28 May Graduation Speeches 2019
Key speeches from 2019 Graduation service, including from Valedictorian Award winner, Khushi Agarwal and Best All-Round Graduating Student Award winner Faisal Qadir.
Valedictorian Award – Khushi Agarwal
Yes, this is a broken mug. I will explain why it is here soon enough. First of all, I must acknowledge the obvious reason we are all here: we made it Imperium! We have survived the most stressful, hormonal years of our lives together. We survived the monkeys and the monsoons, the heat waves and hailstorms, the EMDs and, dare I say, the DACs. Congratulations to the rest of the Woodstock community – staff, students, employees – for surviving these years with us. And, of course, a special congratulations to all the proud parents in the audience today. Perhaps, this day of celebrating your child’s achievements makes all the late nights worrying about their safety, or waiting for that rarely-made phone call, all worth it.
Kintsugi is a Japanese art form of precious scars. It takes broken objects and repairs it with gold in order to accentuate the cracks instead of hiding them. The fundamental belief of this art form is that there is beauty in scars.
I came to Woodstock seven years ago as a piece of clay that my parents had carefully shaped into a vessel. What I expected from this place was to paint me with knowledge, experience, and memories and glaze me into a mug ready to face the world. I completely forgot about the entire life and growing up fiasco, which has its own challenges and lemons to throw at me. Today, I have the opportunity to be grateful that Woodstock has given us the gold we need to hold ourselves together in times of difficulties.
Back in junior school, we said whatever came to mind without thinking twice about the impact it may have on others. In these times, all we really cared about was putting enough lotion to pass Mrs. Malik’s health checks, or bribing the food monitor to not force us to eat our last few veggies. I told them I was allergic to pineapples. There was a communal routine that kept us together.As we entered senior school in seventh grade – wow, we were old back then – we thought of ourselves as the cool kids on the block. We finally had ten girls! With more students, we started to somewhat resemble a class with its own identity.
As we went back to the Middle Years system, class of 2019 revived the old traditions of grade 8 banquet, got life lessons from Mr. E, organized MY talent show, and even danced to “We’re all in this together.” Mrs. Tamminen’s brownies used to be my greatest motivation. But, of course, grade 8 had its own pressure points. The class vessel was cracking faster than it ever had. Impulsive decisions were met with disciplinary actions.
We entered high school with not the best reputation. Our advisors were apprehensive to take us on with the task of straightening us out. We were all just a bunch of “lemons” as Mrs. Homewood often called us. But we had things to look forward to. 50-year roommate contracts were forged. Room to improve ourselves through. We had Jazz Jam to organize, honor certificates to receive, and simply show the school that Regnum, as we used to call ourselves, is a class to be proud of.
Moving up in high school, we prepared ourselves for the dreaded IGCSE’s, with the added pressure of keeping up our GPAs, those intensely motivational English classes with Mr. Plonka, we became uncertain about being able to keep our integrity. In these moments, we kept our heads high by reminding ourselves of the late nights working in Mr. Hubbard’s classroom to put together a Casino Royale for the Junior-Senior Banquet and a Cirque-du-Soleil for the UY Talent Show. Because we as a class are proud to pull off one successful event after for the school.
Soon, as we got a hang of balancing our routine, we started focusing on our individual identities as it will fit into the class’. With 88 students, we had a pretty good idea of what our mug was going to look like. As most people took on several PASSAGEs and internships and APs, each one of us found a way to belong. Belong to a group of people we had always called family.
Then, inevitably, the final year came around. We had responsibilities as the seniors, the role models. In the midst of living our last year to its fullest and completing our endless college applications, we tried to find something to be remembered by. What will Imperium be known for? The smartest class? The naughtiest class? The quietest class? A year of being seniors and I still cannot think of a suitable label for us. The year of lasts has not been easy on us. It never is. The last first day of school to the last day of school. The last welcome back dance to the last JSB. The last Goal-a-thon, Win Mumby, Five-a-side. The last night in dorms. With graduation approaching, emotional stress could not be overlooked. We projected this stress onto relationships. “Why did you leave your bag on my bed? Why didn’t you fill my water bottles? Mom, I have to go. I have check-in!” We have lived through this stressful turmoil of farewell emotions that will soon pour out on the ramp down to quad. Woodstock has taught us the value of conclusive farewells. The value of getting closure, to cherish the good memories and learn from the bad.
By today, we have been shaped into completely sculpted vessels, individually and as a class. We have been glazed with discipline, refined by soft skills. We have been filled with knowledge, painted with unforgettable memories. Growing up has cracked us, as it does, but Woodstock has taught us to accentuate these scars with gold. Don’t let the constant change around you break you. Adapt. Don’t let those smirky comments bring you down, be resilient. Don’t let the lack of initiative disappoint. Do it yourself. Today, Imperium, we will step out of this gym to face our world of challenges – at university, in gap years, studying for NEET, or in military service. These challenges may try to break us, but we will always find a way to mend them with gold, by adapting, being resilient, and taking initiative; and that is the “supreme power,” as we have suitably named ourselves, of being Imperium.
Best All Round Student Award – Faisal Qadir
I am from Leh, a small town in the higher reaches of the Himalayas. I grew up in a joint family but the meaning of family was more far-reaching than just the people I used to live with. Numerous relatives, friends and neighbors made up the group of people I interacted with on a daily basis. As the tourism industry kicked in, the town I just called small became big. Social dynamics changed and my daily interactions shrunk to my immediate family. Change is the only constant, I realised at that point.
A lot will change for us as we step out of the gym, starting a new journey. Most of us will be going to colleges in places we have never been before. This is similar to when I joined Woodstock 2 years ago. When I arrived i was culture shocked. Even though I have lived in India all my life, coming to Woodstock was completely different from anything I had ever experienced before. Being friends with teachers, not calling them mam and sir, saying ‘what’s up?’ to my principal and having my opinions heard. Never heard of that!
Let me talk about starting off at a new place and four lessons I learned about how to deal with changes that come with it.
First, Ignorance creates knowledge.
Most of us haven’t been to or lived in the places we are starting off for college. therefore we also might not know about the culture of the place. So after our orientation week at college where our future college mates say “you don’t know about that?” let’s just accept that we don’t. Being in Woodstock I have realised that it is better to accept your ignorance as that creates the opportunity for learning.
Second, friends change and that’s okay
There were people I became friends with right when I joined Woodstock. My first friends, I don’t even hang out with them any more. What I want to tell you is that the friends that you make when you first join a new place aren’t necessarily the people you will be with later on.
Third, there are no types.
Joining woodstock, I was looking for people that are my type to be around. My best friends in Woodstock at the end of the first semester, however, were my first roomates whom I had hardly anything in common with. In college also, let’s remember we don’t need to find our type, we can make friends with people way out of our zone.
Fourth, home takes time.
After months of struggling with the feeling of being an outsider, I had the illusion of having settled into Woodstock. Coming back the second semester, I realised that while I had settled in, I wasn’t really a Woodstocker yet. You guys know what that means. In college, if it doesn’t feel like home already, give it some time. There’s no way to expedite the process of completely making a place yours as we all have done with Woodstock by now.
I was also asked to make my speech forward looking, but looking forward, the future looks grim. There is another change i saw in my hometown growing up.
Ladakh is often described as paradise on Earth by companies to sell to tourists.
Paradise on Earth it was indeed when I grew up there. Pleasant summers and cold snowy winters, fresh streams through my village that I could drink straight out of, night skies with millions of stars staring down at me. Things started to change though summers became hotter and winters bereft of snow, fresh streams got trashed indiscriminately first and then dried out, Light pollution reduced the stars from millions to a few.
It’s not just Ladakh, times are changing fast for all of us and it is not long before climate change knocks on our doors, wake us up from our deep slumber and become real.
How to deal with that?
Four tips and these are similar to what I said earlier
First, Ignorance creates knowledge.
It’s okay to admit not knowing about climate change but not okay to stay there.
Inform yourself watching videos from channels like “our changing climate” and “vox, following reliable news sources like New York times and by talking to people who know about it.
Second, the Earth as you know is changing
The patterns we are familiar with are changing. The hot summer days are becoming hotter, cold winters days, colder and natural disasters more devastating.
The way forward is to accept that and to learn how to cope with it.
Third, working with change takes time.
It will take time for these changes to become familiar like most things in life. Be patient and give it some time.
Fourth, coping with it will call for collaborating with other people
Coping with these changes will call for us to come out of our comfort zone and collaborate. Which will often call for working with people who are not really your type.
Became used to the changes?
Time to do something about it. Quoting, Secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki Moon, “We Are the First Generation that Can End Poverty, the Last that Can End Climate Change”. Now not all of us need to stop going to school and protest outside the parliament or be the messenger of peace at the UN, but we all can start by making small changes in our lives. Use public transport more often, commute on a bicycle, while getting fitter at the same time, use less single use plastic or use that plastic more than one time.
Remember! every drop makes an ocean.
Now make sure as you walk out this door for greater things in life, each one of you be a drop of change towards saving our planet from the catastrophe that stares us in the eye. Incorporate environmental thinking in all aspects of your life. Till now environmental activism was social service, from this point on environmental activism is service to yourself, it’s forward thinking, preparing for the well being of yourself 10-12 years down the line and your children, the next generation.
And Imperium, change has been the constant throughout our Woodstock years.
Along with cracking and repairing ourselves through these changes we have picked up the important skills of resilience, adaptability and taking initiative. As individuals now, each one of us is capable of bringing about the change we want to see in the world.