12 Feb Quad 2015. Salutatorian’s Speech
By Nishant Agarwal
Honorable Friends and Family,
It is my distinguished honour to speak to you today.
It seems just like yesterday when I came to this school. Memories of six years are fresh in my mind and I cannot believe that I no longer have to run up a hill or convince myself that the food is not so bad.
The six years of my Woodstock life have seen their fair share of lows and highs, but they have also taught me something very fundamental about life.
Firstly, I have learnt that it is fear and emotions, not facts and reasons, which prevent us from doing many a great things.
As my classmates know, I spent my entire high school career studying alone. I would wake up at 6 am and come back to dorms by 8:30 or 9 pm. Rarely, if ever, did I have any interaction with my classmates and my life was confined to books and books. Slowly I became scared of starting a conversation and relied solely on the other person’s initiative. I thought this was a cyclical change and would wane with time. I hoped that I would become more sociable as time passes by. However, I was trapped and this fear only grew worse. Whereas earlier I talked to almost everyone, I no longer conversed with anyone. I had become the typical mad scientist.
This last month, however, I tried to break free of this fear and started to talk to friends I had not talked to in years. Slowly, I realized that it was not that they disliked me or hated me, but rather simply that they were fearful of entering the imaginary boundary line I had carved up for myself. Having come out of the fear, I could now start a conversation as well as talk about things I had come to consider a taboo. In fact, it was not a matter of great perseverance, but rather simply of staying up a little late or sitting in a group. I realized that fear was in fact not a great mountain, but just a thin film I had to break, and as soon that film is broken, the surmountable fear ceases to exist.
Secondly, I have learnt that there is going to be a tension between being idealistic and going with the flow, but in the end one should strive to be the idealistic man.
With constant criticism for following the right path, telling the truth, not swearing and being chivalrous, one often feels the need to deviate from this empty path and follow the crowd. I have often felt that maybe being truthful or doing what is right rather than what the crowd thinks is right is the hard path, and have often faced harsh criticism for it. In fact, I was torn between choosing to talk about the populist things, as in follow your dreams, etc. etc., or revealing what I believe is the truth. Often, the popular way is the easiest path, with the least resistance and the most support and the idealistic path is filled with thorns. However, if we were to follow the easy path because everyone else is following it, then would we not be another person whom someone ten years down the lane look at and join the crowd? Yes, it’s a chain and it can only be broken by a brave few who dare to stand up against what is wrong. Just imagine, if, for once, instead of swearing to describe an emotion, you were to use an actual adjective, would it not inspire others to do the same? Therefore, though you may feel that you should go with the flow, take a moment to think about the repercussions. It is hard, I know, but try.
Thirdly and lastly, the many conversations, arguments and debates I have had have taught me the value of an open and accepting mind.
I have always abhorred communist ideology and though I am not the richest man, I have never appreciated the idea of a forced wealth distribution. My dislike used to run so deep that any reference to communism would guarantee my walking out of a room. However, an honest discussion with a friend convinced me that it is not Marx who is evil, but how his ideas have been used throughout history. It was not the idea, but the implementation that wracked my nerves. After that conversation, I studied communism in depth, and though I still am not a fan of it, I understand the reasoning and the many instances when this might be the right approach. I was able to do all this because for once I stopped ignoring an idea simply because it seemed senseless and really actually tried to understand it.
I now challenge you to change the world with an open mind, a fearless attitude and a will to do what is right.