Shelagh carried off a solo performance of "Defying Gravity" from Wicked. She was great, so much so that I would have been shaking had I not had to hold the spotlight still. All we do for these kids.
Below is Shelagh's valedictorian speech. I'm reprinting it here because I can. The song she mentions is "For Good", also from Wicked.
I sat down to write this speech, and was actually a little stumped. What could I say to my class, or about my class, that hasn’t been said before? I wish that for a graduation speech, I could just read you all the words to that song again, but apparently this could be called an act of plagiarism, and you just heard us sing it. So I thought really hard about what makes this class different from the other Classes of 2005 around the world, and in the end, I found my speech.
School is generally considered to be a place of learning. Students are expected to graduate with a basic knowledge of math, science, English, and… what’s that other one? That one guy teaches it? Hmmmmm… Oh yeah, social studies… sorry Wodes. I know that within these walls, my classmates and I have learned much more than just those basics in the past 13, yes, 13 years at Leland School. But all this knowledge is not the most important thing we will take with us this evening. No, the most important thing I have learned here at Leland comes from a different kind of learning experience. Although the Class of 2005 has learned many a math fact together, the friendships we have formed—and learned how to keep—will leave their mark far longer than any quadratic formula.
This class began where every other class begins; amidst clay and crayons, glue and glitter, snacks and naps… in preschool. At least a third of these seniors went to the same preschool, where we climbed, collaged, painted and pretended our way not only into kindergarten, but also into each others’ hearts. The bond that we created in this primitive beginning has, over the years, become one of trust, loyalty, and an unspoken promise; nothing can keep us from reaching our goals. Once we put our minds to something—or once Sam Simpson puts his mind to something—we won’t stop until we get it. And we reach our goals not as individuals, but as a group of friends who are always there for each other. This ambition seems to come from the perfect combination of a number of Leland-provided assets.
Every once in a while, a class just gets the recipe right. This “recipe” starts with the right kids, and the right mix of kids. These kids have to be willing to learn from each other, and also have to be willing to help each other out, even for nothing particular in return. There have to be leaders, but these leaders have to be able to work with other leaders, and maybe even follow sometimes. These “kids” have to be willing to grow, to change, to become adults when the time comes. Teachers, parents, and community members have to be willing to set good examples, and be committed to doing so. The adults involved in this recipe have to have the students’ best interests in mind, and they have to work together to create a web, a net, if you will, to be ready, should a student stumble or fall. If all of these things come together in the right way, the final product is enjoyed by all who experience it. Our class had this recipe right from the beginning, and, like a good recipe, I wouldn’t change a thing about us or the people who brought us here. When I was a young, naïve sophomore, I thought that Leland was too small. I didn’t like knowing things about other people, and I didn’t like other people knowing things about me. But since then, I have come to realize that this interconnectedness is all part of that web, and all part of the Leland experience. Each one of us will leave here tonight with a strong sense of community, knowing we are loved, appreciated, and taken care of. If Leland were any bigger, I wouldn’t know these people I am graduating with as well as I do now. They would be just my classmates, instead of my good friends.
After this last summer together, we each will go our own way. Some of us already know, have known for years, what we want to “be when we grow up.” (I envy those people.) The rest of us may be uncertain of our long term goals, but I expect we will find our place in the world in time. Whether we “grow up” to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, members of the armed forces, entrepreneurs, parents, mechanics, dancers, artists, scientists, politicians, veterinarians, performers, or computer guys… I know that each one of my wonderful classmates will be a success in whatever they choose to do. This class is one of the brightest and most motivated groups of people I have ever been privileged to be a part of, and everything we have learned from each other will be undoubtedly be essential to our futures. I am certain that each of my classmates will be determined enough to fulfill their hopes, dreams, and goals, and confident enough to know when they have found them. From each other, we have learned how to be trustworthy, loyal, supportive, interesting, and fun people, and I know these lessons will prove to be irreplaceable.
I have learned much from this group since those messy, giggly days of preschool. –Wait, what am I talking about? Our days are still messy and giggly—But the greatest thing my class has given me over our years –and for some of us there have been many, many years—the greatest gift I have received is friendship. Because of their examples, their actions, their words, I have learned more about how to be a friend than I could have learned anywhere else. Each one of these 27 people has left an example for me to follow, a message for me to project onto the world into which I am about to enter. Because of them, and because of you all, I will enter this world with firsthand knowledge of loyalty, trust, work ethic, community, and friendship. My experiences with these amazing people as classmates, as students, as conversationalists, as friends, as the people that they are, will forever shape the way I remember these high school days, and the way I see the world and the future. It will be difficult, perhaps the most difficult thing I have had to do, to leave this group of friends in the fall and head out into the world to find new ones. But, as an anonymous writer once said, “A good friend is hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.” I don’t know that the first part of that is true; you guys weren’t too hard to find. But, my good friends in my Class of 2005… I know that I will will never forget you.