This essay was the basis of my Graduation Speech for Piner High's Class of 1979:
Truth In Clichés
Every year as high school graduation approaches I begin to dread sitting through more dull speeches.
When I was small, my parents forced me to attend the graduations of my sisters and brother. The gym would always be very crowed and stuffy. I would sit unbearably still, waiting for the ceremonies to begin.
After many hours, the graduates would slowly file in. My parents would my brother or sister and then several other more obscure individuals that I had never seen at home, school or on television. I would try to waste away the time by counting the lights on the ceiling. Unfortunately, by the time the time the graduation speeches started, I had usually run out of lights.
The speakers were consistently dull. They made the evening news seem as exciting as Saturday morning cartoons, and they would talk for hours. The only part of the ceremony I enjoyed was when the cameras would begin to flash. I tried to dive into every picture.
In recent years, I have attended graduation ceremonies by choice, but I assure you my reason for attending has not been the speeches. I have only attended recent ceremonies to see how many weeping senior girls will hug and kiss me.
The speeches always have a certain sameness. The speakers either dig up sentimentalized memories of the past, rattle off a list of thank more prolonged then the most long-winded acceptor of an Academy Award, or paraphrase “I Have a Dream.” These speeches have always driven me to distraction.
The odd thing is that as this graduation approaches, my own graduation, I find the same thoughts going through my head that have been expressed for years by graduation speakers.
I look through my yearbook and remember the magnificent triumphs of my gym class’ football team and the agaony of being snubbed by one the many girls that was “the only girl for me.”
I then realized what an effect my classmates have had on me over the years and how special many of them are to me.
Suddenly, I’m able to forgive what I’ve considered sloppy sentimentality in graduation speeches when I realize that I won’t see many of these people again.
I’m also able to see why many graduation speeches become endless streams of thanks. When I think of what teachers through the years have given me and my classmates, not to mention what my parents have done, I realize that those eternal speeches actually could never be long enough.
I find that I do have a dream, because so many of the people in my class are special to me, and I I can’t help but have dreams for them.
I would very much like to tell the members of my class about my hopes for them, even at the risk of sounding like the most preachy graduation speaker. I would like to tell the members of my class that they need higher goals in life than just satisfying their own wants and desires. People need to serve others, their family, people around them, but especially God in order to make their lives worthwhile and enjoyable.
I can’t imagine what would produce a bigger yawn from myself than the above statement at a graduation ceremony. Constant repetition tends to hide the truth in this type of statement. And yet I now find myself convinced by it with a staunch conviction.
This year’s graduation speeches may still be dull, and appear overly sentimental to many. But this year I will find them tolerable because I will realize they are true.