Welcome parents, teachers and the Class of 2017! We have officially made it to where we have been working towards for the past 18 years. This marks the beginning of the next chapter of our lives, and it is simultaneously exciting and terrifying!
To some extent, we know what this next chapter entails: new faces, new opportunities and, hopefully, many new successes. I think we all can agree—especially our parents sitting here today—that we are off to achieve great things.
Graduation will provide a newfound sense of freedom. Alarm clocks will ring only if we set them. Questions will be answered only if we ask them. Doors will open only if we open them. This year’s graduation theme, Free to Fly, asks us to consider this future and the freedom that it provides.
With our wings unclipped, we hold the compass, we decide our future, we are free to fly. But as children’s author Dan Gutman put it best, “Sometimes we spend so much time and energy thinking about where we want to go that we don’t notice where we happen to be.”
And where we happen to be right here, right now, is pretty amazing. As Michelle Obama said on this year’s National College Signing Day, “We gotta celebrate students going to college bigger than we celebrate the Final Four or the Super Bowl.…It’s gotta be more important than going to the NBA; it’s got to be more exciting than getting a recording contract.”
Class of 2017, that is why I ask you to take in your surroundings: Look side-to-side, up-and-down and celebrate this milestone for exactly what it is—an incredible accomplishment in and of itself that deserves celebration and acknowledgment of its significance beyond its role as a springboard to our next adventure.
We must also acknowledge all who have impacted us during these last 18 years: The family members who provided us with endless support. The teachers who instilled in us a passion for learning. The counselors who helped us choose which classes to take. The administrators who made our high school experiences so memorable. The friends who were there for froyo runs, study sessions and everything in between.
So as the Dalai Lama said, “Give the ones you love reasons to love, wings to fly and reasons to stay.”
Thank you to Great Neck South and our supportive families for giving us not only a warm nest to grow in but also the wings to soar.
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 Malfi, Benjamin Newman, Joshua Putter, Shrinath Viswanathan and Melody Yang.
Learn about the 2017 valedictorians and salutatorians here.