The Class of 2020 didn’t get the closure they were expecting. They had to leave the rhythm of high school or college abruptly, and join a world full of uncertainty.
And that is what the top students from Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School in Nashville decided to write about as part of our series of 2020 Valedictorian Speeches. Mert Sekmen and Neeraj Namburu say they’ve learned to turn the “I would haves” into “I dids.”
Listen to their collaborative speech or read the transcript below:
M: Hey, it’s your co-valedictorian, Mert.
N: And your other co-valedictorian, Neeraj.
M: We’d firstly like to say hello to the teachers, parents, friends, and of course the talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping, spectacular, and never-the-same MLK Class of 2020.
We’ve finally made it to the day that many of you, if you’re like me, have had marked on your calendar since you were little. But man, even though we’ve come to this day I’ve anticipated for God knows how long, sitting here writing this speech, I find myself speech-less. Many of us were robbed of our Senior Nights, our last recitals, our last musical productions, our last civic engagement events, our last prom, and the list could go on and on and on.
Worst of all though, we were robbed of our valuable last moments with each other, because it was never about what the Class of 2020 was doing, but it was about the fact that we were doing it together.
N: This one year never has, and never will be able to define who we are, and who we will be as a class. What defined us as a class, was … well … us. I know that for the last four years — well, 3.75 years — every time I looked up during lunch I always saw:
The athletes, reminding us about physical and mental perseverance.
The civic leaders, showing us to fight for what we believe in.
The musicians, demonstrating that practice makes perfect.
The techies, teaching us about the innovations of tomorrow.
And the artists, who showed us you can express yourself in whatever medium you want.
These were the people that we learned from, and even though we might not always be with each other in the future, the lessons we learned will. Find your moment, and use the lessons you learned to live life how you want it.
M: I know it also feels like when you reach the end in the fashion that we did, it’s easy to focus on the “would haves:” I would have played harder than I ever had during my last soccer game to the point my legs would fall off.
N: I would have wanted to take in all the bustling sounds of a class change before I had to rush across the whole building.
M: I would have said goodbye one last time to my dearest friends and teachers who have shaped who I am today.
N: Instead of being bogged down in the “would haves,” just take a step back and breathe, remember to enjoy every moment in the present because you never know if that moment you just had, was really your last. Turn your “I would haves” into your “I dids.”
M: As Benjamin Franklin once said, “There are three things certain in life: death, taxes, and changes to the lunch schedule every year.” To build off of that: The only thing we know about the future is that it is unknown. However, we know that everyone here will accomplish fantastic things in the future, and our relentless perseverance in the face of difficulty is testimony to that.
N: And remember to wash your hands!
M&N: Class of 2020 out!