Whitefield Academy Blog
Whitefield Academy Valedictorian Speech 2020
The following speech was given at Whitefield Academy’s 2020 Commencement Ceremony by Matthew Lettow, Whitefield Academy Valedictorian from the class of 2020.
Hello everyone, I am so honored to be standing here giving this speech. Valedictorian has been my goal for a long time, and I am excited that I finally achieved it. I want to thank my mom and dad for pushing me to be my best. I also want to thank the faculty for teaching and guiding me. And I want to thank my classmates for being such a great group of friends. I am going to miss all of you.
Looking back on my Whitefield experience I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot that I have learned. Learning cursive in kindergarten, I had the coolest handwriting in my Sunday school class. I was the only kid who could read and write cursive, so all the other kids thought I was writing in a different language or some sort of code. First grade, I never thought I would learn my math facts fast enough for the timed tests. Sixth grade, we heard stories from Mr. Godfrey in his funny hats. By seventh grade all of us graduating today had found our way to Whitefield.
Throughout our years at Whitefield, we have spent a lot of time together and made some great memories such as the paint war on our Show Me trip, Antigone, our first fall dance, dissecting frogs in biology labs, Bermuda, and our last retreat. We had fun founding our own nation at Sagrada, exploring Central Park in New York, performing in Shakespeare plays, and getting the best locker spot senior year.
On our New York trip, Mr. Appling let us go off on our own to Central Park or to get a meal somewhere if we were in a group and were not going too far away. So, we were not always with an adult, but parents, do not freak out; we all made it back alive as I am sure you already know. Anyway, because we were allowed to go to Central Park in groups without a chaperone, I had this grand idea for the guys to ride the subway without a chaperone, get off at a random stop and find something to eat because it was around dinnertime. I managed to get Stanley and Peter on board, and I brought the idea to Mr. Appling for approval. I told him that we would get on the subway and only go at most 3 stops before getting off, eating dinner, and coming back. He said that he was okay with it.
It turns out that three stops were a lot farther than they sounded. We ended up going from 57th street to 34th street, over 20 blocks away. Well, we get off at 34th street and started looking around. For whatever reason, we could not seem to find a restaurant. There was a food cart, but it did not really look appealing. We walked around for quite a while on the street and in shopping malls. We found a sign that showed all the stores in the area and tried to figure out where to go from there. We ended up eating in the basement of a Macy’s at some little food court. Mr. Appling texted us, letting us know that the class was supposed to go to Times Square later that night, so we should start heading back. We walked out of Macy’s and got on the subway. As it started to move, we realized it was going the wrong direction. We got off at the next stop, but the stop was only one-way, so there were no trains heading the way we needed to go. Mr. Appling was texting us that we were late and that the girls were getting impatient, so what did we do? We sprinted seven blocks back to the subway station that we had just left. This time we got on the correct train and rode back three stops to the hotel. We ended up only being 15 minutes late, and even then, we were not the last ones to show up.
That is just one of the fun stories from class trips. I will not talk about how the girls pranked us by sending way too many extra towels to our room, cliff jumping in Bermuda, or the dancing gorilla in Chicago. But of course, our class did not only grow together on class trips. We also had discussions in Humanities class, some heated, some not so much, but we all talked three times apiece so that we would get full marks for the discussion. We read great books by brilliant authors. A few of us were grossed out by frog dissection in Biology. We somehow split up our small class into even smaller Greek and Spanish classes. We listened to Sanctus over and over and over for Music History. We won sports games and lost a few.
Over the years, I have learned a lot from my classmates. I remember Rylie teaching the class karate in second grade during recess, my only formal martial arts training to this day. I learned that Cozette is not a Lutheran, that for Isabelle, “the projam is her jam”, and that Wini’s spirit animal is a dolphin and not a corgi according to some personality test that Ms. Nichols found.
On a more serious note, I am going to miss Whitefield and my classmates. The class discussions and great books opened my mind to new ideas and new ways of thinking. From Ms. Nichols and Mr. Peng, I learned that I really like biology and chemistry. Art history and music history gave me a deeper understanding in subjects that I did not think about often. I am going to miss seeing Lacie’s smile every day and hearing her and Isabelle laugh over Isabelle’s puns. I am going to miss sharing a birthday with Caitie. I am going to need to call Cozette every now and then for new book recommendations. I am going to miss the fun spark that Rylie and Wini bring to the classroom and just being able to say hi and talk every now and then. I am going to miss Stanley, the only other boy, and my best friend in school. I am going to miss playing sports with him and hearing his funny quotes and phrases. You guys are an amazing class, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for you in college and after.
It is sad that our senior year was cut short by coronavirus, but we should not be upset and sad and think that the world owes us for this. Sadness is fine, but only in moderation. Not much good comes from sitting around feeling sorry for yourself for extended periods of time. I want us to go live life, accomplish things, take risks, just not the stupid ones. When we go off to college, there are a few responsibilities that I think we should remember. First, we have a duty to God. We need to take time every day to be with Him and grow in our faith. As I learned from Coach Alonzo, you need to be right with God. Once you are right with God, the other stuff will start to fall into place. We also have an obligation to respect our parents. Even though we may not be under the same roof anymore, unless everyone gets sent home due to virus scares, they raised us for 18 years; we should at least call and text every now and then, and that’s barely scratching the surface. You also must respect yourself. That means managing your time, taking care of your body and your mind, and making good friends. Then there is your community. This includes not only your dorm floor but also the city you are in and the nation. We have a duty to contribute to our community. This could look like volunteering at a local charity, leading a beneficial student organization, voting in elections, or just staying informed about current events. We should benefit our community.
Whitefield has prepared us for the future, and I am going to miss it. But mostly I will miss my classmates. However, I am sure that we will see each other again and I cannot wait to see what everyone does. Thank you and farewell.
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