by Clara Richardson-Omamo '18
Greetings families, friends, teachers, faculty, students and, most importantly, the Class of 2018.
Since being selected to be the class speaker, I have battled with the idea. I have spent hours on the interweb trying to understand what a graduation speaker does. Through my research I have drawn the conclusion that many graduation speakers seem to want to teach, to inform, to enlighten. They seem to want to blow minds or speak to the future. However, I don't know what will happen in the future, and what could I teach you? You, the class of 2018. You global scholars, you athletes, you mathematicians, you activists. To teach you would be pointless as you already know all that I could teach you, seemingly more.
This is all to say that instead of attempting to teach you, I will tell you what you taught me:
- To’Londa - you have taught me to celebrate who I am. How to fight for it. Your work with the vigil for racial justice has pushed our school to try to understand this country's history.
- Lillian - you have shown me what true academic commitment looks like. You have a determination for excellence, and you have also pushed to change how our school sees learning through your work as Student Head of Academics.
- Siri - your knowledge of the world is vast. Simply being in your presence or having a conversation with you teaches me more about our world.
- Annalie - you have illustrated the true importance of reading and the power of literature through your pure and clear respect for books.
- Ember - you have taught me the value of words. Your college essay was incredibly well written and moving.
- Julia - The work you have put in as StuCo President is not always recognized. You have shown our community what an honest, humble leader looks like.
- Sophie and Joanna - you together have taught me the power of dance and physical movement as connection. Your works moved a crowd. You pushed an audience to feel through movement.
- Elizabeth - Your commitment to athletics here at Stoneleigh and elsewhere has shown me the lengths that an individual will stretch for a passion.
- Bri - Your devotion to our community is unparalleled. You have taught this school how to serve humbly and consistently.
- Frannie - You are so good at so many things. This however is not luck. Over the past 6 years I have seen you work to become who you are. You have shown me what determination looks like.
- Ye Eun - Being your friend has shown me how deeply you care for people, whether that be your little sisters, or mother, or friend. You so clearly care.
- Carol - On the first day of school sophomore year you bought me a birthday gift. You hadn't met me yet, but when you heard it was my birthday you begged your Mom to go off campus to buy me a card and gift. This action and actions similar to it have taught me what joy you can bring to others through pure and unexpected kindness.
- Khaki - No matter what happens to you, you persevere. Through whatever challenges are put before you, you have demonstrated the power of inner strength and resilience.
- Sia - Your support for your friends, classmates, and littles is support that I strive to be able to give.
- Krystal - The love you show to the middle schoolers is so pure and endless. You have pushed me to become a more loving RA.
- Miles -. You always want to learn. Your open mindedness has acted as a model for me and the way I now choose to accept information.
- Grace - You have taught me that it is not important to have the loudest voice, but instead do everything with passion and emotional intelligence.
- Nana - You have illustrated through your 2 years of Vice Presidency, that true leadership is a spectrum. Your leadership comes with a quiet strength.
- Christine - Confidence oozes from you. You have shown me what true appreciation for oneself looks like.
Class of 2018 you are all inspiring and insightful people who hold yourselves to a level of class and elegance that few people in our age group do. You all share a clear willingness to make change, and to influence. You have an inner strength that is almost visible. Having said this, I wish I could say that I know for a fact that you and I will all go on to govern countries, destroy the patriarchy, become award winning authors, and more; yet, I don’t know what will happen in the future. However, this lack of knowledge of our future is what causes us to strive to be better. To create the life we truly want to lead.
No matter what you end up doing after today, I have three requests for you.
- We have been given something so invaluable. We have been given the gift of education. We as a class are part of a miniscule percentage of the world's population who have an education. 700 million adults in the world currently do not know how to read. Knowing this, you must now use your education. You must go out and push yourself to never forget what you have. Appreciate your education. See and understand the value in your own knowledge. Yet also remember what education truly is. “Exams are one thing, education is another,” my father once said this to me over FaceTime. I think this speaks volumes.
- Please, remember to love. Over the past year, I have come to the realization that it all comes down to love. A love for yourself, a love for one another, a love for what you have and a love for the world. When your exert so much of your time on anger, or malice, or jealousy, you miss out on the beauty and love of the world. For instance, I had a moment when I almost failed to notice the beauty in my life last week. I had just lost a tennis match. And as I sat on the bleachers with my head down, sulking, I started to watch MJ’s match, and eventually I saw small droplets of rain falling from the sunny sky. Everyone, please, close your eyes; image this. A sunny sky and rain. With only the isolated sounds of tennis balls hitting the court. This is beauty. Open your eyes. When I was younger living in Kenya, an older cousin of mine used to tell me that when it is sunny outside and raining, a hyena is being born.
- I ask you to strive to be happy. Choosing to focus on the happiness and positivity in your life is not ignoring the overt tragedy in the world. It is simply allowing yourself to appreciate the good. I expect that in the next 4-5 years we as a class will experience some harsh and difficult times. While going through these times, search for the happiness.
This may all seem like I am saying you should see your life as a big bowl of roses and gumdrops; yet, after we leave this bubble called Stoneleigh-Burnham, we won't have any kind of buffer. People will not only stop rooting for you, they will root against you. When this is going on, remember who you are, remember what you have. Remember to love and remember to be happy.
I love you all.