My Salutatorian Speech

WE’RE DONE! WE’RE ALL DONE WITH HIGH SCHOOL! (Let’s give THANKS!) [cheer, and wait for it to quiet down quite a bit] But now what? Where to now? In the words of Microsoft, “Where do we want to go today?”

We certainly have quite a number of options in this class. Our class can boast that we are going to an unprecedented variety of colleges next year. From schools far away on the West Coast to schools on the East Coast to schools close by, our class is going a lot of different places. (Even Harvard. [shudder])

Academically, we are headed a lot of different places as well. Our class can boast that it has experts in music, english, history, computers, languages, art, and drama. We have stars in every sport and terrific student leaders. Even chaplains who can freestyle! And all of us are headed to college, something quite uncommon even in small schools. So on the outside at least, we are all headed towards excellence.

But there is more to life than just outsides. Where are our insides headed? Are we really headed where we want? Or is it just where our parents want us to go? Is it because we don’t think that we’d be good at other things?

It is of vital importance that each one of us step back periodically and look at him or her self . “Is this really where I want to be now? Am I headed in a direction that I want to
be going?” If it is, then I congratulate you and applaud your work. I hope that those around you will support you in obtaining your goals and realizing your vision. Unfortunately, our goals tend to change as we ourselves change — we mature as we experience the world, and realize new things about ourselves as we fit into the world. This is natural…and good. We need to look inward to find out who we are. Based on this, our goals will change. We need to recognize these changes then, and modify our actions accordingly.

When we are examining who we are, we need to keep ourselves from closing doors that might lead to self-fulfillment. Let’s explore all of our options. We should actively seek out subjects in which we are ignorant, and pursue them — to explore the world of knowledge. Let’s take those courses we never imagined taking: Chinese Philosophy, Modern Dance, European Politics, or Linear Algebra. I am not saying that we should continually seek out
courses in fields that we definitely dislike, but instead I am suggesting that we go and seek out whole new platforms of knowledge that are new to us. We should never be afraid to
discover something about ourselves. A broad knowledge of the world will do us well in terms of understanding ourselves and others.

In today’s dynamic job market, we may have to make job changes; not only between companies, but between subjects. I have heard stories of English teachers becoming electronic technicians. At the same time, I think that we should seek out a few key specialties — specific things that we really enjoy doing. We need to study and practice these specialties to their limit, to the bounds of what is known. Doing this, we find ourselves in a position to expand this boundary — to go beyond where any human has gone before. Forget Star Trek. There are many more frontiers than space.

At the risk of sounding like an Army recruiting officer, we should be all that we can be…in all fields. In history, sports, science, medicine, music, education, languages, art, and other things we should strive to set goals from our dreams, and then struggle with all that we’ve got to make that dream come true. Just wishing on a little star will not bring us personal
fulfillment. It takes gusto to live your dreams to their fullest.

And beyond all of this, we need friends to get where we are going. On this travelling analogy, friends are our gasoline. We need them to make it from point A to point B. We need male friends, female friends, significant others, parents, and God to get where we want to go. We may be strong by ourselves, but we are forty times stronger with the strength of heaven and earth behind us. Without friends, life is bleak and bland. Living takes on a whole new quality when you have a buddy to share a load with. While I’m sure that many of us have had good friends at LCA, let’s remember the importance of friends as we go to college next year. Let’s find friends. And not just any friends, but good, strong friends. High octane, Ultra94 friends. The kind of friends that can love us, support us, guide us, and give us the strength to do what is beyond us. It is friends like these that
make the world tick, that make life enjoyable, that give life depth, and that bring a sunshine to a cloudy day. And while we are busy finding friends, let’s not forget to try and be the best friends we can be to others.

And that’s my speech. If you were sleeping, the moral of the story is that you should try random courses, expand yourself in fields that you enjoy, and find friends to help you realize your dreams. Enjoy college, and have a nice life.

Trial By Fire

The pungent odor of industrial detergent filled my nostrils as hot plates scorched my palms through thin plastic gloves. I quickly stacked dishes in neat piles, threw pots and pans on a shelf, and grouped steaming glasses in grids. A fellow student quickly jammed plates into the other side of the monstrous, fire-breathing machine — he was the source of all of my labor; the faster he pushed carts through, the more quickly I had to dry the items and sort them. A fast loader could have us scurrying off to our precious little remaining free time in as little as twenty minutes of work, while a lackadaisical loader could have us in slow-motion, taking as much as three hours to complete the job. Of course, a lot of it depended on the dinner, too. A sticky dinner meant more detailed washings, and an increased likelihood of a dish emerging yet soiled from the machine. Such dishes when come through would be quickly placed upon a metal shelf barely within arms reach. A quick cry of “Pots!” would be sufficient to summon the two poor wretches assigned to scrub these out in addition to those that didn’t fit in the machine: the stickiest, nastiest, and largest items of the crew. These were usually the outcasts and those low on the social ladder, i.e., the middle-schoolers. I had had my hour in that section, and I was none too eager to repeat the experience.

None of us were here by choice: what freshman would wash dishes voluntarily? Despite the fact that we had been bound together arbitrarily by faculty disconnected from our lives, we often managed to get along quite sociably. We would talk about who had placed well in the last Debate Tournament, and when our basketball team would be playing next and with whom, and we would whine about our interminable French assignments and cold girls, and frequently gossip against Wesley, the wall-eyed dork of our class. Since rubbing a towel against china doesn’t usually provide a great deal of entertainment to the average high-school freshman, we would also find our own ways to entertain ourselves during crew. For instance, we composed and sung “We Didn’t Break the Dishes” [to the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel] a few times. We made up the lyrics during a very boring study hall:

We didn’t break the dishes,
They were always broken
And we’re not jokin’. (x2)
Pots, pans, silverware
Hither, thither, everywhere… 

And on the song went. (I have trouble remembering the rest)

But our entertainment and social contact extended beyond chatter. Doing dishes put me in a quiet, philosophical mood, and it was not rare to see me engaged in deep, philosophical discussion with a junior or senior while drying plates. We talked over God, the Bible, and spiritualistic books that we had read recently, even ones related to animals. (In such a discussion, a senior pointed out a wonderful trilogy called “Duncan Quest” that was completely about moles and quite possibly one of the best books that I have read — the only books that I have shed tears over) I really got to know fellow students that I would not have had contact with otherwise than through crew, and exchange ideas, thoughts, gossip, and jokes. (A joke I learned in crew about a man urinating in a bar is hilarious, but perhaps not appropriate for this essay)

Our olio of arbitrarily chosen students turned into a social group as we worked. This group taught me how to better understand and cope with my world, how to laugh at my mistakes, and how to swear in Mandarin. It was a bittersweet experience, an unpleasant growth and maturation, but now, with all said and done, I am happy that I was tried by the fiery dishwashing machine.