BY KEVIN KO
Mr. Meditz, Mr. Raslowsky, Mr. Livigni, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, families, friends, and Class of 2015. I’d like to first begin by saying that I am absolutely humbled to be speaking here for you all today. This is a very proud moment for all of us as we celebrate the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one. We are here due to the unconditional support of the Xavier faculty and the love and sacrifices from our families. This day marks the culmination of your guidance for which words cannot express our gratitude ...
Graduates, four years ago, each of us walked into Xavier, nervous of a new environment yet excited for a fresh start. In the crowded and unfamiliar gym on orientation day, Mr. Raslowsky asked us to stand up to distinguish the different boroughs from where we all came. You looked at the students standing up after each borough was called, and you saw the unique background that every student brought with him to Xavier that day. Mr. McCabe read you the rules. You learned what the word “jug” meant. You went to your homeroom. You received your schedule, and you got your books. All while wondering, where do you fit into this new world? Who were you going to sit with during lunch? What clubs were you going to join? You were asking a lot of questions because, frankly, you didn’t know what to do or what you were exactly doing. The new building, the different environment, and the diversity of the Xavier made the next four years seem unclear as to how they would pan out for you. But here is one thing that panned out for all of you: you struggled.
In fact all of us struggled whether you liked to admit it or not. Thinking back to freshman year, we can remember how adjusting to the workload was difficult. Our teachers demanded a great deal from us, whether it was learning how to write a well-reasoned five-paragraph essay for the first time or trying to grasp the basics of physics. Many of us were on sports teams, a demanding responsibility, that required learning not only how to play at a competitive level but also how to manage our time efficiently with school. And for nearly all of us, just getting to school on time was a struggle in itself. Anyone who had to take any form of MTA transportation knows what I’m talking about. Xavier was challenging, and the challenges grew exponentially each year. There were countless long nights completing essays, studying for tests, memorizing lines for a play, or memorizing plays for a game. Through all these different challenges, however, Xavier taught us that we had a handful of shortcomings. There were some things that we simply weren’t good at, and, as a result, Xavier humbled us. We became aware of the fact that there was significant room for growth in many different aspects of our character.
Each of Xavier’s challenges, however, also presented an opportunity. When we failed the essay, got cut from the team, forgot our lines, or arrived late to school, it became an opportunity to learn from each other. We asked for help on how to make a better tackle or how to finish a hard trig problem. We asked for advice when proofreading our essays, something our English teachers wished we had done more often. We asked for their sincere thoughts on our performance at practice. And then we listened, carefully. When we heard what they had to say, we learned an invaluable lesson: to accept our weaknesses, understanding that it was essential for sharpening our existing skills.
Through these collaborations, we learned the value of multiple perspectives, which challenged us to leave our comfort zone. We surrounded ourselves with different people allowing us to hone new skills, gain new outlooks, and even make new friends. We acted less as individual students and more as a class. We learned about each other on a personal level. People got to know Kevin, the person, not Kevin, the computer nerd. We shared our stories and made stronger relationships with each other and with God. We learned what great feats we can accomplish when collaborating as a team, all while growing closer as brothers. We, ultimately, became a dynamic class, one that knows how to rely on each other’s strengths in order to achieve a common goal.
Let us never forget these important lessons and experiences because the cycle will repeat in college. Next fall we will enter a completely new environment once again, enter a new campus, be exposed to a wide diversity of people, and, as a result, we will struggle. But, rest assured, we’ve been through this. If we view every challenge as an opportunity to grow our talents, to know more about ourselves, and to bond with others, the next four years should be enriched with even more memories and successes.
Four years ago we all came here with disparate ideas and backgrounds, and in those four years we have discovered new ideas and uncovered massive amounts of potential we never thought possible. From this, we, as a class, have become immensely talented. Now as we graduate, we are taking our talents away from 30 West 16th St. and out across the country. But before we all go off into the world, I want each of us to look at ourselves individually. Think of who you were coming through that door as a freshman and then think of who you are now. You have become a better listener, learner, student, son, and friend. Try to remember just a fraction of the ideas, lessons, adventures, experiences, mentors, friends you have learned, lived, and met. You have much of which to be proud of and much for which to be grateful. You have become a man, who others can look up to — in hopes, a Man for Others. You have learned to thirst for knowledge, to find God in all things, and to be open-minded about the world around you.
I’d like to end with a quote by the modern-day philosopher, Drake, “Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” Class of 2015, we have arrived at one such destination: you’ve finally received your high school diploma. Congratulations. But remember that the more rewarding thing was the journey. Thank you.
Kevin Ko is this year’s valedictorian at Xavier High School in Manhattan. Ko, who will attend Stanford University, delivered his speech on June 11th at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.