My Salutatorian Speech from Graduation

This is the salutatorian speech I wrote and gave at my high school graduation on May 21, 1999. I wrote some of it while in the hospital, but most of it was actually written while I was talking on the phone to Mark. He and my parents gave me a lot of inspiration for this speech. Everything in it is my personal philosophy and how I live my life. I hope you enjoy it!


Fellow graduates, faculty, friends, & family---I stand before you tonight faced with the difficult task of trying to say something that will keep your interest and, hopefully, even be meaningful to you. I decided to give you all a little advice from my heart---advice that I've been raised with all my life---and I hope you can find something in my words to help you along your way in your life.

Do what makes you happy. Don't let yourself be miserable in any aspect of your life. Only you know what makes you happy, so don't rely on other people to make the major decisions in your life. Live in the place you want to live, marry the person whom you truly love, work at the job which you enjoy. Give yourself plenty of reasons to wake up in the morning.

Put your heart into everything you do. You have to be passionate about things in your life. You accomplish things only when you really care about what you are doing. Then you can make a difference.

Don't let anyone bring you down and make you feel worthless. People are always looking for someone to make fun of. And, sooner or later, everyone gets their turn at being talked about and teased. Not everyone is going to like you---that's just the way life goes. That doesn't mean you're inferior to anyone else. Don't let anyone ever tell you differently. Just always remember---you are a wonderful person.

Always have compassion for other people. You never know what someone else is going through, what cross he or she has to bear. Henry Longfellow said, "Everyone has his secret troubles, and many times we think a man cold when he is only sad." We're all human here, and we're in this together. No matter how strong we think we are, there's going to come a point in time when, like a three-year-old with a scraped knee, we need to be held and comforted and told, "It's going to be all right." And there's nothing wrong with that. Just be sure to offer as much to other people as you want to be offered back to you when you need comfort and compassion. There is no such thing as being too kind.

I know that times can get hard, and sometimes you just feel like completely giving up. Sometimes you sit and cry and hate the way things in your life are going. You feel completely alone and abandoned and think, "These things could only happen to me." But they don't only happen to you. They happen to us all. And that's why we have to reach out to each other and comfort each other. That's why we have to remember that we're all just human beings trying to survive. Don't shut people out, let them in. And don't turn you back on someone in need. You never know when you'll be the person needing a shoulder to cry on.

So smile a lot, laugh a lot, and be nice to everyone you meet. Build yourself up when people try to break you down. Don't take anyone or anything for granted, because you never know when they or you might be gone forever. Above all, love your life---it's the only one you've got.

Thank you, members of the audience, for being here tonight and for so kindly listening to me. As for my fellow graduates, I wish you all the best of luck in your lives. I love every one of you. Thank you again.