Be Fearless: 2018 Salutatory Address

Posted by Tanuj Alapati '18 - 04 June, 2018

Baccalaureate - 6906328Tanuj Alapati '18 delivered the Salutatory Address at Baccalaureate, observing that for all the successes obtained were countless mistakes and failures that define us. As Board Chair Brian Pollock would observe similarly in his remarks, we should "run toward challenges and trouble; it's where we find our edge." 

I’d like to begin by extending my gratitude to everyone in this room. From the faculty and teachers who have taught us all the values and lessons Randolph has to offer, to our friends and family who have helped craft us into the fine men and women we are today. 

A special thank you goes out to my grandmother who is visiting from India to attend my graduation, my mom and dad whose endless expectations continue to serve as my motivation, and my brother, Teja, who actually surprised me by flying in 30 minutes ago, who has been my greatest cheerleader, counselor, and friend for these past few years. I cannot thank you all enough.

(If you'd rather listen to these remarks, scroll down to the video at the end of this post.)

There have been a fair share of advisors and helpers at Randolph as well. Although he never taught me formally, Mr. Townsend in particular has contributed to ensure our senior year truly lived up to the hype. I’ll never forget the effort he put into our senior activities, or the endless barrage of Star Wars memes in the class GroupMe. And after a wildly successful senior year, I can finally say, “It’s over, Mr. Townsend. I have the high ground.”

But Star Wars references aside, it is a pleasure to speak on behalf of the greatest senior class this school has ever experienced. Just think back to the wake we’ll be leaving behind when we  depart. For the senior-riddled football and baseball teams, reaching the playoffs has now become a regularity. Our Science Bowl team qualified for Nationals for the first time in 10 years. The girls' cross country team went back-to-back. And the soccer team won a state championship. And another one. And another one.
VB Soccer 2018 State Champs - 6657131But while the first three years were a blast, senior year has undoubtedly been the cherry on top. It honestly felt like Matthew Estopinal somehow spent the entire year running, and likewise, Somil spent the entire year running late. After years of Halo vs. Call of Duty debates, Halo by the way, we’ve all discovered a collective obsession with Fortnite. And somehow, oddly enough, “Eat My Shorts” has evolved into somewhat of a class motto. Quick disclaimer to the worried parents and faculty, no shorts were consumed during senior year. 

Ironically, the events that are the most memorable in my mind aren’t the plethora of successes, but instead, the infamous, not-so-hot mistakes and failures. Everyone must vividly remember when the don of the Middle School Black Market, Mahip Kalra, illegally distributed the most addictive item known to mankind, Pokemon FireRed. The game spread quicker than senioritis as everyone set out to “Catch ‘em All.” Even though Mr. Moore made the fiasco short-lived, there’s no doubt we all walked away with the knowledge of how to properly tilt your laptop screens to hide your “work.”

2013-09-03 11.53.08

Members of Diskobre also engaged in community service.

There was also the time when Mrs. Robb happily awarded the entire house of Diskobre demerits for engaging in a “fight” during CPR Class. Despite Sam’s initial encouragement to throw a shoe at Jackson, each of us still became certified and my eyes were opened to two crucial realizations. One, shoes are meant to be worn, not thrown. And two, I should not be playing any sport that involves throwing of any kind. Also, sorry about that, Jacko, at least I didn’t hit you.

Believe it or not, it is these mishaps that have built us into the people we are today. Since Mr. Gee taught us that meaning can be found even in the most obscure places, I’d like to explicate the essence of the 150-year-old Chinese finger trap.

Commencement - 6907116

Mishaps have built us into the people we are today.

I’m sure anyone who has attempted this seemingly elementary puzzle had a reaction quite similar to mine. The goal is to remove your fingers from the binds of a tube. Everyone begins with the same smug face, often flooded with confidence. But then, you try to remove your helpless fingers, and you pull, and you pull harder until that confidence suddenly transforms into dismay. The secret is rather simple: pushing your fingers in loosens the trap, thus allowing each finger to effortlessly slide out.

At first glance, it seems rather paradoxical. Your final goal is to remove your fingers, but the crucial step involves pushing them in further. It’s this step that parallels to one of the greater ideas in life; even if a particular event seems unproductive, seems to hinder your progress to your final goal, it could be vital in the larger frame of mind.

Take your mind all the way back to freshman year when we were all thrust into the hierarchical chaos and unfair jurisdiction known as high school. We had just gotten stuck in the finger trap, and getting free would mean surviving, prospering, and thriving through high school. However, attempting to do so from the beginning was a fruitless effort. The matrix of high school simply tightened its grasp on us. What needed to happen is we needed to fail; we needed to receive grades that seemed to place our ideal GPA out of reach. Mrs. Santos’s horrific tests, Mrs. Rossuck’s essays, and that one time Mr. Treadwell failed us all on our Alexander the Great essay (Yep, I still remember); they all seem so inconsequential now. But, the struggle of dealing with these hardships forced us to adapt, learn, and eventually prosper. It was these failures that allowed the trap to loosen and set us free to be ourselves.

Struggle forced us to adapt, learn, and eventually prosper. These failures set us free to be ourselves. 

Trust me, it’s completely okay to fail. Behind each and every one of my awards is a test that I bombed, a contest I did not qualify for, or a college I was rejected from. All of us have had our painful moments. But, even after all of the struggles, we still made it here, on the brink of graduation.

Failure is one of the few things guaranteed in life, other things being that Will Griffin will forever get buckets and Johnny White will not cut his hair. What’s crucial is that we face these unexpected mishaps headfirst, ready to conquer them. And if there’s one thing our grade has experience with, it’s dealing with the unexpected.

Performances - 6845725We all saw modern fashion icon Emma Hovanes surprise us all with her spontaneous, yet impromptu rendition of Sean Kingston’s Beautiful Girls. Nathaniel somehow managed to completely fracture the strongest bone in the human body while playing a non-contact sport. And perhaps the most surprising of all, Crockett Worthington actually showed up today.

Each and every one of us is bound to achieve great things, I can just feel it. We’ve had our potential on full display throughout high school, and considering our previous successes and struggles, our future ones will be that much greater. Whatever our successes may be, they’re bound to be the culmination of dozens of hardships. Sara Laine may appear on Dancing with the Stars, Bankston could top the New York Times Bestsellers List, and Emily Johnson might even topple the traditional societal constructs of today’s age.

Our passions range far and wide; that’s what makes our class so unique. So when you chase your passion, don’t be afraid of failing. Be fearless. Learn from your mistakes, and remember, you need to push your fingers in before you can release them. So, the next time you encounter an obstacle, mistake, or failure, be thankful. And don’t just cherish the moment. CRADLE IT. 

Tanuj will attend Johns Hopkins University in the fall on a pre-medicine track. He is hoping to complete a double major, hopefully including applied mathematics. With an unusually unoccupied summer ahead, he’ll be looking forward to playing ultimate Frisbee, rekindling his love of reading, and catching up on four years of lost sleep.

Topics: advice to graduates, graduation, salutatorian

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