Valedictorian Kasey Huntress: ‘It’s not the what, but the who’

VALEDICTORIAN Kasey Huntress addresses members of the Lake Region Class of 2013 at graduation last Sunday. (Rivet Photo)

VALEDICTORIAN Kasey Huntress addresses members of the Lake Region Class of 2013 at graduation last Sunday. (Rivet Photo)

By Kasey Huntress

Valedictorian

LRHS Class of 2013

Hello everyone! As class president, I’d like to thank all the families, friends, teachers, staff and community members for coming out to support the Class of 2013 this afternoon. As valedictorian, I’d like to thank you for staying this long in the heat to suffer through this last speech. I promise, I’ll try to keep it as short as I am.

When I finally sat down to write this speech, I was having difficulty figuring out what I wanted to say. It was such an oppressive sense of pressure that I felt, having to decide which words would be my last as a high school student to the classmates I shared the last four years with.

As I struggled to come up with that perfect topic to write about, I found myself thinking back to the few high school graduations that I’ve attended. I tried to remember what all the valedictorians, salutatorians, class presidents and honor essayists said in their speeches; whether they were serious or funny, interesting or not-so-interesting, short and sweet or painfully long. What I finally realized was that I couldn’t remember. As hard as I tried, the most I could conjure up were faint impressions of what words had been said. But while I had forgotten all the jokes and stories and pieces of advice; I had not forgotten the young men and women who had spoken them.

With this realization, all the pressure to write that perfectly touching, inspiring, yet slightly humorous speech was gone. Because the fact of the matter is, you’re all going to forget this speech someday. Whether it’s five hours from now, five weeks from now, or five years from now, you won’t remember what I’ve said. You’ll no longer be able to recall my introduction, my conclusion or my supporting paragraphs. You’ll even forget the fact that I TOLD you you would forget this speech. And years from now, when you’re all adults sitting outside on a hot June day at your own child’s high school graduation, trying to remember what it was that Kasey Huntress said at Lake Region’s 2013 Graduation, I’m almost positive you won’t remember. But, maybe you’ll react in the same way that I did as I was trying to recall all the graduation speeches I’ve experienced. I’ve discovered that this is what I really wanted to say to all of you, my fellow classmates — that it’s not the “what” that matters; it’s the “who.” Because just as this speech will someday elude you, most of our high school experiences will as well. As years go by, all the pep rallies, the home games, the research projects and the early morning math classes will become fragments of the past. All those lessons we were taught in class — how cellular respiration works, the use of imaginary numbers, who the 22nd president of the United States was — all these will fade from memory and become useless for most of us. But while we’ll struggle to remember all these experiences, what we won’t forget are those with whom we shared them. While not all the people we were surrounded by in high school will actually follow us into our individual futures, the memories of our relationships with them certainly will.

Regardless of whether or not you had an enjoyable high school experience, it’s doubtful that you’ve escaped from Lake Region without forging some type of relationship — whether it was positive or negative. Maybe you’re the person who has kept that same best friend from kindergarten to high school, or maybe you’re the person who had a completely different set of friends by the end of four years.

Perhaps you met a favorite teacher who inspired you to continue studying a particular field in college, or perhaps you had a teacher who really showed you how much you dislike a certain subject. Perhaps there have been people who have hurt you, who have lied to you; people who have encouraged you or have helped. But no matter what kind of relationships we all may have had, they can all teach us something — something about who we want and choose to associate ourselves with, about what we value and see as important, about who we really are at this moment — 17, 18 and 19-year-olds who are on the brink of adulthood, yet still discovering what kind of people we want to be in the end.

As we move on into the next phases of our lives as high school graduates, I think it’s important that we remember all these people who have touched our lives — positively or negatively — the past four years. We should consider what impact they have had on us.

As we spread across the country and the world and go our separate ways to begin the process of growing up, these connections will stay with us whether we realize it or not. Our character, our choices and our future relationships will all be affected by those we met in high school, as well as those we met before, and those that we will meet after. Life is made up of a continuous, shifting series of relationships with others; that is something that will never change.

What will change some day, is again, your memory of this speech. But that’s okay. Maybe someday I’ll forget about what I said up here, too. But the memories of those who motivated me to write this speech; my friends, my family, my classmates, my teachers, my coaches; the people who pushed me and supported me, the people who disappointed me and disliked me, who I loved and who loved me back — those will still be with me…and that’s the most important thing. I can only hope that you, fellow members of the Class of 2013, will remember those who were significant to you and what they taught you as well.

I’m happy to have been president and valedictorian of such a unique, intelligent, talented and diverse class. It’s been a rollercoaster of four years, but we made it. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished thus far and equally proud and excited for whatever you may be moving on to. Good luck to all of you wherever you’re going, and thank you so much.

Kasey Huntress will attend Loyola University in Maryland this fall, where she will major in political science.

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