Ian Talty, HMHS Class of 2023
I would like to start off by thanking our previous speakers: Charlie and Rex, and echoing their sentiments in thanking all of you for being here to honor the class of 2023, along with thanking the people that made this ceremony possible: the administration, the teachers, the janitorial staff, the families, and of course, the students themselves.
That being said, I would like to pose a question to all of you: What is the greatest movie of all time? How do we decide what makes one movie greater than another? Well we can go by what the “experts” say. According to IMDb it’s The Shawshank Redemption. According to Variety it’s Psycho. According to Business Insider it’s The Godfather. And if you would have asked my grandfather he might have said it was Animal House. Likely, everybody here would choose a different film for a different reason. Me, I wouldn’t even know where to start. I’m certainly no cinephile, so I guess I might start by asking myself what makes a great movie? There’s the plot, the music, the cast, the cinematography, all of the tangible things that go into the creation of a movie. All of the things that result in awards and critical acclaim. But when asked to come up with the greatest movie of all time, we think of more than the tangible elements. We judge a film by how it makes us feel. By the thousands of little moments that occur off camera and create an experience that resonates. And so in this way, while judging a movie may involve judging its tangible quality, it also inherently involves evaluating the intangibles as well.
When I started writing this speech, I was confronted by the question of what to talk about. After all, as you heard from Rex, this class has accomplished so much in the last four years. But that’s when I realized that maybe I shouldn’t be focusing on the last four years. Instead, maybe I should focus on the next four and beyond. The future can be a scary thing, and rightfully so. I want to evaluate our time in high school like the great movie that it was and highlight the intangibles that will guide us and just might make the future a little less scary.
The intangibles of our class are everything that happens behind the scenes, unnoticed by comparison to our tangible accomplishments. Just like the numerous, almost unnoticeable things that connect a movie with its audience, the small, intangible details about our class, unknown to anybody not sitting in these seats with me, are what really makes this class so special.
It’s all the hard work that goes into making every accomplishment possible. While that work ethic and perseverance may not necessarily be tangible and observable, it is an invaluable part of our class’s character. The countless practices, sometimes battling the elements of weather and physical fatigue. The hours spent in the band room or the theater preparing for a performance. The time dedicated to completing a work of art or to planning a school event. The accomplishments of our class will not be carried into the future with us, but the work ethic and perseverance responsible for these accomplishments will.
What also goes unseen is the support we give to each other. Whether it’s helping a classmate with homework or giving someone a ride to school. The constant support from those around us, those dealing with the same issues and the same stress as us is of the utmost importance. Being able to communicate with your peers and form a strong support system is a vital skill, and while the support system that we, the class of 2023, formed together may not always literally be with us in the future, we all have gained the ability to support those around us and find people to support us wherever we go.
Failure and mistakes also often go without notice. When we look at our tangible accomplishments as a class, the casual observer will not see the failures and missteps that served as the building blocks to our success. Every member of the class of 2023 has failed at some point during their high school career. But while failure may be inevitable, in a class like this one, so is bouncing back. As we move into the future, we will all continue to fail and to make mistakes along the way. But dealing with failure and pushing forward, not in spite of our mistakes but because of them, is something we all have learned how to do together as a class.
Failure may be one of those intangible things that goes without notice, but so is celebration. Whether we’re celebrating each other, or the teachers who give so much time and effort to helping us grow and develop, what goes on behind the scenes is nothing short of amazing. Celebration may seem like an odd intangible quality to carry into the future. But wherever we end up, it’s necessary that we remember to stop every once in a while and take a minute to be appreciative, and yes even celebratory, of ourselves and what we have accomplished in addition to those around us.
Andy Rooney once said, “Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain. But all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it”. While the tangible accomplishments may be what this class is remembered most for, I believe the intangibles also define us. And while our goals will always be there, calling down to us from the top of the mountain, the intangibles define our journey up the mountain, and in reality, the process of climbing is more important than reaching the top. So as the HMHS Class of 2023 sits here today, finally atop the mountain that is high school, we are now all facing the much larger and more ominous peak that is our future. What’s different now is that sadly we won’t always be climbing together. But while we may not be together per se, we will have all the intangible qualities that define us as a class. Our work ethic and our perseverance will push us up the mountain. We’ll meet people along the way and find support for ourselves to make the climb easier. We’ll fail, time and time again, and make countless mistakes, but just as often, we’ll pick ourselves back up, keep pushing, and continuously celebrate and appreciate the progress we’re making. The future is daunting, and what lies ahead certainly will not be easy. But the one thing I know is that if I had to pick one group of people to climb this mountain, one group who I was confident could conquer the challenges ahead, I would choose the greatest class to ever walk through those halls, the HMHS Class of 2023.