These are Reiko Rivera’s notes from her speech to the graduating class of Sparta High School, 2014:
First off, I would like to say welcome to everyone and congratulations to the seniors. We’ve reached the end of an amazing journey and now it’s time for us to head our separate ways. I remember talking to Ms. Borger and I told her I didn’t want this to be some cliché graduation charge. You know, the “Let’s go out and change the world and be the best we can be!” kind of thing. While there’s good intention behind that statement, I feel as if it’s diluted the inspiration in all of us because, if we’re honest, how many of us really do believe we can change the ENTIRE world? How many of us have sat in this gym or any other place and listened to the same inspirational phrases spoken and thought something along the lines of “Oh, well that was nice or cool.” But you never felt truly moved by the words? We’ve been told the same thing for so long we no longer believe it. They’re just words now. They no longer hold meaning.
This realization got me thinking. Words will come and go and their power fades, but what truly sticks in our minds are those feelings caused by some outstanding action. As the late Maya Angelou once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” You see, years from now we will not remember what Mrs. Wirth wore on the first day of school, but I will remember how she instilled in me a great love for learning and always made things fun. Months from now as we make our way through college or as we work we will not be thinking about how difficult math was with Ms. Juelfs, but we will remember how she always had faith in us even when we had none in ourselves. And down the road some of us won’t know how many times the band had to practice in that ridiculous heat, but we will know without a doubt that Mr. Jasper was and will always be an amazing teacher who taught us that anything is possible and touched the lives of those around him.
And do you want to know what the crazy thing about all of that is? These teachers weren’t trying to change the entire world. By simply being here every day and doing their jobs, by being themselves, these teachers and so many others at SHS had a profound impact on me and I know they’ve had an impact on each of you as well. Our teachers have imparted something to each of us and we have in turn imparted that into the lives of our families and friends, to the lives of all of you in attendance today.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the faculty here at SHS are a big part of the reason we are who we are today and I think we can learn one more thing from them before we leave these halls for good. That thing is this: By simply being who you are and striving to do what makes you happy, you can do something so incredibly amazing. You can touch A life. You can impact someone’s world. It’s the little, seemingly insignificant actions that leave an impression on people, that leave them feeling happy or saddened by your presence. You see, high school is ending. Life is beginning and every new start brings new opportunity or in this case, unwritten pages. In the end, yeah, we may not be able to change THE world, but we have the potential to change A world and I think that’s enough. So, congratulations Sparta High School class of 2014. We did it. I wish you the best of luck on whichever path you take and may you leave a wonderful mark on someone’s world.