Excellent Results Give You A Bright Future Essay Sample

Success, then, is a relative term; we may apply it to measure the quality of the change we engender, the lives we transform, and the relationships we build. With titles such as doctor or president, it is what we do with our influence that imbues our titles with value. With what we have learned, knowledge prepares us to face the challenges of our generation, equips us to fight inequity in health, wealth, and opportunity, and guides us in our future endeavors. With dedication and ambition, we can defeat ignorance and accomplish the extraordinary.

The true measure of success may not be manifest at first sight. The gifts we have received from Brentwood High School and this community, however, have provided us with our first steps toward its eventual discovery. With this in mind, I challenge you to define your success and live up to your own measures with passion and commitment. If you see yourself as having succeeded, others will follow suit. Good luck and congratulations to you all!

**

Eastport-South Manor Junior Senior High School

Taylor Grogan

Age: 17

State University of New York at Geneseo

Thank you. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the teachers, administrators, the Board of Education and our friends and families, not only for sharing our graduation with us and watching us as we receive our diplomas and reminisce about past events, but also for the endless support you have given us over the years that helped us throughout high school and led us to this stage today.

Whether we realize it or not, our families and friends have contributed greatly to our success in high school. Our parents pushed us to excel and to put everything we could into our schoolwork, leading us to give our best effort to school. Siblings and friends were there for us when we fell short of expectations, either those of our parents, teachers, or even our own. They reminded us what we are capable of and motivated us to continue working as hard as we could, either through encouraging words or more commonly through sibling rivalries. It is for this inspiration and encouragement that I thank not only my own family, but the families of all the graduates joining me onstage today.

While our family and friends gave us the motivation, our teachers guided us and kept us moving forward toward success. In fact, this school and our experiences here would not have been the same without the teachers who pushed us, sometimes beyond our normal limits, who reminded us to enjoy senior year and not take life too seriously, and even those who “enlightened” us through their random rants and theories, ridiculous current events and who opened our eyes to the fourth dimension. Our teachers amused and inspired us with their quotes of the day, Chuck Norris facts and Billy Joel lyrics on tests. However, the teachers we have come to know and love have given us more than fun memories; our teachers have given us the best education we could ask for and have provided us with many of the life lessons we will need in order to succeed. Without these teachers, I’m sure many of us would not have enjoyed high school nearly as much as we did, nor would we have learned as much as we have.

Whether you truly enjoyed school or not, we all at some point anticipated its end and thought graduation could not come soon enough. Yet as I stand here, with the end upon us, I’ve realized high school wasn’t just about the building or the teachers. School is an experience that, since kindergarten, has defined me, defined us all. For the most part, our school experiences depended on what we chose to participate in.

Students who played sports remember rivalry games and pasta parties with our teams, while members of the band reminisce over band trips and concerts. The students involved in clubs remember certain events they sponsored, just as other students have memories of working on the homecoming floats and fundraising for our class. While these memories set us apart from one another, we all share the memories of the sound of the bell, taking tests and meeting our friends before class. These are the memories that have marked us as students and define how we have spent the majority of our lives. But as we walk off this stage and say our good-byes, our identity as high school students ends. We are left to choose our own future path and decide how we will define ourselves.

Even though many of us are heading off to college, and continuing our lives as students, we must begin to think about our future because college is an opportunity to work toward our goals and gain the education necessary to follow our dreams. So regardless of whether you plan to attend college in the fall, seek employment or join the armed forces, the time to decide on your future is fast approaching. Everything you choose to do is a step toward your future and will become a part of who you are, just as the choices you made in high school and our memories here have become a part of each and every one of us. So, when choosing your future path, why not choose the path that will bring you a sense of purpose, fulfillment, pride, and most importantly, joy. Such a decision is not to be taken lightly, nor is it to be feared. It is to be made with a clear vision of your future and the drive and excitement to see that your vision is realized. No matter how you choose to define yourself, be sure to follow your passions and make a decision that is entirely your own.

While our futures lie before us, waiting to unfold, one thing is certain: high school is over and we have all come to our first true milestone in our adult lives. We are no longer high school seniors, we are now high school graduates, ready to move on and face the world that exists beyond the teachers, cliques and class schedules that have defined much of our lives. With that said, I would like to congratulate the class of 2008 on achieving this milestone and wish you all good luck in following your passions and fulfilling your dreams.

**

School: Farmingdale High School

Steven Zilg

Age: 18

Attending: Boston College

Good evening Board of Education, administrators, teachers, honored guests, family and friends; and of course Mike Natale and Cody Torlincasi, who actually paid $10 for this one second of fame. Good luck in life, guys. It is an honor and a privilege to welcome you all to the graduation of the Farmingdale High School class of 2008. We’ve been building toward this day for the last 13 years. When we began, a gallon of gas only cost $1, Pluto was considered a planet, and Steve Knox was merely 3 feet 5 inches tall. So much has changed since then.

Writing this speech was not easy for me. I am up here tonight because I managed to end up with the highest G.P.A. in the class. For some reason, that also means that I know more about life, and that I should represent the class by imparting some final words of wisdom on everyone, before running out the door waving a diploma over my head and throwing my hat in the air with everyone else. Unfortunately my store of life experience is not at all full, and verbal inspiration has never been a specialty of mine. After trying for countless hours to come up with something to say, I still did not have any ideas. But, then I thought to myself, hey, the adults are always telling me how much information I have available to me, why don’t I try looking there? The Internet, I thought to myself. This ingenious invention was going to save my life and create a beautiful speech for me. I looked everywhere I could think of. I started with the obvious, YouTube and “the Google” as our president calls it. But when I did not find anything there I began to grow desperate. I found myself typing random Web addresses such as www.greatideasforstevezilgsvaledictorianspeech.com. Nothing came up. I found everything that I was not looking for, and nothing that I was willing to say up here in front of all of you. After trying very hard to make my speech something special, I decided first that I should cover the basic parts of a typical valedictorian speech: the thank yous, and the congratulations.

To our administrators, teachers, and faculty. You have overseen our development during these many years. Everyone sitting here owes part of who they are to the Farmingdale School District. I know I do. My educational experience is a culmination of the interactions I have had with teachers both in and out of the classroom. For example, if it wasn’t for Mr. De Paola, I would never have known that the cafeteria hallway in our school is the longest school hallway in the state of New York. I don’t know where I would be today if I didn’t have that important piece of information. Whether it be music, art, athletics or just general education, the staff in this school district is filled with some amazing people who have given us nothing but the best. On behalf of all the graduating seniors, I would like to say thank you. I would also like to give a personal thank you to one of the school trainers, Phil Fandale, without whom I would probably be giving this speech on crutches or in a leg brace.

To the families of these graduates. Some of you were probably wondering if this day was ever going to come (Mr. and Mrs. Tarello), and now that it is here, there are probably even more of you who wish you could put it off for one more year. You’ve watched over us for the last 18 years, and have seen us grow from diapers to diplomas. For these last, almost two decades, you have been a runway for us, giving us guidelines and direction while we remain on the ground. But now we have reached the end of that runway, and it is time for us to takeoff into the flight of life, which can go anywhere we decide to take it. No matter what path we take there are going to be challenges, but we are ready to face them, thanks to you, our parents.

Teachers and parents, congratulations on successfully getting us this far. But even more importantly, my fellow graduates, congratulations on getting yourselves this far. In today’s world where so much value is placed on higher education and furthering our studies, not enough worth is put on the diploma we get for finishing this level of education.Just because we are getting smarter as a species does not mean that it is any easier to get through high school.I am sure all of you in front of me right now can attest to the hard work that it took to earn that seat you are now sitting in. This should be nothing short of the proudest moment in your lives so far, and each and every one of you deserves a round of applause. While I know that within this school there are some amazing clubs and teams that accomplish many outstanding feats, there is one special group that has given me memories that I will take with me forever. I would like to take a moment to commend my brothers on the Daler Football team, who persevered through tremendous adversity and brought the Rutgers Cup back to Farmingdale for the first time in 16 years. I wish I could have been out there with you guys.

Now for the inspirational words ... here goes nothing.

If someone were to observe our world from the outside, they would see some terrible sights, hear some terrible sounds, and probably feel some terrible feelings. But even though those sights and sounds make up most of what you read in the paper or see on the news, the lesser publicized stories can be just as, if not more important. There are some amazing people doing some amazing things in every field all around this world, and it is our time to join them. I look at you my peers, and I see enormous potential in every sense of the word. I see movers and shakers, I see problem solvers, I see healers, I see thinkers, and I see doers. I see courageous individuals who are all ready to soar off, and change this world for the better in so many ways. And as I stand before you I am both humbled and thankful; humbled by the amount of talent I see in the class of 2008, and thankful that I was able to be just a small part of it. But remember this my fellow graduates. While the Internet may be able to help you, it will never accomplish tasks for you. If we trust in each others abilities, as well as our own, the unimaginable will become not only imaginable, but attainable. Thank you and I wish us all a healthy and happy future.

**

School: Farmingdale High School

Rachel Roesch, salutatorian

Age: 18

Attending: College of New Jersey

When I was young, I used to think teachers lived at school. Now, although I know better, I doubt it sometimes because I don’t think I’ve ever seen some of the teachers leave the building. It just goes to show how dedicated our teachers are to their students and that they don’t view teaching as a “hard duty” but as a “valuable gift.”

Although we are uncertain about the future, I believe the general consensus is that we all want to graduate whether it is due to intellectual maturity or a need to be free. I know many of us enjoyed the time spent in high school, but there is something inside of us that knows it is time to move on.

Learning from past generations and our past failures is the key to improving our future. After all, school is for learning.

**

School: Long Beach High School

Name : Doug Kovel

Age: 18

Attending: Georgetown University

I would like to thank our superintendent, Dr. Robert Greenberg, the Board of Education, Mr. Restivo, administrators, parents, teachers, and fellow students for being here today. To the seniors this year seemed like an eternity, but the day we graduate is finally here. This is a truly monumental event for which we all deserve congratulations. As we look around this room we can see future teachers, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, soldiers, athletes, and other successful professionals. Some of us may think we have our futures all mapped out and know exactly what it is we want to do, while others of us only have a vague idea of what it is we want to do or simply have no idea at all yet. Whatever the case may be, I hope we keep an open mind and find our passions in life despite all obstacles that can get in the way.

While this day is a landmark occasion, on which we should celebrate our accomplishments, we could not have arrived here alone. I feel that we must take some time to recognize those people who were instrumental in helping us get to this point. Let us thank our families who have supported us in our educational and extracurricular endeavors, and who have been there for us when we needed them most. Let us also thank our teachers who have inspired and empowered us, and who have given us the tools to succeed.

While many of us will work ambitiously to achieve our future goals we should avoid becoming overly consumed by our desires to be successful. On the subject of success, Neil Simon once said, “I think that this country and culture glorifies and deifies the goddess of Success to the point that whenever we try and fail, we hear our own inner voices say, “shame upon you.” If there is any shame, it is in the fact that we inflict such heavy punishments on ourselves.” I think that this quote accurately articulates a pitfall for many people, in a society where ideals such as opportunism and competition are championed, sometimes to an unhealthy extent. Far too often people, become overly concerned with the end results of “doing well,” or being “the best” without enjoying themselves in the process. Wanting to do your best is fine, as long as you don’t allow a fear of failure stop you from following your passions and taking risks. For the bulk of my high school career, I must admit that I was primarily concerned with my own personal success, but now I ask myself, what really is the measure of true success? Is it the tangible awards one receives for a job well done, such as a large paycheck, a stellar report card, a glittering trophy, or a shiny acceptance letter from the University of your Choice? For a long time, this type of reward is what I thought constituted success, but recently I have discovered that true success is much more than acquiring external awards.

What I have come to realize is that the joy one gets from extrinsic rewards is fleeting. It is not before long that the waves of “congratulations” subside and one’s accomplishment becomes “old news”. True success and happiness is attained when we utilize our talents, abilities, and skills in a way that is both personally fulfilling, and more importantly, has a positive impact on others, such as friends, family, and the society at -large.

I first came to this realization last summer when I attended a leadership camp in Baltimore, and an inspiring guest speaker shared one of her valuable life experiences. The speaker recounted how she had dropped a highly profitable career as an interior designer to become the founder of a nonprofit charitable organization called the Students Sharing Coalition. This coalition trains middle school and high school children to overcome social injustices plaguing their community such as poverty, crime, homelessness, and racial tension. Though this job brought her less wealth and “success” in the traditional sense of the word, she found much more fulfillment and inner satisfaction in helping those in need than in making large sums of money. Her story made an indelible impression on me, and I was inspired by the fact that someone could drop a lucrative career for a “higher calling.” I retell this story to you in hopes that it will inspire you take risks, be socially conscious, and follow your inner passions.

As high school comes to an end and we prepare to move on to the next stage of our lives whether it be at a college, a trade school, military service, or a job, we are sure to face many challenges that may seem insurmountable. However, we must realize that we do have the power to overcome obstacles that get in our way through perseverance and a willingness to take risks. I would like to leave you with a statement by Albert Einstein “A life not lived for others is not worth living.” This means that our education is worthless unless we utilize the knowledge and skills we attained for a meaningful purpose which positively impacts the rest of the world in some way. I have no doubts that this Class of 2008 is more than capable of meeting this lofty demand and will ultimately and collectively achieve greatness. I wish all of you the best of luck and hope that you continue to do well in all of your future endeavors.

**

School: Lynbrook High School

Allie Greenberg

Age: 18

Attending: The University of Pennsylvania

Good evening, members of the board of education, administration and faculty, parents, brothers and sisters, friends, and fellow graduates:

It is a strange phenomenon that, no matter how excited we are at the onset of something new, all too quickly we shift our focus to its ending. So, it was inevitable that from the moment we entered Lynbrook High School’s doors as eager, wide-eyed freshman, we started the countdown to bigger and better things. We’ve all heard it in the halls: “only three days till the weekend ... only 130 days until summer ... only four weeks to graduation!”

Well, all those weeks that began with dreaded Mondays and ended with glorious Fridays have added up. Our wishes have come true — the end is here. But let’s be honest: Now that we are confronted with the little matter of “the rest of our lives,” that “What’s the rush?” comment our parents always made when we’d say we couldn’t wait to finish high school is making a lot more sense.

It seems like only yesterday that, petrified about our clothes and our hair and everything else, we came to school on that first day of ninth grade and began wandering the halls of the most confusing building in America, like rats in a lab experiment. In a sense, these past four years were a lab experiment for us. In the laboratory otherwise known as Lynbrook High School, we each had our own personal petrie dish in which our character and personality could emerge. Ours was an experiment with many different instruments — athletic fields and concert halls, classrooms and band rooms; auditoriums and studios. We tutored kids and relayed for life. We wrote stories for Horizon and Driftstone and we held blood drives and bake sales and art exhibitions and did other things too numerous to mention here. We grappled with tests and regents and submerged ourselves in the alphabetical quagmire of A.P.s and SATS and ACTs. Somehow, we emerged from that quagmire, undaunted if not unscathed. Not least important, we learned our way around the confounding school building!

And, it took us four years to do it, but we left our mark on one of Lynbrook’s proudest and most enduring traditions when — before a thoroughly disbelieving crowd whose primary nonbelievers were us — we transformed ourselves from Classnight laughingstock into Classnight champions!!

Along the way, each of us have created our own unique memories that we will take away from here — mostly good ones, I hope, and some not so good, but all now and forever a part of who we are and what we will accomplish.

Nothing worthwhile is accomplished without help from those around us. Our teachers, coaches, administrators, and counselors devoted a large part of their lives to educating us — not just in their respective fields, but in life’s broader lessons: what it means to be disciplined, focused, and organized; what it means to be part of a team; what it means to work toward a goal; what it means to be respectful and what it takes to be respected. We may have at times felt more burdened than blessed by the lessons, but in at least some small way—sometimes unknowingly, sometimes with vivid clarity—we will benefit from them every day of our lives. As we say goodbye to these truly caring people of Lynbrook High School today, let us also say, thank you. APPLAUSE

Similarly, we must thank our families. Their unwavering support has enabled us to reach what is probably the biggest milestone in our lives thus far. We students like to think we are capable of just about anything, but we could not have found our way to this splendid moment without the daily support and love our families provide. I want to personally thank my family and I hope you’ll join me in a round of applause in thanking all of your families as well. APPLAUSE

It is said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Recently, I entered the school for our last day of classes and I was gripped by emotions strangely similar to those I remember feeling on that terrifying first day of ninth grade all those years ago. I felt confused and scared, not knowing what to expect next. I realized, as everything hit me, that although I have changed and grown so much in the past four years here, I am still the same fearful little girl wandering through the maze of hallways, overwhelmed, yet excited by the opportunities awaiting me. Each of us have our own feelings about the past four years and our own hopes and expectations for the next four and thereafter. But to at least some degree, we all face the same blank page, again, just as we did when we headed to LHS from middle school.

I would like to close with a few words about the cornerstone of our Lynbrook experience: friends. It is our friends who helped us greet the uncertainties of that first day of ninth grade. And it is the unique comfort that only friends share that helped us conquer our fears and doubts every day thereafter. Our friends rejoiced in our triumphs and softened the blow of our failures. Our friends are at the core of our most invaluable experiences here, experiences that will soon become treasured memories destined to remain in our hearts forever.

As we journey from Marion Street today to Wall Street or whatever other street or avenue of life we visit tomorrow, we will meet many people and make many friends on the way—friends who will help us, make us laugh and make us cry; teach us and learn from us; friends who will love us. But none of those friends will share the exclusive bond we share, now and forever—the bond that we created as we began to grow up, together, in this laboratory—our laboratory—here at Lynbrook High School.

CONGRATULATIONS, GRADUATES!! GOOD LUCK IN ALL OF YOUR ENDEAVORS! AND THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH

**

School: Roosevelt High School

Krista-J McEwan

Age: 17

Attending: Boston University

On behalf of the graduating class, I would like to take this time to say thank you to the Board of Education, administration, faculty, families, friends and all other esteemed guests for being here today to share our joy in this celebration. It is a shame that I can only express my gratitude in words.

Over the last four years, all of us here at Roosevelt High school have lived through experiences that have shaped who we are, who we want to be and who we will someday become. Some events have uplifted us; some have changed us; and some have left us in utter shock and amazement. We have experienced history first hand — with the outcome still in question, but hopeful and life altering. Personally, I will never forget what happened to me this spring.

Anyone who knows me knows that food is my best friend, my confidant, my will to live. I keep my trademark turkey sandwich jammed-packed with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese in the same bag with my iPod touch and my sidekick. On this particular day, I realized that someone had stolen my will to live — my lunch. For a moment there I have to admit, I was really angry; who would dare to take my sandwich? But then, it dawned on me... my iPod and my sidekick were WITH my lunch!! When I checked my bag, I made the astounding discovery — both electronic devices were still there. Both EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE electronic devices were left, but my trademark turkey sandwich — the one with the lettuce, tomatoes and my favorite cheese — was gone. Do you see the irony? Needless to say, whoever it was must have been suffering from extreme starvation. That’s the only explanation I can come up with. I never did find out who took my sandwich, but I made sure from that point forward to NEVER let my sandwich out of my sight. Oh, and my iPod and my sidekick are just fine, too.

This year’s Spirit Week was one of our most memorable senior moments. Twin Day, Punk Rock Day, Blue and Gold Day. My personal favorites, however, were Celebrity Day and Teacher Appreciation Day. Who will ever forget the sight of Clifton Brown walking down the hallway as Medea; or Steven Dozier dragging the trash can, his head covered in white powder, trying to look like “Pops.” Our teachers also played a major role in that Day. I don’t know, Andrew, but I think you and Ms. Squillante were twins on Teacher Appreciation day — the baggy sweats, the white socks with the Adidas slippers, and the typical white T — it was almost scary how much you two looked alike. Speaking of scary, I must also admit that as I give this speech, I do so in great fear, as Jessika Edouard promised me that if this speech doesn’t make her cry, she is coming after me.

On a more serious note, after weeks of brainstorming, looking for just one word or one quote that could best be used to describe our four year experience at Roosevelt High school, I came up with ... absolutely nothing. In my defense, even Einstein, the most accredited physicist to ever live, would have found this to be a difficult task. Though not perfect, Roosevelt has created a unique environment that encouraged us to flourish even under the most difficult of circumstances. Roosevelt, in my opinion, has been the ideal “non-cliché” family, where we as students were given the opportunity to make mistakes, while we also allowed the adults to make their own. And let’s face it, as in any family, none of us could have disowned the others, even if we tried. And believe me, we tried. For most of us, Roosevelt has dotted our memories with a few disappointing experiences, but we experienced many more that were joyous and triumphant. Joyous were the times when we gathered together for our yearly coronations and homecomings and when we put our heads together to fundraise for the senior class. Our advisers will tell you that that wasn’t always easy. Triumphant were the times throughout the years when the football team brought the Long Island Championship home or when a group of AP English students challenged the January English Regents and scored at Mastery level ranging from 85s to 99s.

I was honored to be part of that group. Whether one or many, in High School, friendships were forged, and are simply irreplaceable. Only in Roosevelt could you be exposed to raw and truly heated debates about abortion, slavery, and the rights of homosexuals in an English class and then hear a fellow student ask whether or not India is a continent. We had moments. Real moments.

I spent so much time trying to decide what truly deep message I wanted to impart to our graduating class. I wanted to be philosophical because being philosophical means to truly embody character, integrity, morality and intellect. What I found was that philosophy is a fascinating field. To be philosophical means to be provocative. To be provocative means to be different. It means understanding that sometimes there is no right or wrong. It means understanding that the world is not always black and not always white, but is more often, shades of grey. People will see things that you will not see, hear things that you will not hear, and think things that you will not think; just as you will see things they do not see, hear things that they will not hear, and most definitely, will think things they do not think. It means that the person sitting beside you may look at your glass that is half full and see it as half empty. I am still not sure what my deep message is, I only know that when you hear it, you will know.

I stand before you here, today, as valedictorian, ostensibly the highest ranked in our class, the best, number one. I know that I should be honored and greatly appreciative. Trust me, I AM, but it is only because of providence that I stand here before you today, a mere accident; for my family’s original intent was for me to attend Holy Trinity High school. The fact of the matter is my parents couldn’t afford the tuition and my road not taken was transformed — it was in fact the road MOST traveled. But in its defense, I must say that it has still made all the difference and the difference is this, if I had attended Holy Trinity I would not be as strong and I would not have such a great magnitude of character.

While some of you may believe that getting where I am today has been a jog in the park, it certainly hasn’t. I’m flattered that I made it seem that way. The last four years of my life have been far from easy. The journey to where I am now has been an exhausting one. While everyone is aware of the fact that the school day ends at 2:34, my school day was never over before four o’clock. There were countless nights where I would go to sleep at three in the morning. When there weren’t sleepless nights, there were certainly sleepless mornings where I would wake up at four or five a.m. to complete an assignment. I have made many sacrifices to stand where I stand. Often, going to the movies and hanging out with friends was put aside for studying. Sullivan’s essays were no joke and if you had her, you know the thought process that was required to produce a quality essay — and that took time. Perfecting math skills and writing skills required an immense amount of focus. Part of being a success is accepting the occasional failure. Every now and then, when I was at my wits end and thought I couldn’t get past a bump in the road, my personal support system (my family and my best friend) came to my aid and I thank them whole heartedly. Some days, I was too tired to wake up and my best friend, Janelle, would call me at five o’clock in the morning or would spend sleepless nights with me over the phone. My mom passed on this famous quote to me, “The heights that great men reached and kept, were not attained by sudden flight; but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward through the night.”

Education has exceeded many things in importance to me and needless to say, I have grasped the importance of sacrifice. I will warn you, though; be cautious, for it easy to lose sight of whatever goals you set.

Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, once said, “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” Though I admit that I posses the characteristics that define an exceptional student, and while I admit that I have struggled earnestly to stand as your valedictorian, I have reservations when it comes to accepting this honor. I refuse to be categorized or labeled, for it limits my true potential and my growth. I choose to always maintain that burning desire to be better tomorrow than I am today, to always continue to learn. Learning, as you already know, is the basis of all education. Learning is as essential as the oxygen we breathe. Although the title of Valedictorian is mine, I want to share it with my graduating class. For all of us to be sitting here today, survivors of a bumpy four year road, and after having lost a few along the way -- this is miraculous. There is a light in every individual in this room. It is a light that illuminates the mirrors of success that reflect in us all. It is the light of our ancestors. It is the light that our parents and guardians have worked wholeheartedly to instill in us. It’s the light of hope. And we are all the best.

I boast the philosophy of greatness and change. I have seen the potential to put a woman in the White House within my lifetime. I see the very real possibility of an African American President within the year. The bells of freedom are ringing and we are Roosevelt’s first graduating class to truly hear them. It is the bell that represents that “joyous daybreak that ended the long nights of captivity.” It is the rain that washes away the sweat and stinging blood of every slave. Barack Obama, boasting the philosophy of change as his campaign slogan, is now on the ballot to become the President of the United States. We stand in the midst of one of the most politically progressive eras in American history. It proves that Abraham Lincoln’s blood splattered in Ford’s Theatre was not in vain. It proves that the sixteen shots Malcolm X suffered were not in vain. It proves that the blood of Martin Luther King shed on the second story balcony of the Lorraine Motel was not in vain. Our entire Senior year, we heard each morning, “1865. Never forget.” It is our responsibility to never forget. These men of greatness believed in the power of change.

While I conclude with great joy, I also say my last few words with a hint of sadness. Though you may find them to be cliché, I pray you take them to heart. We are at the end of one phase of our lives and are embarking upon a new one. This chapter of high school has come to an end. While it is true that Roosevelt is only one square mile and that we may run into each other every now and then, this will be the last time we all will be in the same building much less the same place. I pray we get the opportunity to close many more chapters in our lives. Not knowing what the future holds is a frightening thought. It is essential that we believe in ourselves and expect that there are many that will give you ‘no’ for an answer. What might surprise some of you is that there are people that have told me that I couldn’t. People will always be there to try to take what you have earned. Let no one take what you have earned, for if I did, I would not be standing here before you today.

When the road ahead seems too long to trod, when the hill seems too steep climb, when it seems impossible to reach the summit ... let us not give up, let us not give in, let us not lose hope. We must continue to the end. Keep in mind that good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from the mistakes we make along the way. Therefore, in order to reach the mountain top and to reach the height of individual greatness, you must realize that you may have to encounter many failures. What makes you truly successful is how you grow from them.

Before I close I would like you to do one more thing for me. I want you to close your eyes and remember the face of someone that helped you along this journey whether it be a classmate or a teacher that had the most influence on you. I would like you to remember their smile and never forget it. My fellow graduates, look at the person next to you and if anyone is asleep wake them up and tell them to look at me for a moment.

Congratulations, Roosevelt’s class of 2008.

We did it!

**

School: Roslyn High School

Jennifer Batel

Age: 18

Attending: Harvard University

I would like to welcome the superintendent of schools, Dr. Richman, the principal of Roslyn High School, Mr. Scanlon, the entire Board of Education and all of the wonderful faculty and staff along with my family, friends, and fellow graduates who are here today to honor the class of 2008.

I was looking through my yearbook, reading the inspirational quotes that my classmates had chosen to appear below their pictures. Many were about chasing your dreams or finding your own path, while others focused on the value of friendship and learning from your mistakes.

While I sat in my room reflecting on the past and thinking about the future, it was the few quotes that focused on the present that really caught my attention. One student chose “Live today as if it were your last”, while another simply chose “Carpe Diem” which translates to “seize the day”.

Both of these quotes represent the concept of “living in the present”. These words of wisdom tell us to live our lives without fixating on the past or focusing on the future, but rather by enjoying each moment as it happens. As wonderfully appealing as this concept seems, I never found it very realistic. How can I possibly enjoy the moment when I’m sick in bed with bronchitis or taking a three hour AP Calculus Exam on the first gorgeous day of spring?

So then I took a moment to disregard the minor discomforts we all have to face in life, and began thinking about it on a larger scale. So maybe we aren’t expected to enjoy every second of every day, but let’s face it, our generation as a whole has become too focused on the future. We spend so much time planning for what is to come, that we often don’t take the time to appreciate the present. It became especially apparent this year, as I reflected on the process of applying to different colleges. Some of the most valuable advice I received in regards to the college search was from a dean of admissions who claimed that the most important thing we should remember throughout this process is that we mustn’t let our focus on college detract from our senior year. More easily said then done I thought. Choosing where I’m going spend the next four years of my life is a major decision, I can always just return to “living in the moment” once my choice is finalized. But now, I’m not so sure that it’s as simple as that. As this year comes to a close, people have already begun to question us, the soon-to-be undergraduates, on what we plan to do after our four years of study. Do we plan on going to graduate school? Medical school? Have we thought about future employment? Where do we see ourselves in ten years!?

That’s when I realized that this momentary preoccupation with college is actually representative of a greater fixation on the future, which unfortunately doesn’t end with schooling. Everyone seems to feel the pressure of the future! Of course having future goals are important as they provide you with something to aim for and even supply that necessary push that drives you to achieve. But what’s the point of having long-term goals when we can’t even enjoy what we’ve accomplished because we’re already planning for the next thing in our lives? How can we reflect and learn from the experiences we’ve had, when our past has been spent planning or scheduling things for the future?

I turn now to another quote chosen by a classmate. “Success is a journey not a destination.” We as a class have worked so hard to get to this point that we need to truly immerse ourselves in the next four years enjoying every opportunity that we are presented with. We should be exploring new interests and taking classes that truly intrigue us, which will help us on the way to discovering what it is we want to do in the future. Essentially, the future is created in the present. Another student quoted Fiest who once wrote, “And we’ll collect the moments one by one, I guess that’s how the future’s done.” Even as adults, we should always remember that living in the moment doesn’t mean we have to enjoy everything that happens in our lives, but we mustn’t let planning for future events overshadow the actual experiences that we have now.

I would like to thank my mom, dad, and sister who have always reminded me of the importance of truly embracing the moment and encouraging me to pursue any and all of my interests. I love you so much and I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for you. Sometimes I find myself a victim of our generation, overwhelmed by thoughts of the future. What career will I pursue, a lawyer, doctor, scientist? And then my mom reassures me, explaining that everything will fall into place if I just find what truly interests me, because the most important thing in life is to just be happy. That’s where my dad comes in, as he always knows how to make me smile or laugh, which reminds me not to take life too seriously! My sister is about to embark on the same journey that I have just completed as she enters her senior year of high school. My advice: Everything works out for a reason so hold onto your fun-loving, silly disposition, keep up the hard work, and enjoy! As James Dean once said, “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.”

So where do I hope to be in 10 years? I honestly have no idea. All I know is that I plan on enjoying whatever it is that I do, and that whatever future goals I have, will stay in the future ...until I get there. Thank you.

**Roslyn High School

Austin Bernhardt

Age: 18

Attending: Yale University

I know I’m at the edge of something massive, expanding and frustratingly nebulous. I know how to put one foot in front of the other. I know that the subject of a sentence is never in a prepositional phrase. Great. On the other hand, I don’t know how to fix a car, I don’t know how to survive in the wilderness with nothing but a pocket knife and a ball of twine, I don’t know what makes anyone tick (let alone myself), and perhaps most bafflingly, I don’t know how these four years have passed so quickly. But I do know calculus.

Maybe it’s a sign of unparalleled wisdom on the part of our high school or maybe it’s just a coincidence, but the fact that we are offered calculus in our senior year seems perfect to me. I remember asking Mrs. Lewis one day about halfway through the year what calculus is. She looked at me for a moment before claiming very matter-of-factly, “Calculus is the study of rates of change.” As I’m sure anyone who has struggled with the chain rule or the product rule will tell you, rates of change can be a tricky business. It seems to me as though these past few months have accelerated at the speed of light, and the trend doesn’t seem to show signs of stopping. Although we’re all looking forward to a long and relaxing summer vacation free for the first time of packets of Spanish vocab and tedious summer reading, I think everyone knows that it will be shorter (and less relaxing for anyone who has begun the college prep process) than we hope it will be. And I personally can’t help but feel at least a little longing for the torture of summer reading if only because it seemed to keep me grounded to something familiar at all times, no matter how much I hated it. As we walk out of this auditorium, we will be sailing into the same waters we’ve navigated for the past twelve years, but the compass will be gone and we will be free to float further and further away into the distance, with all of the implications that carries with it.

But if there is one thing that I’ve really taken away from calculus, I don’t think it’s how to find the derivative of a polynomial or integrate a logarithm. It’s the idea of limits, that when you look at something from very far away, apparent chaos can turn into something recognizable and definite, the idea that infinity can take on a definite shape, that we’re all not just destined to wander blindly forever. Especially in the past few months amidst the constant barrage of “What are you going to major in?” and “What are you going to do?” there have been times when I’ve been overcome with a kind of panic, a feeling that I need to know what infinity looks like right now, that security and happiness comes from being able to see down the road. But I guess, as Hannah Montana says, “Everybody has those days.” I don’t know what lies down the road; with the exception of the lucky few of us who know from age three what they want to do with their lives, I don’t think anybody does. As Mrs. Lewis says, “as you approach infinity, things could look like something, or they could look like nothing at all,” but I think knowing that we’re all in that same boat entering unknown territory together makes it a little better. It makes me think that if we’re all lost, maybe the right direction isn’t as defined as I think it needs to be. Maybe it doesn’t even exist.

What I think I like even more, however, is the flipside of that idea, that if you take something and put it under a microscope and magnify it until you can’t anymore, something that at first glance seems crazy, erratic, and unpredictable can turn concrete, visible, and maybe even significant. What looks like a big mess of lines and dashes, when you zoom in close enough, can start to look like a “5” or a “3” or a “1,000.” With all this talk about the next chapter of our lives and never coming back and where we go from here, it seems as though we’re pressured to view this as a waiting room, an introduction, a prelude to something bigger and better. And maybe it is; I don’t know. Either way, I like the idea that this is somehow important too, for whatever it’s worth, that even though we like to complain about how dull our lives are and proclaim how much we can’t wait to leave this town and even though when we all approach infinity everything will look like little specks that those little specks can be as meaningful as the big picture, whatever that may look like. Who knows; maybe it’s just a big question mark.

**

School: Roslyn High School

Brittany Katz

Age: 17

Attending: Brown University

Good afternoon President Kline and members of the Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Richman, Assistant Superintendents Dr. Brenner and Dr. Salina, Mr. Scanlon, parents and guests, and most important my fellow classmates.

When I first started writing this speech, I had no idea where it would go. I began brainstorming. Nothing seemed to truly fit my personality. I decided I would enlist the help of my peers. So I started to poll people, “What immediately comes to mind when you think of me?” Now, you’d expect I’d have gotten a variety of answers. I for one was expecting responses along the lines of “studies a lot,” “overly happy on the morning announcements,” or maybe even a “nice.” But no! Each and every person gave the same response. The one thing that stood out most in everyone’s mind was one word: “socks.” Those soft, comfy articles of clothing that cover your feet. That’s right, socks, S-O-C-K-S, socks.

Many of you don’t know me, so this probably doesn’t make any sense. But I’m sure there are quite a few people sitting behind me nodding, recalling some time or another when they saw me wandering the halls proudly displaying my oddly-themed socks. Why socks? Well, I have over 100 pairs of quirky socks. It is quite an assortment filling several of my dresser drawers; crocheted, striped, fluffy, and even toe socks, maybe even enough to open a museum. And only two pairs are plain, simple white cotton.

Each pair tells a story, reminding me of different experiences. I began collecting socks when I first moved here from Rhode Island. During my first week of school, I wore an odd pair of socks my mom had bought for me. Several girls noticed these mid-calf, colorful socks. They laughed. I left school upset. Moving had been hard on me. I was having trouble fitting in. My socks were making it worse. I told my mom what had happened. She gave me the best advice I have ever gotten. “Brittany, why fit in when you can stand out?” A light bulb moment. I had something that could make me different, make me feel like I stood out from everyone else: my socks. Thus began my sock collection.

As my collection grew, I began collecting friends as well. People noticed my socks and informed me which pair was their favorite. My socks were always a conversation-starter. In fact, many of my friendships today began with my brightly colored caterpillar, Hershey cow, Amazon Rainforest, or Charleston Chew socks. Oddly enough, I still associate certain friendships with certain socks.

In sophomore year, a girl in my social studies class noticed that she did well on tests whenever I wore my flying pig socks. Out of consideration to her, I began wearing these socks for every social studies test. These socks began to provide an extra confidence boost for me as well. They became my test-taking socks. You can imagine how worn out they became, given the abundance of tests in the Roslyn School District. Before long, they were threadbare. In spite of the annoying hole by the big toe, I wore them to the 11th grade SATs. Sadly, the pigs retired this year. The ever-enlarging hole had become a distraction more than a comfort during tests, not to mention, they were becoming a family embarrassment, especially when I wore them with sandals.

My socks have become a defining feature, always visible, always colorful, and always very very high. They became so much a part of my persona that people were inclined to notice when I didn’t wear socks. In fact, during A.P. week this year I was informed multiple times that I looked “naked” because I wasn’t wearing socks with my ballet flats.

My socks allowed me to express my personality and discover my individuality. By wearing crazy socks, I actively chose to stand out and let my true colors shine. I no longer felt as if I would slip into the crowd. Although my fascination with socks only reflects a small part of who I am, it obviously stands out in the minds of my peers.

My socks have always accompanied me on my path of discovery. Not only are they fashionable, but they are functional, providing comfort for my feet as they do for my character.

Soon enough we will all embark upon separate adventures, thrust out of our comfort zones, forced to discover new niches in new places. It is up to us to decide who we are and what we will become. Each of you is special in your own way. Don’t be afraid to define that special something that makes you unique. Life is boring without our own eccentricities. Step forward confidently.

We are not alone on our journeys. Along the way, people guide us. I am grateful for all of the friends, teachers, administrators, and others who have encouraged me throughout high school to explore my inner self. Even a small comment such as, “Great SpongeBob socks!” reinforced the idea that being different was okay. I would especially like to thank my mom and dad, who always let me leave the house no matter how embarrassing my socks were. I’d also like to thank my sisters, Elana and Jillian, who only on a rare occasion pretended not to know me due to the outlandish nature of my socks. Your constant love and support gave me strength to be myself, no matter what.

So as we move on today, I challenge each and every one of you to stand out. Try something different; wear crazy socks, dance in the middle of the street, or bake a cake for someone you barely know. There are so many ways to assert your individuality. You will be surprised at how liberating and exhilarating such experiences can be.

An old Irish blessing says, “May the road rise to meet you.” Until we meet again, I say to you may your socks, whether they’re cotton, wool, or nylon; mid-calf, ankle, or knee-high; solid, polka-dotted, or argyle, cushion you on your journey along the road of life. May the socks be with you!

**School: Seaford High School

Brendan Orinstein

Age: 18

Attending: University of Pennsylvania

It is an honor and a privilege to welcome you all on this very auspicious occasion. As valedictorian of this year’s graduating class, I was faced with the task of contemplating the final words I wished to impart to my fellow graduates. I decided to open with a quotation, since I’m not above stealing the words of someone much wiser than myself. Famous transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “Do not lose hold of your dreams or aspirations. For if you do, you may still exist but you have ceased to live.” As we move forward into the next stage of our lives, we will indubitably be confronted with both new opportunities and new obstacles. My message to you is this: despite all the barriers that may rise and threaten to block your path, you must hold on with great fortitude to your ambitions, because, should you lose sight of and hope for your dreams, your life will never seem completely full.

Our dreams and aspirations for the future have been profoundly shaped by our common past experiences. Many of us are now at the pinnacle of a thirteen year career within the Seaford School District, some only recently joined us, but we are all here today to celebrate the culmination of our high school years. It certainly has been a long, exciting road leading up to this day. For most of us, the journey began in the Harbor and Manor Elementary Schools with an anxious step into a kindergarten classroom full of unfamiliar faces. However, as time progressed, our myriad collective experiences helped those faces grow more and more familiar. I look back on these years and recall some of the events and activities that brought us all together as a class: fun times in the sun with teachers and friends during Harbor Days, the Valentine’s Day Dance in middle school, our eight grade graduation and class party, countless field trips to just about anywhere you could imagine, and shared participation in numerous clubs and sports. Beginning with that initial timid hello the first day of kindergarten and continuing on to this very day, our experiences together have fostered lasting friendships, cultivated our minds, and molded our personalities and our aspirations.

These past four years of high school have laid the foundation for all of our future pursuits. The greater knowledge, skill, and understanding we have garnered will accompany us to the next phase of life. Though we are parting from the comforting familiarity that is present in every brick, every desk, and every bell toll of Seaford High School and getting ready to forge our way into the unknown, we will always have the guidance of these life tools we have been given. With this foundation, no aspiration, no matter how large or seemingly unattainable, is out of reach. With diligence, perseverance, and a commitment to self-edification, you all have the ability to surmount any hindrance on the route to your dreams. Never lose faith, for after every sunset comes a sunrise, and after every defeat another opportunity for success.

Today is a day on which we are fortunate enough to be commemorating one of these successes. The completion of one’s high school career is a very meritorious accomplishment. This triumph could not have been achieved without the guidance, support, and tremendous dedication of a large number of people. On behalf of our class, I would like to extend my gratitude to the faculty, administration, coaches, and staff throughout the Seaford School District. You have provided the environment in which our minds have been challenged, stimulated, and enriched. In addition, great thanks are due to the parents, guardians, grandparents, siblings, and other loved ones of all the graduates. Without your encouragement, advice, and companionship, none of this would have been possible. I would also like to take a moment to recognize and remember all those whom we have tragically lost over the years. Their presence is deeply missed. All of these individuals, including all of you here today, have helped us along the path to success. I would like to thank you for coming and sharing in this important milestone of our lives. And to my classmates, the graduates of the Seaford High School class of 2008, congratulations and best of luck in all your endeavors. May your futures be bright and may all your dreams come true!

**

School: Uniondale High School

Yessenia Arriaza

Age: 18

Attending: Macaulay Honors College, at Queens College

A good friend of mine told me that if I were to give a speech at graduation, that I should not use a quote because every speech has a quote and it’s too ordinary. Well, my dear friend, today I will go against your advice and disappoint you, for what is a speech without a quote? More important who am I without a quote to live by?

Robert Purvis once said that, “A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.”

I have to say that I agree with Purvis. As you all can see, the graduating class has the same attire. We all have identical caps and identical gowns; it’s the colors that puts some distinction between males and females.

With so much similarity, you might ask, where’s the individuality? Once those caps and gowns are removed, it is very unlikely that two persons will be dressed alike. Everyone has his own style and although, it may be a similar style as others, the individuality that the person brings to it, makes it unique.

Individuality isn’t only shown by the clothes we wear; it’s also shown by what we show to the world. We show the world our values, morals, virtues, personalities, beliefs, goals and so much more. We show the world the people we are, and the people we wish to be. Yet, we do not usually reveal our souls. Our souls represent our essence; our hopes, our dreams, ours fears, our memories, and so much more. Each one of us holds within him- or herself a soul that is incomparable, unmatched with any other soul. Each of us brings something different to the table. Just as no snowflake is identical, no one soul is exactly the same as another. So don’t lose the “contents” of your soul, it reflects what you are: your hopes and dreams, and it is your hopes and dreams that make you look forward in life, and make you have faith in the ability you have to accomplish you goals, to change the world, no matter the obstacles brought forth, nor the challenges life throws at you.

Although, we all have dreams and goals, there are so many ways, so many paths in to take in order to accomplish what we want. A path isn’t worthwhile if it doesn’t lead you to where you want to go. Which path should you choose? The poet Robert Frost wrote in one of his most famous poems: “I took the path less traveled and that has made all the difference.” I was given the same advice by a loved one. Instead of selecting the same path as others, make your own individual path, and leave a trail to show where you been and where you plan to go. Don’t lose your individuality, because it is what separates you from the rest of the world.

Let us keep the memories we’ve made here at U.H.S. We should never take for granted all we have done here, for your experiences will, undoubtedly, help us in the years to come.

We can be proud of many things during our journey at U.H.S. The “Relay for Life” is an event that brought many people together for a great cause, showing us the small ways we can help each other and others around the world in desperate need of aid. The events that have been closest to my heart were the “Hispanic Heritage Nights” held by my beloved club, “Latinos Unidos” which means United Latinos (Hispanics). I not only enjoyed being part of the events, but I enjoyed more, the effect if had on the rest of the student body, including the students not of Hispanic descent. I give great thanks to Mrs. Orellaña for all that she has done for the club and for each of us, as well. Other clubs that have made our school proud have been the Science Research, Key Club, FBLA and so many others, too numerous to mention.

I would like to thank my teachers and the staff who have helped me come, this far. To my counselor, Mrs. Swart, I would like to thank you for being so patient with me especially when it came to college applications. I have so many teachers to thank, for each one has had an impact on my life. I would like to thank Mr. Nelson and Mr. Gunther for not only teaching us things about life, but also for caring about our well-being and our future. To Mrs. Kreisman, who I’ve had for my last two years, I thank you for pushing me to my greatest potential, and the massive amount work you’ve given us, especially that research paper, for I know that it will only prepare us for the work that lies ahead in college. To mi querida Señora Wangerin for what can’t I not thank you? I thank you for teaching me about the great Latin writers and poets who I now enjoy reading. To all of my teachers, thank you for your patience, your understanding, and even the work, which you gave.

To all of my friends, I thank you for your friendship. Each one of you has shown me something new and something important about myself. Each one of you has tolerated my craziness, and on rare occasions, my anger, so thank you.

Above all, I would like to thank my family, most importantly, my parents. They have sacrificed so much for me and my education, as I know other parents have done, as well. They done whatever they could to see me excel in life and to make me the first person in our family to go to college. Mami, Papi, les agradezco por todo lo que han hecho y los quiero mucho. I made it this far because of you and because of God who has made everything possible.

To my fellow classmates, I congratulate you for coming this far. I wish all of you the best in whatever path in life you choose. Don’t think that your journey has ended here; this is just the end of one chapter of your life. It will get harder for you as you go past this point, but remember that nothing worthwhile is ever obtained easily. I believe that in all of you lies the strength and perseverance that is needed to accomplish all of the hopes and dreams that you have. Don’t ever forget your individuality; and whatever life throws at you, put your heart and soul into everything you do.

“I hope your dreams take you...to the corners of your smiles, to the highest of your hopes, to the windows of your opportunities, and to the most special places your heart has ever known.”

To the Class of 2008, best of wishes from the bottom of my heart. We have finally made it. Congratulations to each and everyone of us.

**

School: Valley Stream North High School

Katherine Dauber.

Age: 18

Attending: Barnard College

“Slow down, you crazy child, you’re so ambitious for a juvenile ...Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?...When will you realize ...Vienna waits for you.” Billy Joel refers to this idea of “Vienna,” but what is Vienna? Vienna is the crossroads of our lives where one dream is realized and a new goal is envisioned. It is the checkpoint where we accomplish one objective and embark on our next endeavor. It is where we book a flight to our next destination. Vienna is a point of opportunity.

Vienna is different for everyone — it is the symbol of an individual’s future, hopes, and dreams. Maybe your Vienna is a stage with glimmering lights, and a spotlight just for you! It could be an operating room where you will perform life-saving surgeries. However, Vienna is also the right to change your mind, to modify your goals, to decide to take your life in a completely different direction. You can change your flight plan. Perhaps one day on that glimmering stage, the spotlight gets too hot and you take your final bow, and decide to open a restaurant. Maybe while performing a triple bypass surgery, you decide you want to compose sonatas. Any person can go from a life of grandeur to a life of serenity! Another person can decide to give up the ordinary and become extraordinary! Someday, during the commute to your 9-to-5 job, you may realize that waking up in suburbia no longer appeals to you, and that you would prefer to step into the oval office and assess the state of the union. When that happens, then it’s time to pack your bags and book a train to Washington!

We should not hesitate to dust off our passports and check the airline schedules when we feel it’s time for a new destination, whether that destination is a new career or just a brief vacation to refresh. We should never be afraid to, “Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while/It’s alright, you can afford to lose a day or two.” We can afford to take time to relax, to revel in our successes and appreciate our accomplishments. Some of us have the tendency to rush through life, taking so much time to work towards the future that we forget about the now. We should take time to decompress and enjoy what we already have rather than to focus on what we want, or what we feel we should work towards. Even the layovers on the flights of life serve their purpose: they give us time to enjoy the scenery, the present, and they give us time to reassess our aims.

Some of us reach a Vienna, and think that we have traveled far enough. “Don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?” Reaching a new city, a new phase in life does not mean the end of a journey, but the beginning of a new expedition. We should always continue to travel — there is always something new we can do — a new dream, a new zenith. When our plane lands, there is a bus waiting to take us somewhere else.

Paul Kimelman lives in Alamo, Calif., and is C.T.O. of the Texas-based microcontroller company Luminary Micro. He is the sort of blog reader we are very fortunate to have. He writes to us now and again with such interesting queries that they’re worth putting up on the blog in their entirety.

I was speaking with a colleague the other day and he was remarking on an accomplishment I have had in my field (of microprocessor design). He assumed I had been a straight-A student all through school.

When I noted that I was far from it, he was shocked. This got me to thinking: we usually just assume that somehow grades in school (at any level) are predictors of future success, or certainly of intelligence; but I highly doubt it. I tried to find some good studies, but found five problems immediately:

1. The very definition of success is elusive.

Is a straight-A student who went all the way through Harvard Business School a success if she sells insurance? If she opens a business, what determines when it is a success? A hardware store in Iowa may not cut it, but creating Home Depot presumably does; what about all the variance in between?

It is even more complex in many other areas. In engineering, being a worker bee is success, but great advancements do not come from those people; so what are we even trying to measure? If we try to put a scale on it, what metric should we use?

Income, even attempts at “earned income,” is tricky for many reasons, but most obviously the inequity of different fields in terms of income potential. A highly successful grade-school teacher (measured by students who become motivated [by that teacher], and [were] thus successful) will always do poorly compared to even a middling professional football player. The highly successful lawyer who does a lot of pro bono work comes off worse than the ambulance chaser.

Hierarchy in the field does not really work, since few fields have clear gradations or career paths, and many such paths are not reflections of success, but only reflections of time.

2. How do you measure validity of grades?

Besides the obvious problem of the A from a poor-quality school being worth less than from a high-quality one, you also have grade inflation, subjective measurements, and, more importantly, subject difficulty.

[Subject difficulty] is more problematic. Someone who gets all A’s in “communications” at a university is probably not working as hard as someone who gets all A’s in physics. Yet this is all subjective. Why would we assume that physics is “harder” than, say, literary critique?

This is especially problematic in high school and middle school, where many “hard” subjects are about memorizing and repeating well-defined steps. Literary critique has no well-defined guide posts (unless you cheat and plagiarize), and so requires a deeper understanding of what is to be done.

3. Most middle schools and high schools put so much emphasis on homework versus actual understanding that they are measuring behavior and compliance far more than what has been learned.

So we end up with two issues: we may well predict success [only] at compliance-oriented fields, and we do not know how many have been trampled so that their possible future success has been lost. Further, this method likely pushes more people towards compliance-oriented behavior, and so reduces their potential for success outside of this narrow measure. We certainly see this in other countries (e.g. Japan).

4. Creativity and creative people tend to mess up metrics at each level.

Creative people tend to do worse on grades at each level of schooling, yet their success measures can be very high in their fields. However, creative people can also be abject failures as a result of their creative natures; so we have no good metric that predicts [how successful] these people [will be]. Even trying to separate out creative people in schools is hard, as much of their behavior is similar to those who are just lazy, have A.D.H.D., or are generally disruptive.

We often do not know the underpinnings of their behaviors until much later, and many may have been crushed under the molding systems of our schools. Further, many of the most successful [people] are specifically creative with high strengths in mathematics and its implementation: in economics, physics, chemistry, engineering (including civil; think of many of the most dramatic bridges and buildings), and so on.

5. Any research I could find was done at some university which tended to bias results using university metrics of success.

This is likely unavoidable for the above reasons, but results from different studies were so contradictory that you have to conclude filtering and selection bias had a very large role to play as well.

What interests me is whether the present system actually produces more success or heavily limits it.

Would a different system with less emphasis on conformity produce more of our best and brightest? Or does the annealing effect of being crushed by the system help to produce those best and brightest?

If you look at those who have commonly advanced our thinking, our abilities, our technologies, and our economy (through business sense), many did poorly in schools, yet they persisted. The persistence may have been the critical element, and it would have perhaps been lost had they been encouraged more.

So does this mean we need more of those mediocre middle school and high school teachers acting as the forge to both create the worker bees we need, as well as the best [and most successful] by trying to destroy them?

Thoughts?

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