Co-Valedictorian Melody Yang’s Great Neck South High School Graduation Speech

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Melody Yang, South High co-valedictorian

In statistics, the Law of Large Numbers states that, as the number of trials increases, the sample outcome approaches the theoretical outcome. Like all mathematical principles, this law has numerous real-world applications, including the following:

1. If you asked a large group of people to estimate a value, their average response should be close to the true value. Perhaps this is the secret to winning the jelly beans from the library; younger siblings, take note.

2. When we eat out in groups, we wield incredible power in numbers. You really feel invincible when you can split the cost and score those sweet deals. It’s exhilarating to buy two gallons of ice cream and almost finish them in one sitting, while paying less than $3 per person. Or buy several pounds of food and emerge stuffed but only losing $10. In Math Team, we went to Walmart and nearly bought a TV, just because it was $10 per person. Imagine, if everyone chipped in a dollar, the things we could accomplish. We could probably cure cancer, end global warming and maybe even install air-conditioning.

3. We witnessed the strength of mass movements during Science Bowl, when we inadvertently joined the Climate March in DC. Wading through the enormous swarm of people pouring steadily through the streets, we became a part of something larger than ourselves. I felt powerful in that sea of 200,000 bodies, and I imagine this is how it felt for students and teachers attending the Women’s March, or maybe for our prepubescent selves sending chain mail to protest SOPA and PIPA or join the fight against Kony back in 2012. When I forwarded that email, I really felt like I was part of changing the world. But nothing changes passively, so if we want something, we must work for it and that calls for numbers for success.

4. At Senior Event, we saw the Law of Large Numbers in action, in terms of both people and assets. What started as a simple pool of raffle tickets, passed surreptitiously among a handful of people, became hundreds of tickets sprawled across two tables and nervous excitement about what we could achieve together. I admit, gaming the system was a bit unfair. But odds stacked ridiculously high against you, a small coalition holding enormous amounts of power and such a sense of disillusionment that scoring even a $5 Starbucks gift card feels like a monumental victory—I think many of us understand how that feels. And that’s why we need people power.

5. But if you’re going to talk about Large Numbers, we have to talk about the main staircase in school. The number of people trapped on those steps is incredible, each jostling against each other and slowly drifting forward, while students cut across lanes with reckless abandon. Can you imagine what would happen if we all decided to stop moving and stand frozen on those steps? Together, we would block the main artery of the school, cut off the supply lines, collapse the system. Departments would be torn apart tragically by this barrier of bodies. We, as a student body, have an enormous collective influence, but we must use that power to achieve something positive. Case in point: On January 31, 2017, that fateful day, we finally tipped the iceberg in Club Penguin and changed the course of history.

So, it’s time to organize, if we want to change anything. How else can we move a TV or host a successful potluck party or ask that teacher for an extension on that one assignment no one has started yet? There is plenty we can accomplish alone, and many endeavors are better when solitary. But we must never underestimate the power of collaboration.

Thank you.

Read the complete graduation speeches from the Great Neck North Class of 2017: Yunyi (Anita) Zhang and Zachary Lee, and from Great Neck South: Rachel Brenner, Isabella Harnick, Isabella MalfiBenjamin Newman, Joshua Putter, Shrinath Viswanathan and Melody Yang.

Learn about the 2017 valedictorians and salutatorians here.

Find out about 2017 award winners here and here.

See the complete list of Great Neck North graduates here and the Great Neck South Class of 2017 here.

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