High school and college graduates today are facing a world of uncertainty. After being uprooted from their friends, teachers and daily routines because the coronavirus, they’re entering “the real world” at a daunting time.
That’s what one Nashville School of the Arts student writes about as part of our series of 2020 Valedictorian Speeches. Aussie Greene challenges his peers not to lose hope, but to take this opportunity to change the world for the better.
Listen to his speech or read the transcript below:
In August 2016, I stepped into a public school for the first time. I was a socially inept homeschool child who was worried about excelling in a real school.
Having just lost the end of my eighth grade year and following summer to hospitalization with a life threatening case of pneumonia, the future appeared daunting and uncertain at such a pivotal time. With a fledgling interest in writing and zero social skills under my belt, I auditioned and enrolled in Nashville School of the Arts, fretting I wouldn’t fit in. To my surprise, however, my teachers and classmates made it clear that this was a place I belonged.
Misty Ayres-Miranda, the literary arts teacher who accepted me into the school, invested in me by not only teaching me how to write, but how to think, socialize and achieve beyond mere grades. Having a teacher who truly cared about my development, as both a writer and a person, was the catalyst I needed to become who I am today.
My calculus teacher, Pete Wade, has also been one of the most empowering figures of my life. He’s invested in me with countless hours of tutoring after school, just to appease my mathematical curiosity. Mr. Wade singlehandedly ignited my passion for math, and his effortless enthusiasm for teaching was fuel for the fire. He is a great high school teacher, but more to the point, he is a lifelong mentor.
The two best friends I could ever ask for invested in me by taking a chance on the awkward, introverted kid in freshman year, and by supporting me ever since. Without them I have no idea where I’d be. And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Ashley and Mason Greene, the best siblings a triplet ever had. Teachers and students like these made high school home for us. It was a world in which those around us accepted and supported each other.
Graduates of the Class of 2020, when you walk out of the metaphorical doors of our metaphorical graduation ceremony and enter the real world, society will no longer be our sanctuary. You’ll be living in someone else’s world, playing by their rules. I challenge you all the fight to make it your own.
But remember, just like a world in which people are discriminated against on account of their skin color or sexuality, a world that targets those on account of religious belief or for leaning on the opposite side of the political spectrum, it’s also very real.
Do not just fight for world that’s your own. Fight for a world for everyone.
The world today reminds me of the summer I spent before high school, hospitalized and alone. We’ve missed our finals and we’re stuck inside, leaving room only for speculation of what could become of our futures. Once again, everything seems so uncertain at such a pivotal time.
Still, we have every reason to hope, Class of 2020, because I’ve seen what you are made of. You are compassionate. You seek justice. And you are eager to make change. Now it’s our turn to invest in others in our colleges in our communities.
Let’s fight for a world for everyone.