“I’d like everyone—students, parents, teachers and guests, to picture Great Neck North High. Outline it in your head, note its most defining features, its every crevice. Imagine its students passing in and out of the school’s entrance.
“Most of you pictured the building as picturesque, architecturally strong, historic, peaceful and eventful. You will all note its four large columns, the steps leading up to the school’s entrance, the clock tower, and the trees surrounding its gorgeous facade. You will all remember how strong and beautiful the school looks and feels.
“Now I’d like everyone to imagine the school without just one of its characteristics. Imagine the school had lost one of its columns, forfeited one step, cut down one of its bushes, given up its clock tower, or had swapped its bricks for cement. Is this the same Great Neck North High you’ve always known? Of course not—it’s different, it’s new, it’s incomplete, it’s lost its identity.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the picture of Great Neck North’s structure, its columns, clock tower, steps, bushes, bricks, and all—represent us, the grade that stands before you this morning, the Class of 2015.
“Each one of us is different. While one of us excels at singing and dancing, another makes gigantic strides on the basketball court. When one of us goes to work in the lab every summer morning, the other is working on writing and publishing his first book. The student working on her debate speech will be sitting across from a student working on writing his first musical piece on guitar. The guy sitting on the front lawn practicing his monologue for the school play is just meters away from the girl working her hardest to make the varsity cheerleading squad. It is remarkable how so many different, unique and amazing people can aggregate in one grade, in one community. Even more amazing is that it is our different interests and passions that make us so unique and so united as a grade: without such different people, we would not be who we are today, and who we will become tomorrow. Without our own identities, we would not grow as a grade, learn from each other, or unite as one community.
“In this year’s Super Bowl, Katy Perry was backed by shark dancers. While the right shark knew all his moves perfectly to Katy Perry’s song, the left shark ad libbed his own moves, was totally out of sync with the right shark and was not in tune with the beat. Yet who was the most memorable and who was the happiest? The left shark. He wasn’t memorable because he knew the dance forwards and backwards, but because he brought his own personal touch to something he was dictated to do. He was different and unique in his own way, for that he is memorable.
“Today, our unique and united grade will have to diverge onto different paths. Tomorrow, you won’t be walking into Great Neck North as a student, but as an alumnus who has made a mark on the school. And in just a couple of months, you may not even be in Great Neck, but in a different location, a different state, maybe a different country, away from the school that had a part in shaping you into who you are today.
“Look at the people sitting next to you, look at yourself, notice how much you have grown as a person, with your own goals, your own accomplishments, your own feelings, your own ideas, your own actions, your own words, your own identity.
So, in the coming months of packing, and panicking, and nostalgia, remember to never stop being who you are meant to be. Remember, no matter what surprises the future holds, to be true to your own identity, your own passions. Never fear what others may think of you and never fear what is to come, because as long as you keep your identity, you will always be a part of something great. And when we are encouraged to explore our interests even further, delve in the depths of our souls, and find out what we were truly meant to accomplish in life, we must remember to never fear the future and to never question ourselves in our endeavors and in our search for our own identities.
“I’d like to close off with one of my favorite quotations from Dr. David Baltimore, Nobel Prize-winning scientist and alumnus of the school, whom I had the honor of interviewing at the beginning of this year. He says, “My advice is to find out what you enjoy and do it. It certainly worked for me.”
“Congratulations to the Class of 2015 and the best of wishes for the accomplishments that are to come.”