Wednesday, 03 July 2013 16:22
The Class of 2013 had a stellar year with five students being named valedictorians. Nicholas Fiacco, Jennifer Juliano, Alexandra Lynn and Emily Markham had earned the distinction of becoming valedictorian. The five students each made a speech reflecting on how they grew as people while in school and how they will benefit beyond their Manhasset education. We will be running the speeches in two editions due to the length of each speech. Jennifer Juliano and Emily Markham will appear in next week’s issue.
While attempting to write this speech, I asked around for suggestions. While some of the ideas that my friends tossed around were silly, random, or serious, it made me realize how important it is to appreciate our friends. Friends are the people who support you, push you to achieve, help you create, and give you a part of themselves. Friendship is not only a major component of high school, but of life itself. Friends are those who show up to your sports games, your plays, or coo over your creations. As Elbert Hubbard once said, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
For me, the true sign that summer is almost upon us is seeing people bringing in their boxes full of colorful string and making friendship bracelets. These talented artists are in high demand and slowly but surely the bracelets pile high on everyone’s wrists. These bracelets represent how important friendship is because our friendships are truly the ties that bind. Friends will love you and accept you for who you are, even if you have a crippling addiction to reality TV, sing terribly in the shower, or root for a perennial losing hockey team. While high school is over, we’ll always remember the people who were here for us every day.
Now it is time for us to go out in the world to make our own stories and experiences. Even though we don’t know where we’ll go or what we will become, we’ll have friends from high school to lean on. While there will be people that we may never talk to after today, the friendships will remain in our hearts. Our future friendships will be like the bracelets from our high school summers, imperfect yet strong. Value your friendships, old and new, because while strings frays, the bonds will always remain.
My hope for you all in college is to branch out! Meet as many new people as you can, from all walks of life and far off places. Making friends who are wildly different than you can open up your world so much and expose you to new ideas. As the Girl Scout song goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old! One is silver and the other is gold.” While this may seem kind of childish, gold is far more valuable than silver after all!, the song has a point. From our childhood playing in the sandbox to sitting in rocking chairs in our Florida retirement home, our friends will be our companions and enrich our lives.
I want to thank you all for being there for each other the past six years and more, and I hope that you all have an amazing time at college.
All runners know that a race is one of the most difficult and nerve-wracking physical challenges in the universe. At the start of a race, I stand at the line, poised, ready, the tension in the air palpable. The gun goes off, and suddenly I am in the shadows of the woods. No matter how often I run a race, I am almost immediately exhausted, every time. And it’s not just my legs. My breathing is shallow, my throat is sandpaper, and my core is weak and soupy. And, of course, there’s the little pessimist in my brain telling me that I can’t do it.
I reach the last thousand meters. I can’t, I think. But this is what it comes down to. I can stay in my comfort zone – even though this cannot be called comfortable at all, because all I want to do is crawl into a ball. Or I can push past it all.
I can’t move anymore. I can’t breathe anymore. I can’t run anymore. But I do, and I cross the finish line, my entire body seizing in relief.
On the way home from meets, I often lean my head against the bus window, reflecting. And what I’ve found is this: there is something enthralling about going beyond my limits, both physical and mental. It is the challenge that makes it rewarding.
We have all experienced the rewards of challenge in our races throughout high school. We have tested ourselves in various ways, whether in class, on the field, or on stage. It has not always been easy, but we had to trust ourselves. And I think we have all learned since we first began at Manhasset in seventh grade that life takes a great deal of confidence in our own strength in order to succeed. There were times in our races that we thought our legs or lungs might give out; that we thought we would not be able to master physics or that high note or that perfect jump shot. But we valued ourselves and we finished our races, maybe not always at the head of the pack, but surely in a way that was rewarding.
The inventors, the creators, the presidents, Steve Jobs - they have all not only followed their own value codes, but have valued themselves. So I ask all of you: what race do you wish to run in your future - in college and beyond? What values do you wish to instill in yourselves? Are you prepared to not only hold these values close to your heart, but also to value yourself and your own abilities?
I beseech you, class of 2013, to value your power to be the next Steve Jobs, to find a cure for cancer, to start your own company, to be the President of the United States. Value your potential to invent, to create, to improve, to progress, to change. Push yourself beyond your boundaries, because it is not who you are that holds you back, but rather who you think you are not. Most of all, value yourself, because you are all capable of far more than you think you are. Congratulations, class of 2013, and may you always value your capacity to change the world. Lewandowski is enrolled at Princeton University.
I cherish a good story in any form. Whether it is told from within the pages of a novel, on the screen at the Soundview theatre in Port Washington, or summarized on Spark Notes, a story has the ability to capture my total attention. As a child, I could never resist skipping to the last few pages of a book I was reading to find out how everything ended. But I soon realized that this took away from the overall effect of the narrative as a whole. Indeed, simply jumping to the end will not provide the same pleasure as understanding the entire plot. When you really think about it, the problems that arise and the character’s triumph over these challenges are what make the conclusion all the more special. What is the Great Gatsby without the hopeless romance between Gatsby and Daisy, who will never leave her Old Money husband? It would simply be the biography of some rich guy and his extravagant Jazz Age parties. Imagine a Harry Potter without a Voldemort, a Superman without his weakness to Kryptonite, or a Ted Mosby who married the first girl he dated. Without these hurdles to overcome, none of these stories would have any direction or excitement.
In much the same way, our own lives need the occasional obstacles and setbacks to keep things interesting. All of us have made mistakes and faced difficulties in the past that we are eager to forget, every single person in this room. But we should remember the bad as well as the good. It isn’t simply a matter of learning from our previous blunders, because these moments not only shape our future actions, but set each story apart from the rest. Trust me; I’ve had more than my fair share of screw ups. Most of you have probably heard of the time when I was hit by a car while crossing Plandome Road, or when I missed the bus to the last, and most important game of baseball playoffs. Although I might cringe when I recall these moments, especially the car incident, they are events that have made my journey unique. If you recall, the float we built sophomore year was nothing more than a rectangular block of wood we dragged behind Kade’s Buick. I’m almost positive that the vehicle pulling our creation received more attention than the float itself. Nevertheless, that homecoming provided just as many fond and vibrant memories as our victory the following year. Without a doubt, it takes a combination of both failure and success to sculpt each masterpiece. Now I know to look both ways when I cross the street, and I’ll try my best not to forget.
As we look forward upon our future and beyond, many of us fear what is to come and the obstacles we will have to face. It’s easy to fantasize what wonders will be waiting for us once we achieve our goals, and wish that we could just jump to that part of our lives. However, it is the journey, not the destination, that truly matters. Each day we live is another page in a book, and every single one is different and vital to the plot as a whole. Cherish every sentence, every word, every letter, because these pages are limited. Try to appreciate the successes, and understand the importance of the challenges. And of course, don’t just try to skip to the end, because the conclusion will only reach its full potential if every moment leading up to that point was completely absorbed. My thanks go out to you all for providing the action, the excitement, the challenges, and the victories for the first few chapters. Although the beginning of our story is coming to a close, the memories that we’ve crafted here will never fade. Hopefully in the future all of us will look back to our days as students in Manhasset High School and smile.
Make your life a story worth reading, and perhaps one day someone might just write about it.