Class of 2014 Manitoulin Secondary School valedictorian speech

Valedictorian Harrison Noble addresses his fellow 2014 graduates.

by Harrison Noble

Hello everyone, my name is Harrison Noble and I’d like to say how big of an honour it is to stand in front you all today. Friends, family, fellow graduates, teachers, siblings that don’t want to be here but were forced to anyways, and of course the one baby that will most certainly cry at some point during my speech (not to worry, at one point it was me, and if all goes according to plan it won’t be me again tonight).

I realize now more then ever we’ve been sitting in a warm building for quite some time and that you are most likely prepared to zone in and out of my speech. Not to worry, originally I was planning on picturing the crowd naked as an old public speaking trick, but since my family is here today I’m going to pass on that and just say you guys owe me. Now for all graduates, I encourage you not to zone out too much during this speech and instead to feel free to cheer or show enthusiasm to any remarks or actions that you feel reflected our time here at MSS. For example, if I were to take a selfie right now I would expect full and loud support from all graduates.

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Wow, we look good! When I tried to think of what our class has that no other class had before us, I came to really only one conclusion, and they are all shown in this new picture on my phone, we have each other. We will always have the friends made here at MSS. So let me start by thanking you all.

Because without you this night and the past four amazing years wouldn’t have been possible.  Now I wouldn’t be able to stand up here today without thanking a few more people. Thank you to my father for teaching me the importance of having a strong work ethic and the hundreds of hours spent behind the wheel of our Suburban driving me to numerous sporting events. Thank you to my grandpa for being the wisest and most sophisticated role model an 18-year-old boy could ask for. Thank you to my grandma for passing down my sense of humour. Thank you to my beautiful mother who showed me how to overcome anything I set my mind to, and introduced me to the love of my life, bacon. And thank you to the countless friends and family members who have helped me through my 18 years; you have taught me lessons that MSS never could.

Coming here today I was worried that I would have to stand in front of a room full of 500 strangers who had already sat for over an hour and would most likely be quite restless by the time I approached the stage. Then I remembered grownups love these kind of things! You aren’t sugar high teens itching to get out of a ridiculous gown and cap. No, you are the people that raised these restless, annoying, confused, entertaining, amazing, outgoing teens and for that I thank you, because they have helped give me the best four years of my life, to date. I say ‘to date’ on purpose. I’ve heard several people say high school is the best time of your life and to those people I say I disagree. Not because these years weren’t amazing but because you should never have a peak in your life. Last week, sitting in the Dairy Queen with a smoothie in one hand and a Blizzard in the other, I had a hard time convincing myself that life could get any better than this.

But, a quick glance at the display of the dessert pizzas proved me wrong. There should never be a time where you accept that the next day won’t be just as great as all those that came before.

Coming into Grade 9 is one of the biggest transitions a teenager goes through. Coming from one of the six small public schools on the Island, this place seems like the biggest, scariest place in the world. Now I understand Manitoulin Secondary School may not seem like the largest school ever, especially for anyone visiting from off Island who typed it into a GPS and heard back “are you sure? There’s a great ice cream place down the road about 120 miles in the exact opposite direction and why don’t we check that out instead?” Let me tell you though, standing in front of you all today, this school is as large as ever. When we entered as minor niners, this building was intimidating, along with nearly every other aspect of Grade 9. The fear of a non-existent initiation, Grade 12s, more then one bell, no inside shoes, and of course the game changer…no recess. I’ll apologize to any teacher that had to receive the consequences of dealing with a 14-year-old who had just come in from lunch after finishing three Cokes, two Cody burgers and enough freezies to send someone into hibernation. It truly wasn’t our fault, these new opportunities such as caf food were just too good not to capitalize on. I now understand why we were given 20 minutes to run, jump, scream and play after lunch in public school; it was because they valued the teacher’s sanity. Yes, so much to process for such poor little defenseless Grade 9s. But as the year progressed, so did we. Most of us getting cell phones and being allowed laptops in class as long as they were used for “constructive positive work.” By the end of the year we realized we were in the big leagues and it could only get better from here.

Along came Grade 10, no longer the youngest but still nowhere near the oldest.

We were no longer the go to targets and therefore we could stop walking in groups of 20 and leave our hallway—our first real breath of freedom.

Abbreviations slowly came into play, replacing long and extremely complicated phrases like “Oh My God” and “Laugh Out Loud” with OMG and LOL. It was not until writing this speech that I realized how lazy we may be – pause for LOL. Now as Grade 10 came to a close the excitement of becoming a senior was undeniable.

A blink of an eye and there we were. I learned a lot in Grade 11. First of all we begun to receive our licences. This is when I realized why teachers never seem afraid while in school. Sure large groups of teens can be terrifying but they knew the real danger lies out there in the parking lot where we being the practiced stuntmen we were, put the laws of physics we recently learned to the test. Now learning the roads wasn’t so bad. Let’s face it, the majority of us had grown up sitting on our parents laps driving the family car up and down the driveway. All it took was a little adapting just like we had done the two years before. In fact a deer jumping out in the middle of the road was kind of like a teacher giving you a pop quiz. They would say they didn’t want to do it, but you know a part of them just wanted to see the look on your face. Aside from the new freedom of our drivers licences, age was becoming apparent. For the guys, our first peach fuzz had begun to sprout from our once so clean and baby-like faces.

Then there were the few exceptions who may or may not have won the beard growing competition in Grade 11. For the girls, well as far as I know they hadn’t started shaving their faces yet. It was true, we were growing up. Well at least our bodies were, don’t let the beards fool you, we are children at heart. One more year and we would be kings and queens of MSS, never to be looked down upon again.

Then came our senior year, we made it, the swag was undeniable from these crazy new Grade 12 students. No more waiting in the caf line, it was finally our turn to #YOLO (You Only Live Once). Yes I said #YOLO. We could spend the next 10 years in this grade and be completely fine with it. Just for the record, my mom told me that this was not an option. I checked. The freedom was undeniable. That’s right, the class you had waited for since you first stepped foot in MSS: spare. You could play basketball outside, toss a football on the field, get caught up on some homework, go get a slushy at the store or go out for a rip! Or you could sit around and wait for your next class which is how the majority of spares actually go. Yes, we were the big dogs, the kings of the hill, the big kahunas, the old kids, I can’t help but hear the song “We Are the Champions” by Queen playing in the back of my head. We came in like a wrecking ball since we were those big, mean, scary Grade 12 students that we as Grade 9 students had feared so much. What a year it was. Whether it be showing our school spirit at a pep rally or cramming ourselves into a classroom to watch the Olympics, it was our year and no one could take that away from us.

It is not until the end that you realize parts of you miss Grade 9, for the excitement and adventure that came along with every step. Not to worry, this same feeling will soon be among us once again as we venture off to post secondary schooling. And if not post secondary, there will always be a new adventure out there waiting for you. Whether it be travelling to exotic countries or to a new fishing hole. Never stop exploring new things and taking chances. Don’t accept this amazing experience we have had here as your peak.

Although it’s hard to believe, there are better things in this world then your prom night or listening to my speech. You can pretty well tack bacon onto anything and make it better. Imagine how much better this moment would be if you all had bacon right now. But of course, I encourage not only the graduates, but everyone here today, to embrace every day as if it were your last, because unfortunately we just don’t know when that day will come.

Be happy. You don’t have to be overly smart, have a six-pack, drive a brand new convertible, dress to impress, have the highest flappy birds score, have the beautiful singing voice of Dione, have perfect hair, or hair at all to be happy, right dad? You can be, let’s just say, capable, have the full keg, ride a bike, or drive a red Sunfire, wear the same pair of jeans for four days, or four years for some of the graduates here today, not be able to make it past level 5 on flappy birds (hang in there Harfield), or have a singing voice like Tristan, and still be as happy and successful as you want. As long as you have the ambition to get up every day, and do what needs to be done. Whether that be go to work, mow the lawn, finish your 3,000 word essay, or finish the sixth season marathon of Gossip Girl even though your body wants to shut down after the first 52 hours. The point is make every day worthwhile, because you never know when an opportunity will present itself before you. For your own sake I really hope it wasn’t after a 52 hour Gossip Girl marathon. Everyone has their calling. Be happy.

Now this is not to say we will never feel sad or face challenges. Failure is nearly inevitable, because in order to learn how to succeed, we need to be able to fail. From there we can learn to pick ourselves back up again, and again, and again, until we are rewarded with success. Once you know the feeling of success, failure will become less and less of an option. No matter how much you have to deal with come the Monday morning after Haweater, accept that all you can do is learn from your mistakes. You will never be too old or too young to learn. When I was 7-years-old I sat down for a nice family dinner at my house. It was at this time my dad thought it would be a good idea to make me try coleslaw for the first time. His persistency overrode my stubbornness and the stains on the kitchen table will forever be a reminder that Harrison does not like coleslaw. That was the lesson the 7-year-old learned that day. The 55-year-old learned not to feed a stubborn child food when he is willing to do anything to prove his point. My dad has yet to make me try and eat anything since. Lesson learned.

This fall I am going to college by the way, sorry mom if you lost any bets there. Now you don’t have to go to university or college to be successful in these next few years. All you need is to be moving in what you feel is the right direction for you, not in the direction someone else has set for you. As much as I respect the parents who have provided their kids with guidance and told them what they feel is right, now it is our time to do what we feel is best and make our own path. It is our first real piece of independence as we start this new chapter in our lives. Alright, enough of this speech. It’s time to give it to you from my heart – now where did I put it.

This life we live is a beautiful thing. Sometimes things are tough and unfair, there is no denying that. Everyone here at some point will be pushed to their limits. Some of us I’m sure already have been. Don’t let this fool you though, this is not all bad. Because you will push through, there will always be a silver lining. Even though you think you literally “can’t even,” you can. And in the end you will have learned from what has happened to you and will be a stronger person because of it.

Cherish the moments with friends and family. Be grateful that we are fortunate enough to have finished our high school years together. This milestone means many things. Not the least of which is that we are one year closer to the Leafs winning the cup. Regardless of your next step, make sure to take a break every now and then, and appreciate the little things. Whether that be a drink with the old man or watching your sister fall down the stairs. Yeah that happened. You do you MSS, and as Will Farrell would say “you don’t have to go to rainbow land.”

Outdo every day before you, embrace every single day no matter how much embracing the night before took out of you. Because one day when I sit down with you I plan on bragging about the amazing, adventurous, outrageous times I’ve had in this beautiful, crazy world. And I’m so enthused and proud to say a lot of that time was spent here, with all of you. I know you are all ready for that big world out there waiting for us. Only one question remains: Is that world ready for us?

Keep climbing to the next peak, graduating class of 2014. Add bacon.

Thank you.