Valedictorian’s Address by Minh Hoang Tony Vien
Today is one of the best and worst days of my life. Yes, that may sound stupendously cheesy and cliché but as Porochista Khakpour, an author and professor once said, “The worst thing about clichés, as eyeroll-inducing as they are, is the fact that they are often plainly true". Fortunately, and unfortunately, this statement is true for me. Today is the best day of my life, because it is the celebration and recognition of not only our four years of high school, but all the hard work, dedication, sweat and tears of the past 18 years of all our lives. I am deeply honored and humbled to be speaking to you all today on the 150th anniversary of our school’s founding and am proud to call this place, with its deep history, my home. But it is also the worst day of my life, for today is the day I leave the safety and comfort of home, and everyone I’ve come to love these past 3 years.
For some, change is a blessing that acts like a breath of fresh air, but to others, me included, change is terrifying. To leave behind everything and everyone you know is to ultimately purge your identity, and while starting anew can be exhilarating for some, it is petrifying for others. But then I realized my view of change was limiting, I was only considering changes purely in the physical world around us, external changes we have little control over. Change, however, does not only come from without, but also within.
We don’t often think about it, but we are constantly changing, even when staying in the same exact place, with the same exact people; the frightened, shy sophomore who got social anxiety just from going to the dining hall alone, is almost completely different from the person standing before you today. Almost. Honestly, I don’t even need to go back that far, just thinking back to about a month ago, I was a different person. Not drastically different, but different. And I’m sure most of you can say the same. Yet little around us has changed, we’re still at the same school, surrounded by the same people.
We’re all so preoccupied with the changes that happen around us, the changes that leave us feeling helpless and lost, that sometimes we lose sight of the fact that the biggest changes occur within ourselves. Our beliefs, values, priorities, and personal dogmas shape who we are regardless of where we are. I’d like to quote a fictional hero of mine, "We all change, when you think about it, we're all different people, all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember, all the people, that you used to be". Yes, we are all graduating, and this time next year, we will all be different people in different parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean we should forget who we are right now, and the place that made us who we are today. Our home, Cushing.
After today, we may no longer be students of Cushing Academy, but that does not make us outsiders, that does not mean we should leave Cushing in our rear view mirror, never to look back again. We will be alums, and therefore, the next generation of stewards of Cushing Academy, for this school would not have a 150th anniversary without the strong foundation of alums, who gave back to the community that gave to them. We as a class are all changing from students to alums, and it is time for us to change how we think of Cushing. It will no longer be our home, or for some, our prison. It will be a part of our past, a part of who we are, and it is up to us to make it the best place it can be, not just for generations of penguins to come, but also for ourselves, so that we can be proud to say that we are penguins.
For someone who despises change as much as I do, yet understands its significance and inevitability, I find this quote resonates with me well. “If You Cannot Embrace Change, At Least Give It a Hug Once in a While”. I’d like to think that this speech is my hug to change.
I’d like to thank all my teachers here at Cushing, you have all pushed me to where I am today and for that I am eternally grateful. Thank you Dr. Sponholtz not just for being my advisor, but also for being like a father to me these past three years. Thank you to all my friends here at Cushing, I love you all like family, you guys are what makes this place home. I’d also like to thank Cushing for providing the encouraging and supportive environment that allowed me to grow and become who I am today.
And last, but definitely not least, I’d like to thank my parents, who unfortunately could not make it here today. Luckily technology has allowed them to view this live so I’d like to say thank you, for sacrificing so much to give me this amazing opportunity here, I love you guys.
Congratulations everyone! We made it!