2017 Senior Farewell: Sarah Weidman '17
“Welcome, everyone! In case you don’t know, we don’t make the valedictorian speak at graduation. The reason I’m here is because I gave a teaser-trailer speech to my class, and they voted for me to speak on their behalf at graduation. My sample speech was long, full of imagery, memories, and emotion. Tears were shed, and not all of them by me. But once I was chosen, thanks guys, and I started to write this speech, I realized that campaign promises don’t actually mean anything. I can write about anything I want, within reason, and those guys can’t do anything about it. So I decided to deliver a short, vapid, and emotionless speech. Please, sit back, relax, and let your mind wander to your heart’s content. I won’t blame you.
I’ve been at CSS for 14 years. I would say that I’ve looked forward to being on this stage since I first attended graduation at age 5, but I honestly couldn’t keep myself focused on the ceremony until embarrassingly recently. I despised having to dress up, and I had no idea who was talking, why, or how long it would be before I could leave for summer vacation. I made some pretty spectacular designs in the gravel, though.
But despite my cynicism towards this bureaucratic tradition, which some of you have discerned from my subtle suggestions on how to improve the ceremony, such as a Led Zeppelin cover band playing from the roof (wouldn’t that be great?) and starting the ceremony with the graduates already sitting on the Terrace to save time, I recognize and appreciate that the traditions of this school, like this ceremony, along with its innovative nature, truly make this school CSS. And I wouldn’t trade my experience here for the entire Earth, and maybe I’d even throw in Mercury too.
Speaking of innovation, the class of 2017 is no stranger to the school’s new cutting-edge experiments. Collectively, we’ve survived quite a few “guinea-pig” moments. We were the first class to give speeches about ourselves at the 8th grade continuation ceremony. Last spring we took the brand new version of the SAT. We experienced high school with and without digital portfolios, we took part in the first Mission Centered Seminars, and we are the last surviving class to have had Mr. White as a soccer coach.
Opinions on these changes vary, but our class thrived despite, or even because of them. Through the changes, we supported each other and lifted each other to new bounds, creating not just an effective class or team, but a family. As the years went by, we built a determined, hardworking, competitive yet humble, and tight-knit community, one that no class will ever rival. To quote my fellow graduate, Kaela, “You know how there’s always a golden child? That’s us.”
This class took advantage of every opportunity that CSS gave us. Enrollment in advanced classes skyrocketed when we finally became juniors. There were so many of us in 90 minute math that we had to have two teachers. Seniors make up the majority of club membership and leadership, and I am truly worried about how the clubs will survive next year. We’ve won the last hundred thousand dodgeball games, and best of all, we have Victor in our class.
Unfortunately for you, audience members, we are all moving on to the next step of our lives, while most of you are staying just where you are. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But—and now I’m going to do something I haven’t done thus far: I’m going to speak from the heart—but, on our next step, we’re going to feel lost and scared and out of our element. I know this to be true because I feel lost and scared and out of my element most of the time. However, and I’m speculating here, whenever we begin to feel these feelings, we need to remember that everyone else in the world is also feeling them. The big difference, though, is that we’re actually prepared for them.
CSS is a master at preparing its students for the unexpected and the frightening. By participating in Spring Trips in Children’s School, Seminars and Walkabout in Middle School, and most recently ECSs, we have been forced out of our comfort zones too many times to count. I sometimes wonder if some of us even have uncomfort zones at all. We’re used to trying new things, interacting with strange people, and dealing with the responsibility that comes from independence. We may feel lost and scared and out of our element in college, but we’re ready. CSS has made sure of that. And if we ever need motivation, we can just remember how amazing we were back in high school! We can’t have peaked yet, right?
We may like to think that we got to this level of perfection by ourselves, but of course, that’s not entirely true. So to all of you who helped us get to this point of peak preparedness, thank you. Parents and families of the graduates, I don’t personally know all of you, but judging by the amazing people you have managed to raise, you must have some pretty fantastic parenting skills. We all truly appreciate the hard work that goes into raising an overachieving kid, from planning and transporting them through their busy schedules to dealing with occasional or, more likely, frequent breakdowns. Thank you, parents.
Non-graduating Upper-Schoolers, although I wouldn’t mind cloning our class a few times to form an army of perfect stormtrooper students, you guys aren’t that bad. High school would not have been the same without any of you. And you’re allowed to take that as a compliment if you wish. Thank you, my young friends, for not giving up when you realized you could never compete with us.
And finally, I believe that I speak on behalf of the entire class when I say that teachers at CSS give this school its life. From the moment we stopped listening to our parents up until we started trusting the internet, you taught us all we knew. For example, I was reading my Walkabout journal the other day, and I found a lesson that my teachers taught me. They were trying to instill into our little brains that kindness towards peers is an incredibly important characteristic to have. In response to this lesson, I vowed to stop using sarcasm to make sure not to hurt anyone’s feelings, despite the fact that “it still is fun and hilarious.” Teachers, isn’t it nice to see that your patient advice is actually able to make a difference in changing someone’s values? You obviously succeeded with me. Anyway, throughout all my years at CSS, I have never found a teacher unwilling to support his or her students or one reluctant to push us to be the best we could be. From you, we discovered passion for learning, excitement and curiosity for adventure, and kindness and tolerance for all. We only mildly understand how hard you work, especially when trying to cope with the other classes. So thank you, from all of us, for everything you do for your students and for this school. Sometimes, there’s more than one golden child. I think the teachers at CSS count as one too.
I could go on for a long time about the perfection of this class, but I don’t feel bad about stopping here because I know this is not the last you’ll hear of us. Maybe you’ll see one of us on CSPAN, brokering a new peace treaty between us and the newly discovered aliens on Europa. Or maybe you’ll see our name in a scientific magazine for having discovered evidence for superstring theory, or hear our new hit single on an unspecified popular music streaming service. Or maybe you’ll see us on the front page of the paper, the headline being, “Man spends record of 9 years without going outside due to Dungeons and Dragons obsession.”
If you don’t see us, you will certainly feel our absence next year. I am so grateful to have been able to watch this class grow into such a wonderful group of talented people. Thank you for making this experience one of the most lengthy and, I suppose, most amazing journeys of my short life. We’ve been through so much together and made incredibly tight friendships throughout the years, and even if we don’t keep in touch, which is a bad idea because we should all keep in touch, I know we’ll never forget our experiences together. I know I will miss you all. And you, CSS and various audience members, will miss us. Good luck next year; you’re going to need it.”