To start, I would like to thank all of you for coming here tonight. I would also like to congratulate the class of 2016 on making it through the insanity of high school and getting to that next big step in life. When I look at my fellow classmates, I see limitless potential and a group of hard workers. Although there are some that may not have put as much effort into class work as they could have, I truly believe every single one of you will put forth the effort to make something of yourselves in the future and become successful. By “successful,” I don’t mean living in a huge house, driving a nice car, and making tons of money (although I do wish that all of you could have that). One of the best descriptions of success I’ve heard comes from comedian and actor, Marlon Wayans who said, “Success is not a destination but a road that you’re on. Being successful means that you’re working hard and walking your walk every day. You can only live your dream by working hard towards it.”
Bill Gates once gave a speech at a high school that contained some real world advice, and I have chosen the best of this advice to share with all of you:
The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.
Journalist Mary Schmich also gave some great advice in her column at the Chicago Tribune back in 1997; I want to share some of that advice with you:
Don't worry about the future, or go ahead and worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind side you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday.
Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead; sometimes you're behind. The race is long, and, in the end, it's only with yourself.Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults.Get plenty of calcium.Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good.Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few, you should hold on . . . . The older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.Respect your elders.Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.
I know all of this advice is a bit much to take in, but I hope that at least a fraction of it sticks with you and helps you through the coming years. Hopefully, your futures won’t be extremely difficult or ridiculously easy, but just difficult enough that you continue to develop and that you will always appreciate what you have accomplished by working hard. All of you have the potential to do something great with your lives, and I hope you do not waste it. Congratulations again, my fellow classmates, on this momentous occasion. Thanks, parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends for helping us over the past 13 years. Thank you all for your kind attention. I wish for you, my fellow classmates, all the best in the years to come.
Thomas Hayden Duncan was named the Valedictorian of Lamar County High School's Senior Class of 2016. He served in a number of student leadership positions and compiled an impressive list of honors and achievements while attending LCHS. Hayden plans to study Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University with the goal of one day opening his own veterinary practice.