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“Are you ready?” my friend, Xander asked me. I nodded slowly thinking about his question. Am I ready? Of course he meant are you ready to speak in front of our eight hundred graduating seniors plus all their parents and other family members and friends. I analyzed that simple question into meaning, Are you ready to leave high school, your parents and childhood? Are you ready to be responsible for yourself: pay your own bills, go to the doctor all alone, and pay for your insurance and car payment. Are you really ready? My teachers, principle and grade-point-average said I was. My parents said I was as sad as it made them. My friends said we were. But what do I think? Umm…I think I can? I thought.
I took a deep breath and pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind. “Do I look okay?” I asked Xander.
“You look amazing, as always.” He smiled and kissed my cheek. “You got this is Dani.”
I threw my arms around him in a huge hug and tried not to cry. “You are my best friend! I love you!”
“I love you to. Now don’t cry, you’ll ruin your eye stuff.” He tried and made me laugh.
“It’s called mascara, dork.” I smiled at him then listened as our principal spoke of how great we were as the seniors and set an example for the upcoming classes. I looked around the curtain and saw the entire graduating class, a sea of blue and gold, sitting in order they will, in just a moment, be called to end their high school career and receive their diplomas. I looked down and caught a handful of my own blue gown and felt my golden tassel: it is really happening, I thought.
“…and now it is my pleasure to present to you the Class of 2013 Valedictorian, Danielle Elizabeth James.” Mr. Greggor announced and I walked across the stage to the center, smiling and trying not to fall in my heels. I waited for a few camera flashes, looked around at the sea of blue and gold one more time and took my seat to the right flank of my principal.
“Next, is the Class of 2013 Salutatorian, Alexander Lucas Mitchell.” Everyone applauded for Xander just like they had for me. Xander followed my routine and took a seat on the left flank of the podium across from me. We smiled at each other and listened to more.
“This class has been one of the best classes in my thirty years in this profession and it is my joy and honor to present each and every one of these amazing students with their diplomas, in alphabetical order: Jessica Aday,” She walked up, shook Mr. Greggor’s hand and took her diploma then stood in her place to make the formation that had already been rehearsed.
One hour and eight hundred and something students later we, the Class of 2013, stood with diplomas in hand allowing picture to be taken before my speech. I approached the podium fifteen minutes after the last name was called.
“Hello everyone and good evening, first I would like to thank you for coming to support this amazing Class. Secondly I would like to ask all of the Seniors to please take your seats again.” I waited for all the students to take their seats in the auditorium then, inhaled a deep breath, tried to calm my nerves and began again. “As I said before, this has been an amazing class, I very seriously couldn’t have asked for any better seniors to call my friends. At the beginning of this year we were asked to come up with a phrase that summed up all of us, as a class, as friends. The student council held a poll and the phrase came out to, ‘Reach high, stretch limits and dream out loud’. I don’t think that there could have been a better slogan for us. We were also asked to, as seniors; fill out surveys containing questions such as; where will you attend college? Will you live in a dorm or at home? And what will your major be? The last one really stuck with me even though I answered political science. I remembered being asked as a child, what do you want to be when you grow up? I always answered, ‘A mommy’. It was such childish logic because to me, at that time, that was a profession. Now we are asked what we want to be seriously. We are expected to know the answer- most of us do- but adults who ask us want us to know in concrete. But shouldn’t we be expected to make a mistake or change our minds? I can’t even count the times I’ve been told, “You can’t be a lawyer. Are you smart enough? Will you have enough money?” At about the millionth time I heard that, I wanted to say, “Do you see that I am at the top of my class, have four scholarships and have already been accepted into Dartmouth University.” Then a week ago I guess it clicked those people that asked me that all saw me as that five year old girl in pigtails that wanted to be a mommy; not the eighteen year old valedictorian. They just wanted to make sure I could do what I needed to do, making sure I was strong enough. They were trying to show me they care.
What I am getting at is when people ask you those questions don’t assume they don’t believe in you just that they care.
Now back to our class slogan, Reach high, stretch limits and dream out loud. Do just that. If someone says you can’t show them you can, someone says no way show them yours, someone says you messed up, shrug it off, get up shake it off and try it again. Have a dream and follow it. You can do whatever you want; we are at the best time of our lives! We are at the time when we can walk away and come right back, we can say no then yes then no again. So don’t hold back we can do that when we are thirty. So for now, Reach high, stretch limits and dream out loud! Congratulations seniors: We did it!!
The entire class stood and everyone applauded as Xander stood next to me and all eight hundred students threw their caps in the air!
Yeah, I am ready.