As Salutatorian for the Class of 2014 at Joseph A. Foran High School, I had the honor of writing a speech to give during the graduation ceremony. Below is a copy of the speech that I gave:
Ladies and gentlemen, faculty and staff, parents and friends, good afternoon. It is truly an honor to stand before you today to say a few words.
As I have talked to others in my classes, in the school band, in the Milford Youth Commission, in the Sikorsky STEM team, and in the Foran Mission Bible club, I have noticed that the common question that has been on our minds as we have gotten closer and closer to the end of our high school experience is, “Where do we go from here?” I was especially consumed with the question about my future toward the end of junior year. I found that I had a particular interest in math and science, and so I eventually decided that I wanted to follow a major in engineering. But then, of course, I had to deal with the question of what type of engineering to focus on. Aerospace engineering, materials engineering, mechanical engineering, there are so many options. It is so true that you really don’t know all of the careers that are out there until you attempt to start deciding on your own career path during high school. Kind of ironic right? We’re expected to solve the puzzle of our future without really knowing where a lot of the pieces are. However, I eventually found my niche between Junior and Senior year, discovering that I had a particular interest in computer engineering. I found my passion and I truly connected to others that shared my passion. I’m sure that many of you have had a similar experience recently, and if you haven’t, you will probably have it soon. But the most important point that I would like to make based on this experience is that I developed confidence and I realized that the ultimate question that is in the back of each of our minds is not, “Where do we go from here?” but rather, “How can I make a difference; how can I change the world?”
As I look back on this class of 2014, I cannot help but marvel at all the remarkable talent and diligence I have seen. Whether it has been in the classroom, through music, in sports, or through community service, I believe that our class has proven to be a model to follow. I am equally proud of the various ambitions that each of us have beyond high school. I know friends who are are interested in entering the medical field, others interested in business, others who will study to become teachers, and also some others who plan to serve in the military. The list goes on, but I think that each person has the potential to change the world in some way.
Many of you have probably seen that Cadillac commercial, you know the one in which the guy says, “the Wright brothers started in a garage, Amazon started in a garage, Disney started in a garage…” and so on. Well, I think that this commercial truly drives the point home. There is so much in the future that has yet to be decided. The smallest actions that we take now can eventually lead to remarkable achievements. You can start small and dream big. As one of my favorite bands, Switchfoot, once said in one of its songs, “Every day you’re alive, you change the world.” Each and every one of us makes a difference in the community in a unique way. In various ways and in various places, we each make a mark on the world.
And so, to quote a commonly held motto at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “Why not change the world?” There are so many opportunities out there for the taking, and every one of us has the potential to make a difference. And if you think that there are too many obstacles, that there is no way that you can make it big, just think back to the Wright brothers, Amazon, Disney. All of these groups started small, and none of them were entitled to success. They gradually earned it through small starts, hard work, and high goals. So again, “Why not change the world?” Within the upcoming months and years, as many of us will be taking on new freedoms and responsibilities, I hope that more and more people will absorb this profound question. Also, take to heart what Albert Einstein once said, “Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” In other words, great rewards come from dreaming big, and it is important to maintain confidence and not be afraid of making ambitious goals.
This graduation marks the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. Let’s make the best of it! Thank you, and God bless you.