Valedictory Address

Below are my prepared remarks for my Valedictory Address to the Class of 2008 of Dover High School.

Good morning Superintendant Onofry, Assistant Superintendant Tierney, Board President Shufelt, members of the Board of Education, Principal Basting, Assistant Principals Rizzo, Timm, Bauerlein; faculty, family, friends, and the Class of 2008.

On this day of celebration, I’m honored to have the opportunity to speak to you all. Although they apply to everyone under this tent, I direct my thoughts toward two groups of people: those individuals who helped me get where I am today, and my class, the Class of 2008.

It’s said that we stand on the shoulders of giants. This is so true, and I appreciate all of the giants in my life, whose love, trust, and guidance have helped me get where I stand today.

I begin with my teachers; it is their instruction that has guided me intellectually throughout my entire life. Although I appreciate the guidance of each and every one of them, I must signal out two key educators, without whom I wouldn’t be who I am today.

The first of these is Mr. Watson, whose remarkable work ethic, genuine personality, and love for life has motivated me to strive for new heights again and again. Whether he’s valiantly saving lives, breaking up fights, or calling people the most ridiculous names ever, he’s someone we should model ourselves after.

The second is Mr. Wright, who has been a moral guidepost for me since my first day in Dover some six years ago. Mr. Wright has taught me to live and die by the golden rule, to always look out for the welfare of others, and to never stop questioning, ever. Along the way, he’s certainly been a character. I’m sure none of us will ever forget his reenactment of the caning of Senator Charles Sumner in 7th grade, especially the students who served as the victim.

I move onto my friends – the people I enjoy spending time with, the people who keep me sane in an increasing insane world, and the people who remind me of my humility when necessary, which seems to be often. Although I can’t possibly mention all of you right now, I’m confident you know who you are.

Very often, the greatest giants in our lives are those in our families. Every student who eagerly awaits his or her diploma is a testament to the guidance of the people closest to them. As I recognize my family, I’m certain each graduate appreciates the kindness of his or her own.

I start with my grandparents and aunt, whose love and concern have always been a pillar in my life. I’m so glad they’re able to see me today.

I’m grateful for my parents, whose absolute trust has been the greatest gift ever given to me. Not once in my life did they doubt my judgment or tell me I wasn’t good enough to do something.

Dad, your mantra and hope for me to, “Work smart and not hard,” is something I’ve come to internalize. And Mom, your strength and faith to overcome crippling back pain every day of your life to take care of Christy and me makes you the strongest person I know.

Finally, I recognize Christy Mondello, my sister and best friend. Christy, you’ve shared virtually every experience with me, both good and bad. It’s your kindness and patience that always keeps me going, especially in the face of daunting circumstances. I love you and am so fortunate to have you in my life.

The primary group of people I address today are the graduates I’m proud to be walking with, my class, the Class of 2008. To you all, I offer three pieces of advice – that’s it, three.

We will all soon be moving onto something bigger than this, bigger than high school. Whether you’re entering the workforce, joining the military, or going off to school again, I urge you to leave this phase of your life on good terms. We all have our Mr. Wrights, Mr. Watsons, or best friends – the people who we got along well with. We should seek these people out and let them know just how much we’ve always appreciated them.

But, throughout my time here, I can recall people who I simply didn’t treat fairly. I suspect that many of us have someone like this, someone who we didn’t give a fair chance. This person might be a member of your family, perhaps another student, or maybe a teacher or coach.

Think about it – think hard. After this ceremony, take a moment to find the person who you aren’t “okay” with, and try to set things right. Always remember that forgiveness is healthier than resentment and that friendship is infinitely more useful than a grudge.

A moment ago, I spoke of the giants in my life. We’ve all had our own giants, the people who help us to achieve our dreams. Class of 2008, my second piece of advice is to be a giant in someone else’s life.

Although this may sound daunting, it doesn’t mean dramatically changing our lifestyles. For instance, by staying positive, acting as a role, and volunteering our time and skills to help someone in need, we begin a cycle of compassion that ultimately benefits everyone.

Almost everyone in my class could tell you that I’m an avid follower of politics. On the topic of giants, I’d be remiss if I didn’t quote my favorite Senator, whose eloquent thoughts resonate with my advice. The Senator says,

I ask you to take this harder path – not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all of those who helped you get to where you are, although you do have that debt.

I ask you to take it because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on our collective salvation. And because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

Thank you, Senator Obama.

As we move on, we must recognize that the relative prosperity of our generation’s childhood is gone. The soaring gas prices and global decline of respect for our nation are indicative of a deep problem that’s plaguing it: a lack of leadership. Now, it’s our turn to guide the United States of America – to restore it as the world’s leader – financially, technologically, and ethically. The problems in our path include poverty, war, and a climate in crisis. But despite the enormity of these issues, by looking at our track record, I’m certain that we can overcome them.

Together, as a class, we endured many crises and always found a way to emerge stronger than before. We’ve taken strenuous exams, played hard in difficult matches, and performed in breathtaking plays and concerts. We’ve built relationships, taken trips abroad, and harvested wisdom wherever it’s found. At Pep Rally this year, where the seniors swept in every award category, I had a pleasure as Master of Ceremonies to yell, “This is madness!” – to which you all screamed back, “This is Sparta!” And most recently, we coordinated the most awesome senior trip and senior prank in the history of this school, period.

If that’s what we could do in the course of these last few years of high school, imagine what we’ll be able to do when we choose our own paths. When we let our passions guide us, there’s nothing we can’t do. Fellow classmates, find what you love doing in life and stick with it. That is my third and final piece of advice for you today, because it is by working with this talent, calling, or skill that you’ll find true happiness and change the world.

No matter where life takes you, go forward and make this community and the giants in your life proud. And along your way, never let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough. We’re more than ready, each and every one of us, to make our dreams come true.

Again, thank you everyone under this tent for coming out on this wonderful day. Thank you Class of 2008, and thank you Dover. I love you.

There are 21 responses to “Valedictory Address”

  • Very good, Rick. Quite long, though. I hope you got a standing ovation… or maybe 2 minutes of wild applause before saying a single word. I like the part about grudges/regret. I wish that, in reality, making sure we have no regrets were easier. For example, there are a few girls I wish I had attempted to ask out and social events sacrificed for the sake of my title.

    Overall, very inspiring, as it should be, though you didn’t seem to know your audience well enough:
    1. Kids love shout-outs, I learned that from experience today.
    2. NO “YOU”! EVER! Use “we,” it lessens the smarter-than-thou dichotomy.
    3. Everyone is sitting in 90 degree weather, most of them surrounded by strangers, some wearing polyester (non-breathable) gowns. Short = sweet.
    4. Obama = no-no zone. Though you may be able to assume that the kids are Democrats, you may be treading into the mine field of old people, the religious right, and small-town America.

    I would have taken the risk of actually screaming “This is madness!” and hoping they pick up the allusion and respond. When you interact with your audience, they will love you.

    My speech will be on my blog as soon as I watch the Graduation tape and get the used copy of my speech back.

  • The best example of a person leading his class into futurehood and maturity that I have ever laid eyes on. A marvelous piece of writing with a dynamite central message. I am honored to have gone to school with this individual, and although I graduated a year before him, I grasped his ability to put a stamp on society positively during his senior year. I am sad that I missed graduation but I can say that if I were part of the class of ’08, this message would have brought tears to my eyes when I heard it. Congratulations to the class of ’08, many of which I have spoken to and befriended during my high school years and special congratulations to you Ricky, for helping me out in a few minor ways and making me a believer in you utmost ability to do good.

    -Robert Bailey

  • ricky,
    I was at the graduation yesterday. Your speech was amazing. It’s a shame that you are leaving Dover this year. We need more good people like you in this town. But we all know that you are moving on to bigger and more important things then Dover. Like Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We can thank Mr. Wright for teaching us that.

  • Dear Ricky,
    This speech was quite amazing yesterday. If my sister hadn’t been sick, there is no doubt in my mind that she would have jumped ontop of her chair in applause at the Obama quote. (In case you remember, my sister was the little girl that ran up to you after Cirque Du Cabaret and said “Obama ROCKS!”) Anyways, I’m the girl that Roisin told you compared our school to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. I love your website, and best of luck in the future.
    Mackenzie Lasher

    PS- I believe the reason as to why Watson wore sunglasses yesterday, was not due to protection from the sun, but to hide tears when it got to the part about him in your speech.

  • @Michael: Thank you for the compliments. As for the criticisms, I disagree with all of them universally, as do most of my peers.

    @Rob: Dude, you give me way too much credit. But, thank you!

    @DoverGirl99: Thank you so much. It may be a shame that I’m leaving, but don’t let it be. Take the reigns, it’s your show now.

    @Mackenzie: Thank you, too, for saying such nice things. I love your sister! Obama fans unite, right? You’re so right about that analogy. A downfall may be coming, but I hope it’s preventable. – You may be right about Mr. Watson, but it’s something I try not to think about.

  • it’s really good…

    eventhough i don’t know the theme but it is really interesting but…

    your conclusion is so weak…
    you can easily put a poem or anecdote to end your speech…
    not just saying thank you…

    the introduction…
    very touching…
    most of the person was mentioned…

    that’s all…

    i’m from philippines…

  • Wow, you’re valedictory address is so amazing and inspiring!I’m graduating as a valedictorian this year, can you help me make a speech as wonderful as yours? I need some suggestions. Please?

  • belle_yu – Thank you, but I think a speech is a really personal process. Other than googling for general tips, I can’t help you that much.

  • Namae'te Doo demo ii yo

    Haha…inspiring perhaps but in our country, valedictory addresses meant the dream-fueled future of the graduating class. It is a speech which is talking about the dreams and the unfolding of a new chapter of our lives which is college life. Thank-you speeches are saved for the testimonial dinner. I know you’re thankful or grateful to those people..yes you do.

  • Wow…. youre the best one for me because your story is inspiring me to become like you and I was thankful because you act like a model not only for me but also for those who read your message…… and THANK YOU, GOD BLESS.

  • As Validictorian this year I started my process today (yes graduation is in 16 days) of looking up tips and guidelines for writing the speech.

    Everything I’ve stumbled upon thus far has seemed cliche and bland, impersonal and well, not me. Coming from a small town I feel it needs to be personal becuase I know the name of every single person I am graduating with.

    All that to the side, I loved your speech. I found it exactly what I needed to get myself thinking along the lines of what I wanted to say. So, thank you. Thank you very much.

  • Kati – I wish you the greatest luck in writing your speech. It’s a hard task, but it’s a fun one. I’m glad I was able to help you in any way with your task. Be sure to come back and let me know how it went!

  • Wow.. that’s a really nice speech you got there. =D As a student, I have heard different kinds of Valedictory Addresses but this one is way too Awesome. 🙂 Do you have some tips or something that could help in making a good speech like this?

    I like this part:

    If that’s what we could do in the course of these last few years of high school, imagine what we’ll be able to do when we choose our own paths. When we let our passions guide us, there’s nothing we can’t do. Fellow classmates, find what you love doing in life and stick with it. That is my third and final piece of advice for you today, because it is by working with this talent, calling, or skill that you’ll find true happiness and change the world.

    By the way, Highschool life is the BEST!

  • I had just read your valedictory address. And oh! It’s so amazing. You inspired me 🙂 I wish I could have a chance to deliver a speech too.

  • your speech is very nice. it’s very inspiring. 😀

  • its so good 🙂

  • hahahaha its so hard to write a speech

  • what a speech!!you know i scripted my elementary speech here..
    thanks a lot!!!

  • Fantastic page, Keep up the very good job. Thanks a lot!

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