Hi, my name is Samson Kidane and I am delighted to be standing here as this year’s commencement speaker. On behalf of the class of 2022, I wanted to start this speech with some gratitude.
Thank you to our amazing administration. The logistics you all contend with on a daily basis to keep our school running is immense, and seeing you successfully navigate that work is inspiring. Thank you to Gloria Zamora, our DSST Board member who is in attendance today. Thank you to our faculty for being here, for choosing to teach, for putting your time towards the betterment of annoying, hormonally-challenged young people. Thank you to our dust force and cafeteria staff for providing us with the space and peace of mind to fully devote ourselves to our education. Thank you to the friends and family who supported our graduates in earning their diplomas. Our graduates weren’t born like this, they were raised by each of you to become the amazing people you see here today. Lastly, thank you to the illustrious class of 2022 for giving me the chance to commemorate the four years we spent here.
To be completely honest, I never saw myself being the one picked to give this speech. Not out of any sense of humility of course, I mean, I am pretty great. Still though, thinking about the class of 2022, with all of its diversity of thought and temperament combined with a shared level of excellence and tenacity, I did not think there was any one person that could represent our class in earnest. Then, there is the concept of a commencement speech. In theory, a commencement speech is meant to put a period on the last sentence of our high school careers, so that we can move on to the next stage in our lives, whether that be college, trade school or any other endeavor. A heavy burden in and of itself, it is made even more difficult by the fact that I’m not ready to be done with high school.
Growing up, when I pictured what it would be like to graduate high school, I imagined that I would be ready to leave for greener pastures. However, standing here today, I don't think graduation will be enough to give me the closure I need to move into the next stage of my life unencumbered by the weight of my adolescence. Once I receive my diploma I doubt that I will emerge as a different person than the one giving you this speech. I doubt that I will suddenly become the suave, self possessed college student of my imaginings. But then I think, maybe that’s ok.
There’s a quote that I like, from the artist Edward Hopper. It goes like this, “If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” Where words fail art can bridge the gap. In that vein, there is an artistic concept called “Non Finito”. Non Finitio refers to something that is beautiful because it is unfinished. For example, a painter might make the choice to leave a painting partially colored in, with negative space or undone because that absence only adds to the beauty of the piece. Non-finito serves to make a piece of art infinitely more charming, because it cuts the distance between the artist and the viewer. Oftentimes, even the most classic Renaissance painting may seem foreign and sterile. It can be a challenge to connect to a piece made by a person who lived in a world so different from our own. Art Non-Finito however, is unfinished and unpolished drawings and paintings where artists reveal their true selves. Before our eyes we can see how they worked, how their masterpieces came together, and suddenly we’re behind the scenes. We start to know the artist. It makes you think that maybe life isn’t about finished products or endings, but about continuations and connection.
Maybe our high school experience doesn’t end here. Not literally, of course. I am more than ready to go into the summer. But in the same way that non-finito can make a piece of art more impactful, our unfinished state as students is what makes high school such a powerful place. The connections we made here are as powerful as they are because we are all still deciding the people we hope to become. It’s also why moving on can be so challenging
Community is a virtue that Byers has subscribed to since our school’s founding. Yet as we all leave this space our community may start to look different. While we were in school, community might have looked like a tight knit group of people bound by the shared challenges of being a student at Byers. Coming out of highschool however, we will no longer have those ties. Circumstances are constantly shifting, and when plans fall through, people start to get busy, and the thought of highschool begins to feel nostalgic, community is going to start to be more apparent through the subtle ways the bonds you’ve made here have shaped you.
I don’t know if I could put into words just how much all of y’all mean to me, but I hope it shines through in the person that y’all have helped me become. I know that the community we’ve made means something to me because I learned what I wanted to do with my life on a call with Dennis and Vincent. I know that Byers had an effect on me because I didn’t know just how important advocacy was to me until I had to define my own personal philosophy, at debate. I learned just how important it is to laugh when I couldn't stop laughing at a joke Rania told me. I didn’t know exactly what blackness meant to me until I played Mrs. Ndiaye in spades.
If I’ve learned anything during my time at Byers, it can be summed up in the old adage “No matter where you go there you are.” Despite everything that may change in the foreground, you will always be a constant in your life. This year, for me it meant taking the time to look beyond the college admissions process, and instead ask myself, independent of the results, if I was happy with the person I was at the end of this journey. Standing here now I can say that I am happy, but I’m also unfinished. That blank space however, makes every mark made on me by this community all the more meaningful. This may be the end of our journey, but each of you will continue to develop, learn new things about yourselves, and become wiser and more nuanced people than I can even imagine. Whether or not you’ve managed to fully close the book on your time here, the weight of who you are now is going to stay with you and only make you stronger in the future. Still, whenever you’re up at 10:30 halfway through a paper due at midnight, or you start snapping up an answer you hear someone give in one of your lectures, I hope you remember the time we spent here, and think…
You see what I did there with the whole unfinished speech thing. Let’s commence with the ceremony.
Truthfully I can’t tell you how remember your time here, but I do hope you remember it.
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