Valedictorian Speech: So What?

Posted by Nisha Mailapur - 19 July, 2019

By Nisha Mailapur, Class of 2019 Valedictorian

(The following is the valedictorian speech Nisha gave at Commencement Exercises on May 25.)

KWM_1082wGood morning.
As I wrote this speech, I asked myself a simple question, “So what?” Four years ago, Mrs. Abrams, my former 9th and 10th grade English teacher, once advised me to always ask myself before writing an essay, “So what, Nisha?” I learned that it is not enough to understand the what, but rather we must understand the how and the why of any endeavor.

In its most orthodox definition, a “valedictory” address is supposed to serve as a farewell. However, I do not see today as the end to the Class of 2019 in high school, but rather as the beginning of the
Class of 2023 in college. So I wish to question this definition of “valedictory” and adapt it to another one: a farewell of what was and a welcoming of what is to become.

Like Mrs. Abrams four years ago, I now ask the Class of 2019 before we leave for college, “So what?” So what with all that you have achieved? So what with the next step in your adventure? What are you going to do with who you are, who you have become, and who you will be in the next four years? Our kaleidoscopic individuality is what makes the Class of 2019 so special: we each have unique experiences to share and to learn from. Take this question as a challenge: think forward, Class of 2019.

As an ode to our future and the beginning of what is to become, I want to share with you a gift Ms.McMichens gave to senior members of the Science Olympiad club. She, so very lovingly, gave us a toolbox. Yes, an actual toolbox with hammers and wrenches and screws. I soon realized that aside from desperately needing a toolbox to help me set up my college dorm paraphernalia, the toolbox is a metaphor, a metaphor for the future. Randolph has provided each and every one of us with tools, skills, memories of great success and of great failure, and now, as we pack up for college, it is time for the Class of 2019 to hold all that we have been given in a tiny toolbox and store it for our next adventure.

I think about this toolbox in the same way I think about a recipe. If you do not know me, I must tell you now that I am an avid connoisseur of food, and I love to cook (always failing to follow a recipe’s instructions, and instead, relying on my own culinary imagination). Similar to this toolbox, I would like to give the Class of 2019, my peers and friends, a recipe. In cooking, there is this practice of laying out all the ingredients, spices, and garnishes before preparation of a recipe called mise en place. Likewise, I would like to lay out some of the ingredients, memories and lessons from our time here at Randolph School
that will remind us of how the past shaped who we are today, and how we will use what Randolph has taught us to never stop asking ourselves, “So what?” To the Class of 2019, here is our recipe:

1. Mrs. Jones’ wonderful saying, “A mistake is just another opportunity for a rapid design change.” Failure is okay.

2. Nap times in kindergarten: a must in college, but just not during your biology class. Sometimes, we just need to take a breath and pause.

3. Elementary school’s wonderful monkey bars that witnessed tragic falls during recess: these memories of childhood fun remind us that, every now and then, we should go outdoors and soak up the sun rather than stay inside bingeing on Netflix.

4. Middle school brown sugar pop tarts, orange push up popsicles, and Friday’s Domino’s pizza: I caution you that the “freshman fifteen” is a fact.

5. “Structure dictates function”: whether you believe in fate or not, our current actions matter in the big scheme of life.

6. Ms. Rossuck’s sarcastic laughter, AP Language class, and the three-month-cumulative I-Search paper: remember that anything is possible, even writing three essays in two hours.

7. Mrs. Hillinck’s AP Biology wild thing ride, a contraption that literally spits out M&M’s. Yes, it is okay to treat yourself once in a while.

8. And lastly, your kindergarten buddies: you were once a kindergartner, so always remember to “sit down, be humble” as Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper, Kendrick Lamar, preaches.

Now, Class of 2019, “So what?” I have provided you with the ingredients for our Randolph recipe, but the preparation is up to you. I encourage and challenge you all to take these ingredients of joy, failure, happiness, and curiosity with you on your next journey. Anytime you struggle or cry in college or, as a matter of fact, in life, which we all know is bound to happen, open up this Randolph recipe and make something positive or meaningful out of it. Put it to use.

Randolph School was not just our education, but our very own mise en place. Randolph School, I want to thank you, with all my heart, for the potential you saw in the Class of 2019 and in me. Thank you to my parents, grandparents, and sister, friends, mentors, and everyone who has shown me to always see beyond, to never take things at face value, and to push on. I have to say that the past 13 years have been a roller coaster ride with you all by my side, and I never would have wanted to share such a great education and experience with another class. I hope you all carry this recipe with you to college and allow it to change and evolve over time as you make new memories with your future communities.

Before I close, I would like to leave you all with one last thought, one last memory, one
last ingredient: the literary masterpiece Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Many people recognize
this novel in allusion to the famous quote, “The horror, the horror.” However, I want to encourage you to see beyond this common interpretation. In another part of the novel, Conrad’s main character, named Marlow, reflects, “No, I don’t like work—no man does—but I like what is in the work—the chance to find yourself. Your own reality—for yourself, not for others—what no man [or woman] can ever know.” I believe that as high school graduates and as people venturing out into the real world, we are all Marlows. And the message here is that as long as we stay true to ourselves and work hard, as we have been for the past 13 years, I am certain that we can and we will figure it all out in our journeys that lie ahead.

Once a raider, always a raider.

To the past, one Randolph, and to the future, anchor down!

Thank you to all.

Schedule a Tour Now

Topics: college, graduation, Faculty, Commencement, independent research, high school, valedictorian, senior year, hard work, journey

Recent Posts

The Christine Ray Richard Award

read more

Senior Speech: Seek Out Diversity

read more

Senior Speech: The Value of a Single Friend

read more