Lovely ladies, venerable gentlemen, proud parents, esteemed respective high school faculty and administration, and, of course, all the blissful souls who have been with you on this journey – congratulations for graduating high school and gaining admission to the University of California Berkeley! Thank you for honoring yourselves with this opportunity to enrich your higher education; there will be (extremely) hard times in the future, but they will be worth it. It’s cliched, but it’s exceedingly true. I truly appreciate all your efforts in bringing yourselves to this privileged moment today; I’m sure the confetti from your Cal admission emails and the consequent screams and cries from your parents and friends indicated, at least to a degree, how much you have just achieved this year. All your four years of hard work, of AP and IB classes, of Honors and accelerated curriculums, of endless extracurricular positions, of sleep deprivation, have finally paid off.
Thank the yearlong endeavors and endless guidance of your teachers – after all, their recommendation letters may have played a role in your admission. Write a handwritten note – don’t use email or eCards or Hallmark cards and be old-school for once. At Cal, you’ll even forget that old-school ever existed. Without their hard work, and without the smiles and support of your parents and siblings, you would not be where you are today – I dare say, you would not be who you are today. Let that sink in, and then go running to hug your parents or fist-pump Pops (or hug them both if you like!)
Donald Kendall once said, “the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Hard work produced the fundamental success you are all experiencing today – graduation. In my case, hard work brought me sleepless nights and fatigue-filled days, but it also earned me my straight A’s, my leadership roles, my mother’s smiles, and priceless blessings from guests at a soup kitchen I volunteered at for my Senior Project; it purchased my full-ride merit scholarship to a four-year university, as well as acceptance to over 57 universities in the US, including to UC Berkeley’s Class of 2020. I’m not mentioning this laundry list to brag or to show off, or for arrogance; I’m mentioning it because it should serve to inspire you. I never thought all this was possible, especially after switching high schools during senior year, but it happened and I don’t need to pinch myself anymore to believe it. For three hard months, full of make-up work, overdue essays and proposals, assignments, both present and future quizzes, assessments and projects, and consistent sleep deprivation, I worked hard and reaped my favorite 4.0 GPA, despite joining school two months late. In fact, hard work is what defines your entire graduating class. I sincerely believe that there isn’t a single place out here in your community that hasn’t been influenced by your extraordinary efforts; the popularity that comes with Berkeley admission doesn’t hurt as well. You are the ones who built a firm foundation for your future by successfully acing those AP and IB Tests by pulling extremely memorable all-nighters, drilling as many flashcards into your short-term memories as humanly possible. Your commitment to volunteer service, college applications, extracurriculars, and amazing student events this year – from a spectacular Homecoming game to unforgettable academic efforts – proves that hard work always pays off. It’s what got you all admitted to all those colleges and universities you’ve coveted for so long; it’s what made winning all those football games so fun this year; it’s what made dancing to Prom so mesmerizing. Hard work, the key to gaining any type of success, whether it be personal satisfaction, social fame, or financial fortune, is what filliped you into fulfilling the motto our campus walls adorn daily – “Fiat Lux” or let there be light.
If all you graduates continue to put in the hard work in college that you put in this year, then you could achieve goals you previously thought were impossible and become so successful that your signatures will become autographs. But in order to attain this, you must continue learning, achieving newer ambitions, setting higher goals, outlining clearer plans and priorities, becoming more prepared, punctual, and responsible, because this day marks only the beginning of a new journey, one where you will learn more and work harder, but will also enjoy bigger and better rewards (trust me; as a Cal student, all these goals automatically become requirements to simply survive in the sink-or-swim environment here).
As Alan Rufus once commented, “Hard work does not go unnoticed, and someday the rewards will follow.” Remember, Cal admits, high school graduation is just one of the rewards you’ve reaped so far in our lives; there await many more to enjoy in the future, so long as we continue to work hard, with full effort. Go Bears!
Be proud and enjoy this moment to the fullest! Don’t let senioritis get the best of you; you won’t get rescinded from Cal but you will feel a little less satisfied – less happier – if you don’t perform your best during this last stretch of high school. Your perfectionist tendencies won’t be quenched, so to speak, and at Cal, I’m all too familiar with such sentiments and tendencies. After all, you only graduate from high school once.
C’est la vie.