Liddy Malone '17 gave the Salutatory Address at Baccalaureate
A couple days after I found out I had to write a speech, Bishop Kee Sloan gave the sermon at my sister’s confirmation. Bishop Sloan also happened to have spoken at last year’s Baccalaureate. He’s a fantastic public speaker, as he’s overflowing with didactic childhood anecdotes, is as sharp as a tack, and is a master of confidently waiting out dramatic pauses..............................................................................
As I sat listening to him underneath my church’s grand wooden ceiling, I became more and more entranced by his skill with words. I worried about my own incompetence in comparison; I couldn’t even come up with a topic.
My concern didn’t wane as the service went on, but my mind wandered. I thought of how about a year before, Bishop Sloan spoke just as splendidly to the Class of 2016. I was sitting up on stage. These prime seats are one of the biggest perks of being in Randolph’s choral ensemble.
They really are.
They’re close to the front, but they let you lurk in the shadows. [Liddy is in the back row, on the left.]
You’re near the spotlight, but you’re just out of it; no one is looking at you, even though you’re facing them directly. This makes the on-stage seats perfect for people-watching, and that’s what I’ve done the last couple of years. As past seniors have looked up here, listening to speakers, I’ve seen them completely enthralled by jokes and recollections of the past. I’ve seen them react with unchecked enthusiasm, their facial expressions changing from goofy grins to sentimental smiles, all as they were unaware that I was watching them.
I liked this so much, because I felt like I was seeing them as they were: genuine, smart young adults, comfortable in their own skins. And that’s what I decided I wanted to talk to you about tonight. I want to applaud you all for your sincerity, for your pride in your passions, and for your individual realizations that it isn’t cool to be “too cool for school."
Randolph encouraged us to be open in this way, and I think it’s worth recognizing how incredible an accomplishment it has been.
It was quite an adjustment for me to move from Huntsville Middle to Randolph in the 7th grade. I remember telling my mom, after my first few days, what a relief it was to be around people who actually liked to learn. You know, like a nerd.
One of my first classes was Geography with the lovely Mrs. Andrews. I haven’t been in that classroom in a while, but the color I always associate with it is blue. The walls were blue. The water on the huge maps of the world was blue. I think my binder was pale blue, too. It was all very soothing, and apparently, as I read earlier, highly conducive to our creative learning. We didn’t always process this effect consciously, though; when we lined up against the blue walls to play the Bump Game, I’m pretty sure all a lot of you thought about was hot, red blood.
Especially as I look back on it, I can appreciate how the class was important for filling the gaps of my then even more pathetic understanding of the world. I had never taken a social studies course that wasn’t explicitly history before, so the concept of the class somewhat confused me. But it was a much-needed step back to let us all see the “big picture." It has been so valuable to have a cushion of understanding about general trends in globalization, economics, and population, even if we complained back in the day. It buttressed our further learning about the specific and our ability to make sense of the news.
Back then, even, I appreciated the fantastic education that I had the privilege to receive—truly. Only I was a brace-faced, gawky, rightly-self-conscious little fool who knew neither how to apply eyeliner or express the gratitude I really felt.
It was in this geography class that I decided I wanted Elizabeth Lanier to be my friend. Spoiler alert: we have a pretty iconic relationship now. I can talk to her about my out-of-control emotions, and she can explain to me the importance of the Congress of Vienna. Sometimes she can just go, like, “What’s that one song,” and I’ll say, “Moves Like Jagger,” and be right, and it’s a whole ordeal. Pretty noteworthy, overall. Possibly a rival to Bentley and Abby’s “Best Best Friends” status, in my opinion. Anyway, during geography, Elizabeth and I sat together at a table, along with Austin Lu and Andrew Johnson. It was a pleasant experience.
The four of us were doing a group project one day when I guess I decided, “Hey! You know what would make you look cool to this Elizabeth girl? Acting like a little punk.” So I did.
I don’t remember what we were working on — it was most likely a productive use of my time — but I said, so that the people in my group could hear me, “This is stupid.” I spit it out, trying to make my high-pitched voice sound superior in its cool apathy. This was clearly how cool kids acted — at least, that’s how they did at my last school. They didn’t like learning through fun activities. Therefore, I put on an antic disposition. I don’t know if my efforts were successful, because immediately after I uttered, “This is stupid,” Mrs. Andrews called me over to her desk to ask me if I had a problem with the assignment. “No ma’am,” I said.
I really didn’t have a problem, I thought, crawling back to my seat. I liked school, and geography, and doing my work. There hadn’t been any need for me to pretend otherwise. I liked Mrs. Andrews — but I had just disrespected her. My attempted deception had hurt other people. I’ve been embarrassed ever since, but I could never bring myself to bring it back up and apologize. I’m sorry, Mrs. Andrews. I was a little punk.
Since that moment at Randolph, I’ve become more and more comfortable with myself and what I care about. My best personal experiences have involved pursuing what I enjoy and what interests me with sincerity.
Socially, for one, I’ve found that there is no need for me to pretend to be cool with my friends. None of us bother with these pretenses anymore. It’s cool to not be cool here, from both the perspective of teachers and students. I’ve also enjoyed volunteering with Charlotte at Sawyerville Day Camp; we both love it so much that we’re going in June to spend more time with the kids, even though we’re already accepted to college. I’ve liked reciting my favorite poem to my English class, just to be obnoxious, and I’ve liked comparing the endosymbiotic theory to the historical analysis of scandals between 16th century French peasants. It’s been great.
What I love about you guys is that you’re all passionate about something. You might not all be writing your own logistic equation programs, or whatever, into your fancy calculators like Nick, but you all have a love for something. It tickles me. Sometimes, like when I was watching the Art Expo, I just get so proud that I get a little spasmy. I love it. Neelesh killed it once again tonight, by the way. You guys are interested in film, like Katie; in sports journalism, like Mary Leigh; in science, mythology, and mysterious shoe businesses; and none of you are shy about it. You’re ready to share your passions without shame. I’m definitely ready to praise you for it.
Maybe you had some middle-school-era missteps, like I did, but Randolph has led you here. Thank you for being yourselves. I don’t mean to be as trite as Polonius in this address. I know we’ve all read Hamlet, or watched Mean Girls, or, at the very least, seen the classic animated Disney Pixar movie Ratatouille. As you go forth into the world, don’t be little punks; rather, “to thine own [selves] be true.”
[We caught up with Mrs. Andrews after Baccalaureate to get her reaction, which you can read here.]