This week’s Fiction Friday is very special to me. Its a speech that I wrote as part of a competition to get to read at an event for the graduating seniors at my high school. I submitted it half as a joke, figuring that I would never get accepted.
The theme of your class has been based around the idea of “legacies”. From your yearbook to your class motto, you’ve focused on your placed within the legacy of STEM. This is how your prompt was selected. To be considered for one of the speaking roles at a senior event, you need to submit a written speech that is 3-4 minutes long and addresses the below prompt.
Prompt: A legacy is something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. Write a speech for a senior event about the importance of creating and leaving a legacy as it applies to identity. You may use the following information as well as your own experiences, observations, and/or readings.
Well, to my surprise, mine was selected. Of course, then I was slightly terrified because the fact that it was selected meant that I was going to have to read and present it, a much more daunting task than just writing it. I ended up being chosen to read at the Baccalaureate service (for those of you who either haven’t graduated or your school didn’t do this, a Baccalaureate Service is a non-denominational church service done right before graduation).
Some background information you might need before reading my speech:
- My school is L&N Stem Academy
- STEM stands for “Science Technology Engineering Math”
- Its not a private school, its a magnet high school, which means that even though you have to apply to get in, anyone can apply and its completely random whether or not you get in.
- This January a student at my school, Michael, passed away in a motorcycle accident. He was my first boyfriend, which is why I decided to include him in my speech. Live Like Michael was the slogan and hashtag that we used to talk about him (and anything more in the tag recent than January 2016 is probably us (someone else had apparently used it previously)). I wrote a bit more about his death on my post here.
- He was genuinely one of the most polite and kind people I have ever met.
- Michael’s Big Red Truck is a non-profit that benefits animals that was named for my friend.
We’ve heard a lot about how we should want to leave a legacy and about leaving a legacy that counts. According to the legacy society,” It’s about learning from the past, living in the present, and building for the future.”
However, I say that legacy is interchangeable with our identity. It is every choice we’ve ever made and every impact that our choices have made. A legacy cannot be measured or counted or viewed, it doesn’t start or end. Your legacy isn’t measured by how famous you were in life or death. It isn’t what we leave behind when we’re gone. We don’t have to die or even move away to leave a legacy, we only have to touch hearts. In that we are already leaving legacies. Legacies are infinite.
For a moment, look back on this last year. Picture the first thing that came to mind and hold it there. Now think. Is it good? Is it happy? We humans tend to forget the good. We will never forget Paris or Belgium, they are seared into our minds. Many of us can name those responsible. But what about the helpers? I can’t name any. Can you? But isn’t that what you would like to remember? Wouldn’t you like to say with certainty, ‘this world is full of good people.’ But you can’t, because you’ve forgotten them. We must remember the wise words of Mr. Rodger’s mother, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
And so, as we stand here on the edge of the rest of our lives we are wondering, but what about STEM’s legacy? We ask ourselves: can something that is not alive leave a legacy?
But our school is alive. A school is not a roof and four walls, a school is an idea, a living embodiment of every person who ever walked through the front door. Indeed a school is a place of learning, but the most important thing we can learn here is not in any book. Succeeding in school is not about learning the facts, but about learning people. Now we’re finished, we’re ready to move on, our teachers have given us their legacy, and now it is in our hands. When we leave our impact on others we take a little of that with us. We take their legacy and we share it, not through our words, but our actions. When others remember us they are – unknowingly – remembering the small parts of others’ legacies that were passed onto us.
When we say Live Like Michael and make a decision to live the kindest lives we can, we are passing his legacy onto others. He may not be physically in this room with us, but he is here. People say as long we remember someone they are never gone, but I digress. That is finite. That suggests that legacy only lasts as long as a name is remembered. But legacy is infinite. As long as we remember how they were and how they impacted us then they will live on. When we are kind to others we are sharing that part of Michael that remains and passing it on. They, in turn, will share that gift with others. It is a form of immortality. As long as we pass on the legacy of kindness that Michael left us he will never be gone.
Live your life knowing that people are watching you, even if you don’t know it. How many of us have been touched by someone even if we don’t know their name? A stranger on a street corner or a waiter in a restaurant? A nurse in a hospital or a volunteer at a charity. We remember how they touched us but not who they are. People aren’t born with the desire to make the world a better place, they are inspired by others to do so. We seldom know who impacted those who impact us. They may have lost their identity but the imprint of their soul remains. Which is more important? The name that our parents gave us at birth or the identity we chose ourselves?
I could stand here all day and tell you the importance of a legacy and what kind of legacy you should leave. But it won’t matter. It is very true, the old saying, actions speak louder than words. We will all be remembered for what we did, not what we said.
I leave you now with the memorable words of Max Lucado: “When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want? Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame? Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car? Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement? Of course not. What will matter then will be people. If relationships will matter most then, shouldn’t they matter most now?”
Bearing this in mind, I invite you all to step forward into the next chapter of your lives remembering all the legacies that we carry with us and those that we will create for ourselves.
That’s my tear-jerker of a speech. I’m really proud of how it turned out. A lot of other people loved it too, in fact, one of my teachers, my Trigonometry teacher, asked for permission to quote part of it at a teacher conference went to. So I was quoted professionally by a woman with a doctorate!
The Quote she used is from my speech before I proof read it and it reads:
When we say Live Like Michael and make a decision to live the kindest lives we can, we are passing his legacy onto others. He may not be physically in this room with us, but he is here. People say as long we remember someone they are never gone, but I digress. That is finite. That suggests that legacy only lasts as long as a name is remembered.
But legacy is infinite.
As long as we remember how they were and how they impacted us then they will live on. When we are kind to others we are sharing that part of Michael that remains and passing it on. They, in turn, will share that gift with others. It is a form of immortality. As long as we pass on the legacy of kindness that Michael left us he will never be gone.
I’ve gotten more compliments on this speech then on anything else I’ve ever done. One of my teachers said it was the most moving speech she’s ever seen and my principal said she couldn’t believe I was able to make it through the whole thing (and that she was proud of me for doing so) because of how emotional it was.