.  However, if there's two things I learned, the second is definitely analyzing poetry.  As I was looking over my writing one day, I reread this poem and realized that a journey to the bathroom is not unlike a journey through high school.  Actually, since it's my poem, I can make it symbolize whatever I want, but this seemed like a logical choice.  Let us now go back to the poem and see how it parallels the journey through high school we graduates have just completed.  

     We open the door to high school, and the empty dark forebodes us.  Naturally we are nervous about what lies ahead.  We are entering an unknown.  As we step through the door, we enter our freshman year.  We scuttle through the living room of our sophomore year, and make it into the kitchen of our junior year.  it's now time to open another door, the one to our last year of high school.  Our senior year begins in the bathroom itself.  Our class president will tell you this isn't far from the truth.  

     The red night light represents our parents.  I know mine were there, always shining, letting me know everything was going to be fine.  The cool water represents the challenges we choose to take on in our senior year.  Others choose to sit in the bathroom a while and take a load off, a much deserved break after three years of hard work.  My screaming toe is symbolic of the pain of discovery.  Although some things lead to the loss of friendship, others are worth finding out.  

     But eventually we all continue.  The crickets that cheer us on are the friends and loved ones that help us get through high school.  None of us would be here today without them, and I know that it took some magic to get me where I am now.  The clothes that come to life and the terrifying thump are thoughts of moving on, of college and strange new places.  Althougth they may scare us, they bring with them excitement.  The gurgling fish tank is-- are the teachers and faculty, congratulating us on a job well done, and seeing the people they have helped to shape.  We open another door, the door to the school, and we leave it on our final day, where we will never again return as a student.  Finally we are here.  This is the full light welcoming, as we bask in the glow of pride.  This is the safety under the blanket, where, for the final time, we gather en masse with the people we've spent the last 13 years with.  

     But I've been around the children in my mother's day care long enough to know how the game works.  After today, we must all leave the safety, take the blanket off our head, and say to the world, "Peekaboo!"


  1. That was amazing!!!!! I loved it and as usual you bring me to tears!!!!! Ohhhh golly I love ya Evin.

  2. Thank you! Hopefully my mom was nearby and you could borrow her Kleenex!