2009 West Springfield Valedictorian’s Address

I graduated from West Springfield High School in 2009. Here is the speech I gave on graduation day.  I recorded it on September 18, 2013, and you can listen along here:

When was the last time you got in your car and just drove? I mean really just drove with nowhere to go. Have you ever? From renting a movie to moving into a new house, we all have a destination in mind.
Most of the time, we get to where we’re going with the sun shining and our favorite song playing on the radio. But if one thing is for certain, it’s that this won’t be the case every time. Life is full of pot holes, broken transmissions, and crashes.
Look at just the past four years. Sure we all have fond memories of birthday parties, Spartan team spirit, and summers at the pool.Spartans But invariably we all faced bad test grades, illnesses, and lost sports games. Some of us had friends and family taken from us far too early.

Yes we’re sitting here today: we made it to the destination, but we all faced hardships that we couldn’t possibly have foreseen.

And as much as I hate to say it, there are many more bumps in the road to come. No one needs to tell us to enjoy the good times while we have them. It’s practically human nature. It’s also human nature to avoid difficulty, back away from confrontation, and just wait for the storm to pass. But I wonder, must troubling times be all bad? Are they really meant to be ignored or rushed through? The way I see it, if these bumps in the road are inevitable, we might as well use them.

But what is there to be gained from bumps?
Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”
While he was likely referencing his hard work studying in school, I like to apply this quote to another sort of education. Let us once again consider high school. Sure we learned lots of history dates and grammar rules, but we also learned about ourselves.
We learned which morals we truly value. We learned what we’re willing to fight for. We learned how we deal with disappointments, face failures, live after loss. So, what do we gain from bumps? We learn. We learn because it’s only during the moments that strike all the way to the heart of our very core that we have the chance to see what we’re really made of.
Think about it.
It’s only when you have a season-ending injury that you learn just how supportive of your teammates you are. It’s only when someone offends you that you learn just what you’re willing to forgive and what you aren’t. It’s only when a loved one gets diagnosed with a serious illness that you learn just how optimistic you really are.
Beyond these particular bumps, our very destinations in life are bound to change. That which we plan for isn’t always how it works out. Each of our roads will take sad and unexpected turns. However, it’s only after we taste these bitter moments that we learn to appreciate all of life’s sweet fruits.