I’d like to share a true story with you today. There was once a child that grew up in a country where electricity was sparse and unpredictable in the little house he lived in. During the hot stormy summers, the electricity would go out the entire night and he would only have a puny candle to keep him company. It was dark, dank and hot, and what made it worse was the house had so much old wood in it that these water termites would come out, and fill entire rooms to seek out the light. Imagine this little child, in the middle of a dark black hot humid summer night, studying with a small candle light in the middle of the room, swarmed with millions of flying termites around him - there was both peace and turmoil wrapped up in the heart of that little child during those nights.
Friends, classmates, teachers, parents, faculty, staff members, good afternoon. I am honored to speak in front of everyone in today’s graduation ceremony.
We are all here today to celebrate a victory. For these past 3 years, it has been a period of constant and fast paced changes for all of us. Besides learning new challenging things in school, there was the opportunity for new discoveries, introspection and self-improvement. It’s a victory over the endless nights of worrying, it’s a victory of coping with the scary changes that we find ourselves in, it’s a victory of knowing new faces and friends in school, and the comforting faces of our parents seen perhaps in a new light, it’s a victory of surpassing expectations and growing beyond our phantom limitations and winning over adversity. Yes, all of us, you, have won over fear, uncertainty and doubt.
This is a time for us to reflect on the past and commend yourself for the myriad of accomplishments you garnered. You can take the time to cherish the awesome memories we have encountered. Let’s celebrate the major milestones in our lives, but I’d also like for us to reflect upon what we’ve learned, the successes, mistakes and challenges we went through and learn from them.
There were probably some very scary moments and experiences you encountered these few years growing up. I am sure you have your own moments of confusion, loneliness and doubt. What I have learned is that success needs perseverance and an unrelenting courage to achieve, and accomplishments only come through hard work and dedication.
In my own experience, just 3 years ago, I started Middle School in a blur and things went by me in fast-forward, and I felt I didn’t have the controls to steer where I wanted to go. I was in auto pilot but I was not sure if I was heading in the right direction. I felt I was living in a perplexing world and I was not able to figure out the right things to do.
I tell you my story because I know you might also have encountered similar experiences of fear, uncertainties, doubt, confusion, despair, loneliness, and frustration. But no matter what the cause is, the effects of it are the same… debilitating, unforgiving and traumatic in varying degrees. In my case, the cause was Graves disease. And it was hard not being able to live up to my fullest potential.
So there you are, where there are moments in your life, like mine, where you are surrounded with many walls and obstacles. You feel trapped… and alone.
But I was wrong. I was not alone. You are not alone. We have our teachers, our counselors, our parents, our friends, our relatives, our loved ones to depend on and help us through it. When I thought they were a thousand voices, they were actually just one voice. That of love, caring, compassion and courage. That voice was always there. It was the one voice, one touch, one heart that we can rely on, that cares deeply for us at all times that will carry you through the toughest of times, no matter what it is. It’s right here with us today, by your side, that will not ever give up on you.
This is what the community of Tenafly represent, our Middle School teachers and staff, and our family and loved ones.
During my toughest time, my family and the school were there to help me. My family provided me with the right treatment and the school provided me with the best possible way for me to study and be able to learn in the Tenafly Middle School community. All of us, my fellow classmates, need to take this time right now and appreciate the things our families and our school have done for us. They have always taken the time to help us get back on our feet and pave a path for us to walk on with the best of opportunities for us to take advantage of. That’s what it means to live in and love Tenafly, and what it means to study at Tenafly Middle School.
I’d like to take this moment to share a famous Chinese proverb, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” This proverb means a lot to me and I hope it does to you too. To me, it’s about the call to action, a call for all of us to lead by example, and a call for all of us to rise to the occasion when the time comes. It’s all about not making excuses, about learning through experience, and helping each other.
As I recovered from my disease, it was the opportunity for me to give back and show the school and community how much I appreciate all the help and support I have received.
In addition to committing myself to my school work, the Tenafly Middle School Student Organization became my passion and personal mission. As I applied and dedicate my time and effort to the cause and mission of the Tenafly Middle School Student Organization, it was the chance for me to make a difference, to make up for lost time, to push the limits of what we could do individually and as a team, and take the organization to its next level of growth and maturity. I want to make changes and, I know I can deliver them.
I didn’t do a lot of campaigning and I was only able to bring my own self to the table. I gave you my voice, and my commitment, and my passion. Thank you for your confidence in me, and thank you for electing me to be your President of the Tenafly Middle School Student Organization. You have elected me to be your leader, but I was also there to serve you in my best capacity I know how.
I promised to make a lot of changes. And with all your help and teamwork, we did. The contributions, you, we, did were amazing. You have given me the inspiration and the optimism to work hard and give my best. And I thank you for being there with me throughout all of the good and bad times of my middle school life.
My theme was about, “Doing what’s right, and doing it right” or in other words, having integrity and execution excellence in all that we do. This school year also focused on our Honor Code, that we need to apply in theory and practice.
As Brian Tracy mentioned, “The glue that holds all relationships together- including the leader and the led is trust, and the trust is based on integrity.” Integrity is an important part of not only our school but being a part of a citizen or a community. A community can be categorized as a family, relationship, cooperation or even a friendship. I wanted to really focus on ways we can promote integrity in our school. As liaison between two major groups in our school which are the students and teachers, I wanted to be able to better promote the idea of integrity by being a good role model and show how it is important it is. All of this is within the trust between the TMS community and the TMS SO.
Communication was also one of the other topics I stressed this year as being the president of the TMS SO. We effectively improved the channels of communication on our daily lives using the various media formats. We were able to create a strong social bond between others and also was able to express and exchange ideas to create a better community. We were able to do all of this by leveraging many of the technologies I introduced to the TMS SO.
I have found inspiration in many places. They’re everywhere for you to tap into. One of these moments came to me during our recent field trip. It came together in one event as a retrospection of how important one thing was to me. Friendship.
As I was observing many of my peers with their friends, a wave of nostalgia took me back to our Reach Out Trip during 6th grade. I was astounded with the dramatic change in how we started out with friends from our own elementary school to new connections and bonds through middle school. I hope the bond of friendship continues to thrive and blossom through the high school years and beyond as we find even more new people to grow up with in our community.
Since being elected president, I also had an important goal to listen to each and every one of your voices and get to know each and every one of you personally. Many of you have come up to me and shared your personal victories, problems and worries. Thank you for sharing and I assure you that you will always have me as a friend to listen to you.
Talking to many of you have created a strong bond between us, a force that will continue to tie you and I together. I have been so fortunate to have you to talk to. Being able to share and communicate your dreams and thoughts to me was one of the most memorable experiences I have. You have given me a part of you that I will forever embrace throughout my life. Each and every one of you have taught me a lesson, and these life lessons will be something I cherish and remember through my life.
In parting, I leave you with the story of that child in the middle of a hot dark summer night, that though he is beset with a million distractions and seeming turmoil around him, just what you might feel sometimes, know that his heart is at peace because he was not alone. The light in him made it so. It’s our parents, our teachers, our school staff, our friends, our loved ones that will be there for us, inside of us as we continue on our next quest.
So go take my hand now, you don’t have to say a word as I’ve already heard you. Know that there is no doubt, there will be no hesitation that we are there for each other. Know that you’re home, that you will never be alone. Don’t give up, don’t ever let go, give all that you have inside. Because, today, yes today, the world is yours. And I will always be there for you.