Editor’s Note: I was lucky enough to have Ariane Jasmin in my International Baccalaureate Theory Of Knowledge class, and found her to be brilliant, kind and generous. She was the valedictorian at our school this year, and gave this speech at our graduation ceremony yesterday.
Good morning/afternoon, fellow classmates, families, friends, teachers and staff. I think this is everyone’s first time seeing everyone together after 15 months. It’s great to see half of everyone’s faces.
On behalf of the class of 2021, I would like to thank our principal, Mr. Peterson, and our honored guests for the support that has led us to this very day. Thank you to our teachers, who have not only guided us through the rigorous academic challenges we faced but have also guided us in our lives outside of the classroom. To the parents and families present here today, we are forever in debt for your unwavering love and support. We know that we take little pieces of you everyday but no matter how exhausting that can be, you were always willing to do anything to see us succeed. I don’t think we can ever repay you with anything but success.
My name is Ariane Jasmin and today, I speak to you not only as a student but also a humble daughter of two immigrant parents, like many of the parents present here today. As I look around in this amazing crowd, I see a community full of various ethnic, sexuality, racial, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds. In closer lens, I see students, families — human beings — who grappled with racial inequality, sexism, religious discrimination, economic oppression and the battles we fought with ourselves due to those standards. Our past reminds us of where we’ve been, which we must preserve in pride, but it doesn’t have to dictate where we’re going.
Seniors, do you all remember when we logged into Zoom everyday for the school year while our computer screens fried our eyes? That’s in the past. Remember our disappointment when we didn’t get that feeling of our last first day of high school ever? It’s in the past. No senior sunrise, homecoming, rallies, and prom? They’re all in the past. We may have missed out on a lot. Actually, we missed out on everything. But now is not the time to dwell on the past but rather the time to reflect because above all of those losses, we gained so much more.
First of all, and please let’s all be honest, we gained the ability to multitask and watch Netflix during class. We gained a new appreciation for life and the things we initially took for granted. We gained new perspectives about life from aspects we didn’t even know about ourselves. We gained strength and courage to face our biggest enemy, ourselves. Some of you, maybe most of us, have faced the daunting realization of our existences. Some of you literally, and I mean literally, survived these whole 4 years. And I am proud of you, of all of you, because you’re here today.
I am proud because I learned a lot of things about my peers that I would have never known if not for the time we spent apart. I learned that in the midst of all the essay deadlines, declining mental health, and tumultuous households, my peers fought and are still fighting for their rights to live. My peers fought for justice for the Black Lives Matter movement, for the Stop Asian Hate movement, for the Palestinian Youth Movement. My peers feared for their lives because of [the freedom of] their choices, their skin color, the languages they speak but they fought and they fought. My peers fought for their future. I learned that even if we are six feet apart, we are immovable, indestructible, an unstoppable force. So, take that fire with you and burn the whole place down.
Take that fire with you to a future you envision for yourself. A future you fought for. A future you deserve.
Congratulations to the class of 2021!