GRADUATION SPEECH BY SOPHIE CRAIG (VALEDICTORIAN CLASS OF 2019)
Good evening family, friends, and Campbell Hall community and happy Monday. So I don’t have a cheesy introduction. I barely have an introduction. Let’s get in to it. I’ll be addressing my classmates, even though they’re all sitting behind me.
Congratulations. You are all beautiful, kind, intelligent, really hard-working people. But none of that matters if you are not strong. Nothing matters if you do not fight for the future and for each other’s lives as much as for those of the equally beautiful, kind, intelligent, hard-working people in other corners of the world who you’ll never meet or who will live years after we’re all gone. To say that we’ve witnessed history—it wouldn’t just be hackneyed, it wouldn’t be true. What we’ve witnessed is one official after another, each more powerful, more supposedly “representative” than the one before, lay waste to reality. Our reality contains countless categories under siege: identity, memory, even the reality of our collective future, of an ecological tragedy, has been subverted. It has been pushed under the rug of denial or folded into neat and capitalism-friendly parcels for us to collect. We treasure and safeguard these fictions as our livelihood, but they were marketed to bury us.
If you remember anything from this speech, let it be to please, please take up as much space as you can. Fill it with your voice, your body, your art, your stories. Please fight for each other, for our planet, and for the sprawling curiosity that this school so emphasized. We need investigation. We need to explore the world around us from more than one perspective, to listen and to be listened to, as we as human beings try to protect the past from distortion and erasure, the present from hatred and ignorance, and the future from greed and apathy. We have to try to devote ourselves to truth, to worship it as a greater god than confirmation or convenience.
I don’t know if we’ll ever live in a fair world. I’m not an oracle. I’m an 18-year-old who’s hardly qualified to give fairly large-scale life advice to a hundred and forty three other roughly 18-year-olds. But I believe that if you all have love in your hearts and a mind bent toward honesty and justice, you can help stabilize our beautifully diverse human reality. Since I started this pretty heavy bit in the speech by calling out a hacky graduation speech go-to, I can’t finish with “you can save the world,” even if I believe it. So I’ll finish by saying I love all of you and please be kind to each other and to the earth as you start this wonderfully nerve-racking part of your lives.
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Campbell Hall is an independent, Episcopal, K-12 coeducational day school. We are a community of inquiry committed to academic excellence and to the nurturing of decent, loving, and responsible human beings.