April 18, 2006

Graduation Speech of an Unnamed Quenchista

Someone was a valedictorian of her class. This is her speech. Can you guess who had all the Feelings?

I like fireflies. When I was little, I would run across the lawn, chasing the little flickering insects. At night, pinpricks would appear in the grass, the air and the forest. When I caught a firefly, I would cup my hands, holding the tiny light in my palm.

Fireflies don't bite, they have no pincers, they don't attack, they don't carry disease, they are not poisonous and they don't even fly very fast. They have very short lives – adult beetles live only a few days. Yet, firefly’s light has fascinated and mystified people throughout history. The Chinese thought these twinkling little creatures came from burning grass. Aztecs used the term “firefly” metaphorically to represent a spark of knowledge in a world of ignorance or darkness. American Indians collected lightning bugs and smeared them as decorations on their faces and chest. Firefly males, females, and larvae emit a “heatless, greenish-yellow to reddish-orange light” and in some species even the eggs glow. Although their lives are short, they shine bright and clear.

When I was a little girl, my dad used to sing a song to me. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” I would imagine a tiny lightning bug, gleaming in the dark night, illuminating the earth and sky. Each of you has this light – a precious, valuable gift to share with the world.

In the past four years, I have seen brilliance and beauty in so many of you. From the talented actors to the crazy skateboarders, you have pursued your passions with joy and wonder. On the stage, on the soccer fields and tennis courts, in the classroom and the dorms, there have been moments of light and hope on even the coldest and most miserable winter day. And there were a LOT of cold, miserable winter days!

I have seen girls dancing, laughing in the sunlight, and people racing through the woods on their bikes, throwing autumn leaves in the air. I have seen hockey skaters gliding across the rink, and singers crooning ballads in jazz band. You are dancers, musicians, activists, athletes, scholars and comedians. You have demonstrated excellence, beauty and compassion during your time at [school name].

The peace hero Nelson Mandela once said: “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This reminds me of a story I read once. “A mother firefly was taking her children for a walk near dusk, and they came to a dark woods. "All right, kids," she ordered, "line up, and whatever happens, don't shine your light. There are owls in the forest and they might fly down and eat you!" The small fireflies did as they were told, with the youngest firefly at the end of the line. As they were moving carefully along, suddenly the mother saw a light far back. "Stop!" she whispered. "Who lit the light back there?"

"I did," admitted the youngster. "You heard what I told you," scolded the mother. "Why did you disobey?" "Well," said the little one, "when you gotta glow, you gotta glow."

As you go into the future, do not be afraid to glow. Pursue your dreams, your passions and your desires bravely. Often, people will not recognize your abilities or understand your goals, but do not let that deter you from your path.

We go into a troubled world. War, hatred, apathy, genocide and terror encircle the globe. In the Middle East, children our age cannot go to school out of fear. They become soldiers and suicide bombers and victims. In Africa, starvation, brutal ethnic conflict and AIDS have devastated many nations. Even within the United States, racism, hatred and poverty persist. As the leaders of tomorrow, we hold the torch of life and hope.

Pick a faraway star and fly towards it with all your heart. Become a comet streaking across the void of the universe. Cast laughter into the air, and listen to it come sparkling back. If you strive, struggle and dream, if you try with all your might, you will make your wish a reality. Congratulations, Class of [year]. Fly into the vast world, scatter like fireflies and let your light shine brightly.

Go on, guess.


emily1 said...


wannatakethisoutside said...

i guess icarus. am i right?

second guess is aurora

spork said...

icarus, for sure.

tea cozy said...

volant. come on... fly... volant...yeah.


aurora said...

psst...WTTO, you know I wouldn't have been a valedictorian :p