valedictorian speech

“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.”
And from that little moonlit egg popped out a little caterpillar – a little caterpillar with a very big appetite. Is that not the beginning for all of us?

We eat not out of greed but out of an insatiable curiosity. We consume what is familiar first, but that alone is not enough to sustain us forever. We must venture out into the unknown, try new foods, grapple with the ineffable. We try out for the tennis team to learn that we are not actually half bad; we work up the courage to sing and dance in the theater spring musical. Some foods will leave a bitter aftertaste, but it is enough to try them once. Others will taste sweetest of all and prove to be most filling. As we eat, we outgrow our skin not just once, but multiple times. We are changed by all we taste until we find what suits our tastes. Still, we are constantly hungry.

Sometimes we forget to appreciate that there is any food for us at all. We get grumpy, frustrated, and only grumpier the fuller we get. But we are still hungry because we are still growing – unlike the caterpillar, not just our tummies, but our hearts and minds. We conquer our fear of heights to reach the brightest, greenest leaves, and we push ourselves to travel farther and eat more each day, testing our own limits, whether that leads us to Ohio State or UGA.

And when our time for simply growing bigger has ended, we are sad. Our stomachs ache with anticipation. We are on the edge of metamorphosis, though not quite there yet, and in that concealed fear and boredom some of us begin to sleep – a lot – perhaps even when we know we should be eating. It gets dark and lonely in that cocoon, and at times we doubt we will ever make it out alive. No other caterpillars can comfort us, so we turn inward, to ourselves. We undergo our final shedding; this time, we wrap ourselves in silk. We’ve worked hard building our cocoon, our own safe haven, but we can’t stay sheltered for the rest of our lives. There is more out there than the tiny world we’ve carefully crafted around ourselves. There are other caterpillars to meet, new discoveries to make, and endless opportunities for us to fall in love with life. There is still so much to devour; this is not the end for us. After all, right when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, she turned into a butterfly.

As we leave here today and test our newfound wings, we should remember those days when our appetites grew faster than we ever could have imagined. We’ve changed, but above everything, we should keep our hunger – that passion, that wonder, that hopefulness – that has brought us to this arena as the S——- High School graduating class of 2011.

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