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I spent yesterday covered in sweat with wind blowing through my hair constantly while cramped in a car with Derek, Satan, and my father, and right now, it is the perfect temperature in Richmond. Not too hot with a fan on, but still extremely warm. I am not sweating, but I wouldn’t particularly mind if I was right now. My dad’s air conditioner is broken, but I really don’t mind. I’d rather open the windows and hear the birds and lawnmowers and summer sounds than be isolated in coldness.
I am going to see Rilo Kiley this afternoon, and when I bought the tickets I assumed that this day would be delayed infinitely. But here it is. And I bet Blake Sennett, Pierre de Reeder, Jason Boesel, and Jenny Lewis will feel the extreme heat today, too. Just like me.
Oh, by the way, I graduated on Friday. French Honor Society braids and all. Then again, a lot of kids had French Honor Society braids and not all of them earned them at all. Of course, I didn’t have the required “four years” thing down, but I chose not to correct anyone when they inducted me. I was in French IV this year. It’s all good.
Graduation, though, was quite a spectacle. I’ve been to Deep Run’s graduation ceremony for the past three years because of band. The band plays. We get free passes in, and we sit right next to the makeshift stage where I should have received my diploma. The part I looked forward to most, then, was the part where students make speeches. Of course, the principal’s speech is required to be cliché. It’s about growing up and moving beyond the shade he’s provided or something like that. This time, Mr. Himes’ speech was about an eagle raised as a chicken. The eagle didn’t realize his abilities until he was really presented to the world beyond the chickens.
Then we got to the good parts beyond the chickens. Our class president’s speech was fairly nostalgic, but only for people who specifically grew up in Lewisburg. Some memories I could sort of relate to. Field day at Nuckols Farm Elementary was rad. And I liked playing freezetag and TV tag with Kelly and Neil when I went to Spring Garden Elementary. Moody Middle had few good memories because the IB program was so time-consuming, but I did think of sitting at lunch with Justin Bates and Katie Carroll as Justin raved about roller coasters and Britney Spears. And of course I thought of Divya and bus rides and our obsession with Sailor Moon and lunch last year. But it wasn’t enough to make me cry. I would describe this one as the “good times” speech, and at high school graduations, there will always be a “good times” speech.
Next up was this chick from SUN ACAT (commonly referred to as SUN Tech). She just told us the goals of SUN Tech and how it helped her become a hard worker.
Our salutatorian delivered his speech next. When he said, ““Think about some of the best times that you’ve had, times that you’ve been the happiest. Try to imagine having that much fun, having that incredible experience without anyone to share it with,” I thought of balloon stomp by myself and almost started laughing. I would call his speech more of a “great memories” inspirational speech, but something he said did ring true with me. He spoke of a visit to his friend/graduate of Lewisburg. This friend was located in Richmond, I guess because of college or something. Well, he was talking with his friend and two of his friend’s friends about how great Lewisburg is and how much he will miss the high school and town when he moves on to college. And the friend’s friends were confused. They hated their high school. There were so many cliques and people hated one another and they certainly wouldn’t miss that. As much as our class president’s speech missed a connection with me, the salutatorian’s speech made up for it.
I just agreed. And I also wondered if the friend’s friends were from Deep Run, because that would be so goddamn true. The students there don’t even realize what they have. They take everything for granted. That immense cafeteria. Decent sports teams. A huge school. A ginormous football field. Amazing teachers and staff. Great custodians. An INCREDIBLE band–marching and concert, they can do both. Opportunities. If you go to Deep Run, you live in the fucking West End. The Far West End. Short Pump. You live in a huge two-story house that I would now consider a mansion. You have built-in air conditioning and probably a nice working fan in your house, but your mom just likes to open the windows. You have seven cats who are always comfortable who don’t fight all that often because they have enough room to spread out and a nice farm field to run in behind your back yard. You have your own room and a queen-sized bed and privacy from the neighbours and even from your family. Nobody ever has a reason to enter your room. You can have sleepovers and be loud as shit and everyone else in your house will still be able to sleep. You can work out in your room if you want because there’s space. You get to lock the door when you shower and you don’t have to share the sink when you’re brushing your teeth because there are five sinks in the house–one for each person if you want. Your mom hugs you sometimes because you’re the “forgotten child,” white as a vampire and always holed up in your convenient room. You get along with both of your sisters because you rarely have to see one another, except at dinnertime. Your yard is big enough to play kickball in and you could play volleyball comfortably in the side yards, too. There’s a deck in the back yard, too, and a playground that you never use, and maybe a huge pool that only takes up a fraction of the yard or a hot tub, or else maybe your parents just always got you an inflatable kiddie pool for hot days, which is okay, too. You could eat popsicles in the pool. Your house is probably only ten or twelve years old and you’ve lived there since it was built. You have a driveway and a two-car garage and maybe even three cars and two and a half bathrooms. Four fucking bedrooms. Separate kitchen and dining rooms. A living room anda separate family room. There’s an elementary school right across the street and you can go up there every day of the week and run a mile or two on the track (8 laps = a mile). Your best friend in the world lives right down the street in a house that smells incredible and cultured. You could walk to the mall in ten minutes and it would be a beautiful walk, but instead, you drive in your little black car and you feel special. And you’re stupid because you take all that for granted. And I was. I took all that for granted. The house, the space, the yard, the school, the car, the cats. All of it, even until after the stressful move-out day, which is the last time I was absolutely covered in sweat and nauseous like yesterday. But I wouldn’t go back because I’ve experienced Lewisburg.
The speech I looked forward to most, though, was the valedictorian’s. If two-thirds of the speeches were nostalgic, then this one had to be inspirational. And really, the valedictorian could control my emotions with his speech. His was supposed to be the best. This speech more exceeded its expectations.
He started by making the audience laugh. Silly cardboard squares on our heads, big green gowns. Ha-ha. I agreed. I felt ridiculous, too. But he didn’t delay what he wanted to say. His voice rose. He scolded us for our SUVs. For all those animals we kill for such a low monetary price, just so we can be trendy. He jumped into the bulk of wrongs in the world. Rape, homophobia, genocide, and countless others. He attacked us for our obvious materialism and for the fact that we take so much for granted. We don’t think of the consequences. We sit on our asses and don’t make a difference. We are a largely apathetic Class of 2008 and we only care about ourselves. But instead of just reprimanding us for all of that, how wrong we are, he encouraged us to change and make the world a better place by reading excessively and doing something about it. I wish you could read the speech. I can only get you excerpts. But even reading it wouldn’t be enough. You’d have to see it or even experience it. The way his voice rose, the conviction in his tone, the look on his face, eye contact. That’s something you can’t experience now, and I’m honoured to have been there. At the time, I just stared at him and nodded, smiling sometimes because it’s just so true. It motivated me. I have to change. I will change. I am changing. And I will read more and I will do something. Not starting tomorrow, either. Starting now.
Most of the class, though, was talking. It’s so characteristic of him, right? Yeah, he had to mention SUVs. Had to get back at Mrs. Pickering. They didn’t GET it, though. It was perhaps the best live speech you’ll ever be forced to hear, hell, that you’ll ever hear, period. It pointed out your flaws and directed you to the right door of opportunity. Completely clear of any clichés, unlike this piece of writing ici. Yet the Class of 2008 didn’t care. We were still apathetic. We took it as a circus show instead of a wake-up call, and there’s really nothing more anyone can do to save us as a mass. We can pray that some individuals caught the meaning and are now motivated. But the figurative ball is in our court now. We have to do something about that.
Notably, unlike the other two or three speeches, Joe’s wasn’t personal interest-related. It regarded broader interests, like an interest in the well-being of fellow humans and animals and the environment. Take your pick.
So I need to get ready for some Rilo Kiley madness, but I will be back sometime later this week.
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