Welcome family, friends, faculty, and graduates to tonight’s commencement ceremony. For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Olivia Ellerby, and I feel very honoured to be here tonight to speak on behalf of the graduating class of 2018.
So, here we are – high school graduates – or as many would say, “we made it!”. There’s no doubt that the past four years have been a long journey. The bumps and bruises of adolescence are familiar to all of us, along with the saying ‘cheers go hawks.’ Or ‘bleed blue,’ or ‘I want to go home and nap.’
High school presented challenges for all of us in a lot of different ways. The paths that brought us to this moment differ from one person to the next — but we all have something in common — right now marks a milestone in life that we should all be proud of. It seems to be in moments like these where we all stop to reflect and think “where on Earth has the time gone?”.
Recently, I came across a quote that read “time is everything we have and
don’t.” In a way it made me realize this: time, although seemingly measurable, is something that slips away from us so easily. It doesn’t stop to wait for anyone, and the future isn’t something that just suddenly hits you one day. It’s one of those things that kind of sneaks up on you, that happens so quickly it feels like all you did was blink. Until one day, you’re sitting in a chair, at your high school graduation trying to understand how everything managed to happen so fast.
Let’s take a moment to say thank you to the people that have supported us throughout the past four years. First, to the ones that have stuck with us through it all – family and friends. Whoever you consider family, make sure to tell them how much you appreciate them tonight. To all of our teachers, we’re so grateful for the time and energy you have contributed to our education. You have made incredible lasting impacts on our lives. To our vice principals, Mr. Crane and Mrs. McWilliams, and Principal, Mrs. Cathcart — thank you so much for your tireless efforts to make this school a better place to be every day. To the office staff and custodians, thank you for all your hard work. And last, but not least, our hall monitors. Bill and ‘Miss’– the dynamic duo –two of the sweetest, and most patient people ever.
At this point in our lives, everything is changing. All we’ve experienced so far is structure – 14 years of education that has felt routine. Now, we stand at a point where we get to decide what to do next. It’s exciting and terrifying. It’s confusing and empowering. In a lot of ways, it’s a time where we might start to question whether the decisions we’ve made have been the right ones.
If you haven’t heard it from anyone else yet, I want to take a second to say something that I think all of us need to understand: whatever path you’ve chosen this year is valid. It’s okay if you’re not going to university or college, and its okay if you are. It’s okay if you’re working or you’ve come back to Jacob Hespeler — and it’s okay if you’ve taken some time off to figure things out or adventure. There are no instructions for life, even though we think that a specific path equals a golden ticket to success.
Don’t back down to the voices of others that tell you that you aren’t capable of pursuing the life of your dreams. Don’t back down to the voice in your head that says you aren’t good enough. Sometimes, being authentically yourself will make other people uncomfortable.
In the midst of everything, we often forget that this life is ours. As a generation that’s already breaking down barriers – one that’s more accepting, more loving, and more progressive than anyone before us – let’s also not forget that the future is ours. We get to decide what kind of world we want. One that’s inclusive — regardless of race, religion, sexual or gender identity, ability, class and more. A world where we’re kinder to one another, and ourselves. A world where we take responsibility for our actions and empower each other to do better and be better.
You are capable of defining yourself on your terms, and you have the strength to be true to who you are despite any fear that comes with it. The pursuit of your life — whether it be an education, a career, an adventure, or all of the above — is something that you need to decide for yourself.
So, I’ll leave you with this: A quote from Jim Carrey reminds us that, “Fear is
going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future — but all there will ever be, is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.”
Hawks, let’s choose love.