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Danvers High salutatorian speech

Posted by Gail Waterhouse  June 16, 2010 10:00 AM

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The following is the text of the graduation speech, given by Anisha Shenai, Danvers High School salutatorian of the class of 2010:

Good afternoon and welcome. I would like to acknowledge and thank family, friends, teachers, administrators, and of course, fellow members of the Danvers High School class of 2010 for making the past four years as memorable and as amazing as they were.

Though we find ourselves today as seniors on the brink of graduation, I ask all of you, for just a moment, to remember the September of 2006, when we first entered Danvers High School as timid young freshmen. We perceived high school as an uncharted no-man’s-land. We wanted simply to survive. The pursuit of excellence took second priority, as we strived to be merely good enough - only satisfactory academically, socially, and in extracurriculars. Overwhelmed, only in the beginning, we resigned ourselves to the ordinary; we resigned ourselves to the “plain vanilla,” or we resigned ourselves to the “plain chocolate,” as I prefer to say. Let me explain what I mean by this.

When I was younger, my mother was an avid supporter of all sorts of activities designed to bond mothers and daughters. One year, she decided that, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, making a cake together would be wonderful. As I, at the time, only had all the culinary prowess of any other typical eight-year-old, she enlisted me to decorate and frost, while she would mix and bake. We set out the ingredients and were finally ready to begin. Suddenly, my mother was alarmed to see that nowhere within this cluster of eggs and flour did we have any sprinkles! A Valentine’s Day cake without red sprinkles simply would not do, she declared. So we embarked upon a mission: Operation Red Sprinkles. 

The first store that we visited held only brown chocolate sprinkles. They had run out of red ones, as it was so close to Valentine’s Day. I suggested we just purchase the brown and be done with it; they all taste the same anyways. However, my mother refused. She insisted that we would find them eventually. Indeed, one and a half hours and six stores later, there they were, sparkling scarlet in a plastic shaker.

Later, I asked my mother why she was so insistent that we find those red sprinkles, instead of accepting the plain brown ones that were so readily available. Was it really worth all that time and effort to search for the red, merely for the sake of aesthetic value? Her answer was enough to make me understand.

“Rani,” she began, employing the Indian term of endearment she saves for such particularly significant conversations. “Brown sprinkles are basic. They are good enough to make the cake taste as it should, but not for anything more. Red sprinkles are beyond just simple; they are extraordinary.” And suddenly I could see. The red sprinkles, in serving a purpose that transcends the mere gustatory senses, had in them a flicker of passion, of life. They were greater than mediocre. They were greater than plain. They were greater than mere sprinkles. They were red sprinkles, and that made all the difference.

The great American author Mark Twain once stated the following: “Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.” In her quest for the red sprinkles, in her desire to follow the dream rather than to simply opt for the easily attainable reality, my mother showed me the worth in searching for life rather than accepting mere existence. To settle for the ordinary brown would be to concede to the need for basic survival, rather than to continue to strive for anything more.

Fellow classmates, in our four years at Danvers High School, I do believe that every one of us has abandoned the primitive search for brown chocolate sprinkles – the search to which we so desperately clung when we first entered high school. Instead, we now embrace the ambition for red sprinkles, the desire to be extraordinary. In our time in high school, we have all realized that it is not enough just to get by, just to be simply average. We have reached the understanding within ourselves that neutrality and simplicity are not enough. And we have seen the need to be passionate rather than to float along unfeeling, rather than to simply exist.

Each of us in the class of 2010 has found that source of passion, that shimmering spark of life which allows us to go beyond mere existence. We are gifted musicians. We are inspired artists. We are champion athletes. We are dedicated employees. We are serious students, and above all, we are more than what we once thought we could be. We were able not only to survive the perceived no-man’s-land of high school, but to flourish with intensity and power. As a class, we went beyond our original hopes of mediocrity, to create and attain dreams of magnificence. After four years in high school, we have become rational but passionate, pragmatic but emotional, logical but idealistic. We contradict ourselves and it is wonderful. It is wonderful, because I know that it is this paradoxical state that will guide us. It will ground us in the realities of the present, but still never allow us to cease forging onwards and upwards, forever in pursuit of that glimmer that separates the plain from the remarkable.

So be remarkable. Let a flame of passion illuminate your way. Be extraordinary. Stray from the dullness of shadows, into a radiant glow. Feel. Dream. Live. And never concede. Never settle for anything less, as you move full speed ahead in the quest for a life full of light and color.  Thank you.

To see the valedictory speech from Danvers High graduate Rebecca Bay, click here.

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