My Three Minute Valedictory Speech

by Elisabeth Adams
given 17 June 1999

The governor of California officially declared June 17, 1999 "Santana High School Class of 1999 Day", and his wife spoke at our graduation ceremony (having been in the bottom half of the class of 1972; according to her senior writeup in her yearbook, she liked "elephants, rum, and coke"...). Everybody I talked to had two pieces of advice for my speech: Don't be lame, and keep it short. I strictly adhered to at least the latter one. You be the judge of its quality.

Graduates of the next to last class of the millennium, friends, family, faculty, and all other visitors here tonight, I promise I will be brief. While I was writing this speech, I received quite a number of suggestions, some useful and some slightly inappropriate, and I realized that every one of you could come up here and say something interesting based on your own experiences in life. We don't have time for that, though, so I guess I'll just have to do my best to sum up the four years we've spent here.

High school has been something different for every one of us -- whether we were involved in academics, music, sports, clubs, socializing, working, or simply struggling to survive. It's been said many times that high school is "the best four years of our lives", but that really isn't right. For some people, high school was a great experience; for others, it was rather miserable; and most of us fall somewhere in between these two extremes. For all of us, though, the best years of our lives should lie ahead, because now we finally have the ability to shape what kind of life we would like to lead. We won't all become rich and famous, of course; not all of us want to; but every one of us here has a chance, if we use it right, to be happy wherever we eventually end up.

Remember the advice of Mark Twain: Never let your schooling interfere with your education. If you are willing to work at it, you can get a good education just about anywhere. At Santana, we were fortunate to have many excellent, hardworking teachers who went far beyond what was required of them. We've also received help these past four years from many other people: our parents and family, our neighbors, our friends. In the end, however, it is our own responsibility how much of an education we get and what we do with it. It doesn't really matter what our GPA is, or how well we do on tests. What matters is that we have learned something about the world around us - whether in school or out - and about how to deal with other people, and that we never become afraid to learn something new.

I know we're all anxious to get on with the ceremony so that we can start celebrating, so allow me to just leave you with one last thought. "To live is the rarest thing in the world," said Oscar Wilde. "Most people simply exist." Let's be determined to live.

Thank you, best wishes for the future, and good night.

©1998, 1999 by Elisabeth Adams. Universal Rights Reserved.