Hello, (Display Google Meet Screen)

Am I on mute? Well, this isn’t going to work, I can’t type my graduation speech in that chat. Anyway, I just wanted to start off the ceremony in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable and reminds you of the good times we all had learning from home.

Of course, I am just joking. I am done with Zoom and Google meets. Now it’s finally time to turn your cameras on and unmute. Welcome students, family, faculty and staff to the In-Person Graduation Ceremony for the Class of 2021. Now to say that your senior year was far from ideal would be an understatement. In all actuality it was almost non-existent, and it doesn’t even feel like it’s over.

So let me be the first one to tell you today that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you were robbed of over a year of memories and experiences that you would have shared with your peers at Maspeth High School. I’m sorry that you’ve experienced sadness, sickness, loss and witnessed the division that it has caused in this country. And I am sorry that we couldn’t physically be there for you during these tough times. But we are here now, and we are not going anywhere.

There is a Japanese proverb that goes “nanakorobi yaoki” which translates to “Fall Down Seven Times, Stand up Eight.” Now to me it means choosing to never give up hope, and to always strive for more. That your focus shouldn’t be on the sometimes-upsetting present in front of you, but on the greater future that may not be visible just yet. Take that and realize that your current state is not your permanent reality. You have your entire life ahead of you, and for many of you the experiences that you have had this year have resulted in feeling like you keep getting pushed down over and over again. The constant back and forth: Schools are open, Schools are closed, Schools are open. Your classmate tested positive and now you have to quarantine for 10 days. No more masks! (But that doesn’t apply to schools.)

It’s a constant struggle, but that is part of life. We are constantly struggling to find meaning and purpose, and I am here to tell you that although there may be struggles, you must continue to get back up. You must stand up and walk, sometimes even run, to get through these walls and barriers that are put in your way, and I promise you after all is said and done, you will be a better person for it. Congratulations to the class of 2021, you most certainly deserve it!