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Think of your own way of saying goodbye

Cleo Hamilton, HMHS Class of 2022 Valedictorian

Good evening everyone.

Choosing what to talk about today was a rocky process. Luckily, I got suggestions from my classmates! I want to talk about some of those suggestions and what they reveal about the HMHS Class of 2022.

First up, we’ve got the suggestion that I sing it. I like the challenge, but I think we’re all better off if I leave it to the music department to serenade us today. I’m no Madrigal after all. Singing this speech is a daring idea, and representative of our class’s creativity, talent, and readiness to take risks. Our class is made up of people willing to walk onto the stage to perform in Cinderella, or stand in front of the class to give a Dawg talk, or endeavor to set athletic records. We show our boldness with the causes we support and when we work for change.

This next suggestion probably wouldn’t have made it through Ms. McHale’s plagiarism radar. One classmate joked that I should deliver the entire High School Musical graduation speech, word for word. Lighthearted suggestions like this one show that we have grace and humor as we set out to take on society’s serious problems.

I think this throwback to High School Musical also reminds us of our shared K through 12 cultural history. We may not have everything in common, but a lot of us watched High School Musical, Stranger Things, or Avatar the Last Airbender. We played flappy bird, clash of clans, and Minecraft. We listened to Taylor Swift, Lil Nas X, Pitbull, and what seemed like the exact same DJ playlists at dances from rec hall to prom. Are there any party rockers in the house tonight? I SAID, are there any party rockers in the house tonight?

Love to hear it!

My physics class didn’t exactly give suggestions, but they did want a shoutout. I think the dynamics of my physics class represents what a class at HMHS can be. Each year we nervously entered class – wondering who we’d be with, whether we could keep up, and whether we’d make embarrassing mistakes. But by the end of the year, each class had its own camaraderie and inside jokes, with everyone working together to learn, and watching those mistakes we were afraid to make turn into some of the best and funniest academic experiences. So thank you Period 6 Physics for being a great class and showing what HMHS classes are all about!

A few classmates suggested that I talk about how our class made it through COVID, and how it brought us together. We learned to be more grateful for each other and for in-person learning. I don’t think I was ever as excited for the first day of school as I was last fall, even though it meant waking up early and changing out of my pajamas. How our class made it through COVID also demonstrated our serious side. We faced challenges and did our best to keep going together.

The speech suggestion that would have gotten us all out of here at record speed was to just yell “Go Class of 2022!” and then walk off stage. I like the brevity here, but I love the sentiment. It says, “I’m rooting for you! Your friends, family, and teachers are supporting and cheering for you! We can be optimistic about our future!”

I learned from all my classmates’ suggestions that the Class of 2022 is daring, lighthearted, helpful, generous, goofy, thoughtful, supportive, collaborative, and grateful.

Having received all these ideas demonstrates that no project or challenge is completed alone. We need to assemble our all-star team and work together. Through spirit week, with our extracurriculars, in our classrooms, or even just on Facetime working together, we have learned to collaborate.

Because a valedictory speech is about both who we are AND saying goodbye, I want to reflect on saying goodbye. We’ve said goodbye to a lot of things already: musically, middle school fashion, and braces. Some of these things we’ve been glad to say goodbye to. Other goodbyes have been harder: recess, Halloween parades, and talent shows.

Saying goodbye to HMHS marks a big moment in our lives so far, and as someone who cried at the end of soccer season, I know our goodbyes will be hard. But we don’t have to leave it all behind. Whatever was your favorite part of high school, whatever was the best part of who you were at HMHS, that’s something to hold on to. Hold on to your memories, your passions, your favorite things, your friends and your families.

As we say goodbye, we’re also saying hello to exciting new things: new jobs, new problems to solve, new opportunities, new schools and studies, new places to see around the world, or even just new freedom.

I want this speech to end with everyone’s participation – my graduating classmates AND all our friends and families in the stands who have helped us get here. I want you all to think of your own way of saying goodbye – any way you want – in the language you studied, with a wave or a peace sign – any words or gestures you choose. I’m going to count to three, then everybody shout it out. 

1, 2, 3 … Go class of 2022!