Class of 2019 Valedictorian Speech

LV Rogers Valedictorian Speech Class of 2019

by Ruedi Kelsch

Good evening fellow graduates, family, friends, and welcome to the first assembly where I think everyone has shown up to. As much as your ears hurt and your caps itch, you are all deserving of this moment and what it signifies, whether that’s the beginning of the rest of your life, or at least the end of PE 10 online. 

After our final exams in about a week, this group of young adults will disperse farther and farther from our haven here in the Kootenays. LV Rogers Secondary brought us in from not only the local vicinity, but from countries abroad, and gave us a daily purpose in one of the most privileged education systems in the world. Soon, each one of us will contribute to society only the best of this intrinsically kind and diverse group.

Looking out on my cohort, some may ask “what diversity?” as they inspect what meets the eye, and I would say that within those complex, beautiful beings lies the personalities of the roughest rocks and the most sensitive silks, there lies the emotionally empathetic and the mathematical masterminds, there lies rainbow after rainbow that continue to pierce the darkest doubts. There also lies a few deep fractures that resemble everything falling apart into an abyss of “what am I doing with my life?!”. I know that question has plagued too many heads not only here [gesture students] but also any sane mind. Yet, if we pull back our scope to a broader view, these people in front of me possess the knowledge to close those fractures no matter how many times they may reopen. 

Those characteristics I listed are of course a couple out of thousands of wordy adjectives available in Oxford’s Dictionary. Not sponsored. They didn’t quite satisfy me though, and so I’ll add one; weird. Oh yes, your kids are all at least a little strange. And I don’t mean that condescendingly, not at all. In fact I love it and I couldn’t represent this class if we were just generic poster children from a Gap commercial. Furthermore, if it’s our nuances that we are remembered by, why not show them? A saying from novelist Gertrude Stein speaks to me closely and that is “You look ridiculous if you dance, you look ridiculous if you don’t dance, so you might as well dance.” It’s even more impressive when our weirdness carries on through adversity and judgement. 

Right now, not all of us are at our strongest points to face the judgement of ourselves, many of us are just discovering what we mean when we say “me”. There are graduates here who’s reality of love and identity fall outside what is considered “normal”; but let me affirm that those people, us people, have been through enough self-doubt and denial for another one’s illiteracy and insecurity to dent the pride we feel. I challenge everyone else who thinks these words are inapplicable to themselves to adopt an idea of love and identity that denies no one such basic human rights.

We are celebrating tonight as the completion of essentially 12 years of lectures that can’t be recalled from memory, therefore I’ll pass up just one word to remember this speech and class by; resiliency. The human world is shifting everyday physically, socially, and this class is now being told that a life on Earth beyond 2030 may not be viable with respect to the environment. As terrifying as that may sound, I’m not sure it sparks sufficient fear in a generation z kid, but I know as generation z adults, our sights will be set on the survival of this pale blue dot. The author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, and the subject of a mediocre english 11 essay by yours truly, said quote “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change”. Words that are relevant in the nineteenth century as well as in 2019. What is unknown causes the mind pain, however to this class, pain is a fact of life, which is why we stand resilient yet accepting when an adjustment occurs in an otherwise predictable timeline. 

With this thought, I would like to acknowledge a gap in one of the rows of students before me. We have travelled around the sun once without a soul so unique and loving, without a heart that brought light to every room and I would feel as though I had failed at representing this grad class without mentioning a classmate that deserved entire worlds more. Please join me in a moment of silence for Jaden Bishop and his family. [Time 30 seconds of silence]. Thank you. Our caps will soar high tonight with him in our thoughts. 

See, when grounded by something so emotional, what you find important becomes clear, what your truth is becomes visible. When we emerge on the other side, this group holds onto what defines it, showcasing the tough nature of resiliency. Your resiliency however, is not the ability to block out change, to deny input, to ignore emotion and fear that your identity is at stake; no, resiliency is your willingness to adapt to variance, pursue advice and be able to cry and laugh within the span of two minutes and then say “I am still me, but better.”

 As you leave tonight, determined to break free of the hallways in true high school musical fashion and never look back, take a moment to come up with at least one thing that you will miss. It could be friends, teachers, sports, the gentle smile of Neil the custodian. Take it, appreciate it and, in the words of the sweetest honey bear Winnie the Pooh, think “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Farewell and congratulations fellow weirdos, I’ll catch you on the dance floor.