Everything You Do, Do it Big

Brian is the valedictorian of the senior class of 2012 at Starkville High School in Mississippi. This is the speech he gave to his peers and the school community on his graduation day.

Whassupp. So, I am just going to be honest. After discovering that I was entrusted with the honor of giving this speech, I had absolutely no clue what to say and how I was supposed to come up with some profound insights about our graduating class. Of course, I did what anybody searching for answers would do, and used the magical website called Google to garner some ideas. As I scrolled through dozens of speeches, I noticed that many began or ended with a meaningful quote that defined their high school journeys. How was I supposed to find a suitable quote that would accurately describe four years, approximately 22.2 percent, of our lives? I had not read anything meaningful in years, since SHS teachers never require students to read thick, gargantuan textbooks or Freiler or dozens of novels of literary merit. Naturally, I went to ponder my predicament at my favorite restaurant, Taco Bell, and my quote miraculously appeared as I squeezed some sauce onto my burrito. "Will you scratch my back?" read the Fire Taco Bell sauce packet. Using that, I proceeded to use my AP Lit skills to analyze and find meaning that was not necessarily apparent in that simple question.

Unknowingly, we have all scratched each other's back throughout high school, figuratively -- not literally of course. What is so inspiring about this class, and our entire school actually is that there is a feeling that... we actually like each other. Starkville High School fosters an environment where students genuinely care for their peers and are motivated to provide assistance and guidance to anyone in any endeavor and under any circumstance. Because of this altruistic attitude, we are able to stand side by side and not only reach the high expectations set for us, but achieve beyond them.

This group mentality and tremendous team effort has propelled us all forward together during our high school years. Let's just be real here -- we are good at everything. Every athletic team at SHS except one advanced to the state playoffs this year. In addition to a state championship in Boy's Soccer, we had five other sports that finished as one of the top four teams in the state. Those accomplishments do not even include the mountain of individual awards won this year and the numerous senior athletes who received scholarships to play in college. A very large part of our success is thanks to the coaches at SHS, and Dr. Miller, who know how to set high expectations for us and motivate us while being invaluable role models and mentors. We thank you.

Amazingly, our plethora of athletic recognitions is well-balanced by the immense and continually growing collection of trophies and medals from our music, theatre, arts and journalism departments. An All-Superior Marching Band; All-Superior Choir; awards at MTA State Festival; internationally, nationally, and state-recognized artists; and 31 journalism state awards -- 10 first place -- are not too shabby.

Perhaps the most meaningful successes are our academic accomplishments. We have a Presidential Scholar Semifinalist, two National Merit Finalists, one Semifinalist, 49 Mississippi Scholars, 21 Honors Graduates, nine Superintendent Distinguished Seniors, five Highest Honors Graduates, and $2.6 million offered to the SHS Class of 2012. We have been accepted to high-caliber colleges and universities, with a large handful of us who will spread out across the nation next year to further our education and represent the Jacket Nation. However, these achievements pale in comparison to the senior class actually winning the Point of Pride competition based on GPA and a dress code-free day. I can feel many eyes rolling in their sockets now, especially those of the juniors, who we have formed a bit of a rivalry with this year. Class of 2013, we have been hearing constantly about how our graduating class is "terrible" and "has no spirit" and how it was one of the rare years that the seniors lost the Homecoming Week Spirit Competition. Many forget that we had zero points in the spirit competition a year before as juniors, so I think we should at least get the Most Improved Award. However, what we lack in spirit, we make up for in sheer number of accomplishments. I, and the entire Class of 2012, want to challenge any of the lower classes at SHS to even come close to matching what we have accomplished.

In my Google searches, I also noticed that many valedictorians created elaborate metaphors to compare their high school years to something significant. If I could compare the class of 2012's journey through high school, I would not compare it to a hair-raising adventure or inspiring journey or fun ride on a merry-go-round. No, I would compare it to a big, long shower. When we entered high school as freshmen, we were little kids who were covered in the dirt and mud of our own ignorance and immaturity. Thankfully, we had teachers, coaches, and administrators to help us clean up, grow up and become more responsible young adults, while being caring enough to scratch our backs, sometimes gently and other times not so much, whenever it itched. Again, figuratively, not literally.

Mr. Fennell, thank you for repeating the daily routine expectations and procedures over and over and over and over and over again, and that the dress code is black, white, gray, or yellur with black or khaki pants NOT of the cargo nature! I'm sorry, yellur is not a color. It is the name of a dog in a movie. Thank you for reminding us of our senior skip day, and amusing us with your Hitler haircut at prom. But in all seriousness, you provided one of the most vital characteristics that an exemplary principal should posses: consistency. We always knew what to expect from you, because you repeated it over and over again, and we also knew what you expected of us, which was to achieve to the very best of our abilities.

Shout out to the seldom-recognized freshman teachers who are often overlooked by graduating seniors. You are such a jolly character, Coach Fischer, always present in the hallway with your coffee mug, spouting your jokes often at my expense and presenting your misled views of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to innocent freshmen. Mrs. Goodman, thank you for being so passionate about teaching and showing us your deadly skills with a spear. If a poor mammoth were to walk down south wing, there would be no hope for its survival with you there. There were so many things at SHS that could brighten up even the worst of days, like Mrs. Brenda Jackson's humor or cheesy chicken over rice served by the amazing, wonderful, majestic, graceful Ms. Mary and Ms. Janice. Lunch ladies, words cannot express my gratitude for your smiles and warmth over the years. Jeremiah and Danny, you two are prime examples of selfless devotion to the athletic department. The whole city of Starkville cheers for you two at games, I can assure you.

Finally, awards have been acknowledged, thank-you's have been said, and now it is time to walk across this stage. Please keep in mind three things as you receive your precious diploma. First, don't trip because I promise I will not be able to contain myself if you do. Second, cherish all of your teachers, coaches and classmates who have scratched your back, making an impact on you and transforming you into the older young person you are today. Especially cherish those we have lost, and remember how it was a privilege to know Breanna Hampton and Devin Mitchell. They both inspired us by how joyfully they lived their lives. Lastly, represent where you came from and what you were a part of after you have left -- 603 Yellowjacket Drive, across from the fancy Dirt Cheap. I believe that a concluding quote by this acclaimed musician is very fitting. Wiz Khalifa said: "Yeah, uh huh, you know what it is. Everything I do, I do it big. Black and yellow, black and yellow, black and yellow, black and yellow."

Thank you, God Bless.

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