First, I’d like to thank the teachers, faculty, family and friends here today to celebrate the end of a chapter in our lives … and the beginning of a new one.
Over the course of these four years, I’ve walked under our school motto about 720 times. Three words, decorating the foyer in cursive letters: “Dare to Dream.”
For a while, I thought our motto was pointless because high school was an inferno where dreams went to die. For example, when I was 4 I dreamed of flying. Yeah, I eventually realized that no matter how many times I jumped off the kitchen countertop, I would not fly. But high school crushed any lingering hopes I had for human flight when I learned in AP Physics that my arms didn’t have enough surface area to counterbalance my force of gravity. I used to dream of writing poetry in gibberish, but I learned in English that you actually have to use these things called words and grammar. I used to believe that senioritis was just an excuse and then it happened to me. And from the movie Mean Girls, I learned that the only way to become popular was to shove the most hated girl in school in front of a bus.
But this is what I also learned in high school: In physics, I learned that Sir George Cayley applied Newton’s laws of motion to design the first modern aircraft in 1846, giving humanity the capability to fly. In English, we read a poem titled “Jabberwocky” that tells a heroic story entirely in made-up words; Ezra Pound broke literary boundaries when he refused to let grammar interrupt his flow, as he protested the horrors of a senseless war. And ultimately, Mean Girls taught me that there are a million qualities I would rather be, other than “popular;” intelligent, thoughtful, funny, brave, kind, and selfless.
So this is my first point: yes, in high school, we learned that some dreams just aren’t possible. But while knowledge destroys old dreams, it also makes way for new ones. High school has given us the knowledge to make what was once impossible, a possibility.
We were the dream class. We threw ourselves into our passions with unparalleled work ethic, integrity and zeal. We were the class who crossed boundaries together and we are the class who will strive to be more than a shallow concept; who will invent new words to express meaning and who will build new machines for flight.
The second point I want to make today is that who you were at Hamilton does not define you for the rest of your life. A lot of us stand at a crossroads, looking at two paths diverging in a yellow wood and uncertain of which one to take. I know I am, and a lot of people have been telling me to, “be yourself.” I know these are supposed to be words of freedom, but they can be equally confining when you confuse “be yourself” with “be who you’re expected to be” or “be who you were in the past.” If you know what you want to do in the future, then more power to you. But if you wake up one morning thinking, “I want to film a documentary about an obscure musician,” go for it. If you decide that your purpose lies in humanitarian work, in service to something bigger than yourself, then pursue it. If your destiny is to pen seven books about a boy wizard who defeats the greatest fictional villain ever written, do it.
Now is the time to take risks. Now is not the time to be safe. There will be time to be safe; time for offices and stability and savings accounts. But this is the rare moment when we can be free. Now is the time to act, to dream, to walk the Earth, to shout at power, and to dance with beautiful strangers.
I leave you with a quote from one of the most profound thinkers of our generation — Kanye West, who once said, “Nobody can tell me where I can and can’t go.” The world has no right to tell you who you are or what you can do. So “Dare to Dream,” because it is up to you to choose which road in that yellow wood will lead you to happiness.
Congratulations Hamilton Class of 2014 and I wish you the best in writing the next chapter of your story.