Michael Shen’s Great Neck South High School Graduation Speech 

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Michael Shen
Michael Shen

Good morning parents, teachers, administrators and the graduating Class of 2016. I stand before you today, restricted to a two-minute speech, to impart upon you somehow a piece of meaningful advice. I will not pretend that I know what the future holds, or what the job market will look like when we are 21 or anything unpredictable like that.

Instead, I’d like to focus on what I DO know—what we all know.

I’d like to share with you a piece of advice I first received from my mother back in seventh grade and again just this past December from a business professor. It’s a Chinese proverb that basically goes like this: “Don’t resign yourself to one opportunity.” Now you might be a bit confused, but let me explain. The proverb means not to give up after one try, one failure.

Over the last four years, each and every one of us has been challenged academically, socially and athletically. And I’m sure that all of you, like myself, have tripped, stumbled and maybe even occasionally fallen. And that’s OK. Here in Great Neck, there is an expectation that we will succeed every time on the first try—no matter the task or the difficulty.

Unfortunately, that is not the case out in the real world. I am certain that there will come a time where the obstacle is so great, the challenge is so difficult and the task seems so insurmountable, that you will want to quit. But the proverb says, DON’T give up. DON’T give in. Because when you press on, you find great satisfaction, even great fun.

In the last four years, we have learned critical problem-solving skills as well as common-sense reasoning. Besides technical skills, we have learned to approach problems from different angles. We’ve also learned how to analyze different perspectives and how to formulate theses to help solve problems.

So when the time comes that you contemplate backing down, remember what Great Neck South has taught you. Remember the basics. And remember to keep pushing forward. DON’T give up. DON’T give in. Even if it seems like you aren’t moving in life, just keep pushing. One tiny step forward is better than no step at all. And with enough tiny steps, you WILL reach your goal.

As Dr. Seuss so eloquently put it, “Only you can control your future.” And when you’re on your way to greatness, remember to tell yourself that, “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

Thank you.

Read the complete graduation speeches from the Great Neck North Class of 2016: Adir VegonGraelin MandelIsabelle Sehati and from Great Neck South: Annabelle GoldenAnnie YangEmily BaeHaley RoachLance Kim and Michael Shen.

Learn about the 2016 valedictorians and salutatorians here.

Find out about other 2016 award winners here and here.

See who the 2016 Great Neck North graduates are here.

Find out who graduated from Great Neck South here.

For a list of The Village School graduates, click here.

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