So this is the part where I must talk about the place I called home for the past year even though I should’ve called it home for four. Salem High School is truly a special place that I’ve been so fortunate to be a part of. We are a community of individuals, and individuals about community.

I look at the Class of 2017 and I see not just America, but the world. In the ocean of identities, it wasn’t hard to find yours. Even if who you are constantly changed, somebody was willing to accept you.

This was the place where I’ve been given the world, shown in the talents that our artists and athletes and absolute academic geniuses possess. This is the place where your true self was loved and important. It was here where, “I want change, not money” means something, where a guy can wear heels and another never wears shoes and they can be friends.

This was where the hair colors of your peers created a magnificent rainbow.

Where your old school, flip-phone carrying teacher dabs in class.

Where your Spanish 1 substitute waves plastic bananas in your face for pronouncing the “h” in “hablar.”

Where you found those friends that you’ll terribly miss after they graduate and you’re stuck here for another year or two.

We come from a really special place, so underclassmen that might be here tonight, complain all you want but remember that we’re honestly so spoiled at Salem. Class of 2017, I implore you, take the things you received here, the good, the bad, and the tear-filled ugly, and use those experiences to make the best possible version of yourself. Leave this room, this city, this world better than you found it.

And before I leave, I want to say thank you. Thank you to the teachers and family and friends that supported us, even when we didn’t deserve it. Thank you for being our role models and a light to guide us when the power goes out and we’re stuck in a windowless classroom.

Thank you to the students for being patient, insightful, ambitious, radiant, courageous, bold, talented, hilarious, beautiful, generous, motivated, relatable. Thank you for being alive.

Thank you all for believing in us and helping us do amazing things in this world.

With that said, stay hydrated, stay wholesome, and I’ll see you, my friends, later.

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