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Rejected and approved speeches of Springstead valedictorian Jem Lugo

Here is Springstead High School valedictorian Jem Lugo's original speech, which was rejected:

Springstead High School's class of 2009. Look around you. This is it.

No more essays, no more FCAT, no more required reading. We survived 13 grueling years of school, all for this moment, where we get to wear gowns that kind of remind me of a silk version of a Snuggie, and these hats that make every single one of us look absolutely ridiculous. Hate to break it to you, but no one looks good in these hats. Even you, Ben Noury.

So, I was stuck with this arduous task of extra writing to create this speech, and I decided to make this different. I'm not gonna get up here and start spouting these crazy incomprehensible seven syllable words I probably can't even pronounce. Why would I want to do that? Last time I checked, we're done with school. We don't want to THINK anymore. I would never, ever put you all through that pain. Another thing, nobody in speeches ever tells you what you actually need to know in life. They stand up here and gush about these lofty, inspirational concepts that are supposed to make you feel all warm and gooey inside. You know, I could stand up here and tell you all that I have a dream for this class, that among us are future doctors, lawyers, maybe even the next president, and you guys need to go out there and seize the day! Carpe diem! But really, what good would that do you? How much help will my words be when you wake up tomorrow, and realize that it truly is over? The babied path that's been set out for you since you were born has ended. You've left the womb, the cord's been cut, congratulations, welcome to your life. Your choices actually matter now, and your future is finally in your own hands. Sure, telling you to seize the day sounds impressive, but how are you going to know how to seize it?

Instead, I'm going to remind you of some basic concepts you can actually apply to your life. Crazy, right?

First off, get money. You can't do anything without money. Do something with your life where you're able to have a steady, reliable, source of income. Gamers, I'm sorry, but farming for gold in World of Warcraft is not considered a RELIABLE, or socially-acceptable source of income.

Second, after you have your money, be sure to pay your taxes. I hear the IRS can get pretty nasty with tax avoiders.

Also, don't get arrested. Sure, the jail lifestyle might seem like a luxury nowadays, but in 20 years, when you're going for that top-notch CEO position, that misdemeanor you got for stealing a street sign with your friends might just come back and bite you in the butt.

Moreover, take some time in your life to stand up for something. Whether it's a stance for pro-choice, religious debate, vegetarianism, or even something as simple as cleaner bathrooms, just make sure your voice is heard. It feels good to stick it to The Man every once in awhile.

And though you will be earning your steady income with your job, make sure not to waste your entire life working. You're making this money for a reason. Use it to have some fun. Go out and party. Use all of your vacation days. Use it to travel. Explore the world. Free yourself from the monotony of the workforce. I promise you, having fun will keep you sane.

Be sure to have that one person or thing that makes you smile whenever you see it. I'm not going to put on an act and tell you you're future's going to be peachy. No, life is gonna suck sometimes. Believe me, you're gonna need that one thing in your life that can always brighten your day, whether it's a significant other, a dog, a lava lamp, or the blankie you've had since you were a baby. Hey, whatever it takes to smile.

A few other basics to remember. Always say please and thank you; it's always appreciated. Wash your hands when you leave the bathroom; you'd be surprised how many people don't. Listen to your gut instinct and your conscience. When there's a choice between the little angel on one side, and the little devil on the other, please listen to the angel. Respect your elders, because one day, you'll be old too. Plus, they might leave you something in their will. Don't treat Spelling and Grammar check as a God. It definitely misses things. If you ever achieve any sort of fame or acclaim in your life, don't mess it up. Think Michael Phelps and Britney Spears. And if your mother would not approve of your actions, then you probably shouldn't be doing it. Don't believe everything you hear or read, and definitely don't click on every link someone sends you. Some of us have learned that the hard way. Countless times, I've been duped into clicking links that sent me to the music video of "Never Gonna Give You Up." I'm not sure if I'll ever properly get that song out of my head.

But, the most important thing that I can tell you tonight is to remember where you came from. You were an eagle once. We've been through four long years here. Some of us have loved it, some of us have hated it, but we all had to endure it, and for all of us, it's finally over. What's Springstead going to be like without us? The academic world is going to be missing some of its top performers, and the sports are going to be hurting without some of their best players. Mr. Pennington is not going to know what to do without his core group of seniors that are graduating. No one's going to be rampaging through the hallways, brandishing signs with their name. Frankly, Springstead's going to be a lonely place without us. We've survived a lot. Making it out of Spring Hill alive is a feat in itself. Some of us even resorted to hanging out at a busy intersection to pass the time. We've gone from going to see A Christmas Carol every year with our elementary school, admiring over the actors, to actually being an actor in the production of A Christmas Carol, being the ones asked for their autograph by the younger kids. We've gone from getting our star pulled for bad behavior, to being relocated to STAR for bad behavior. From girls wearing bell bottom jeans to guys wearing girl's jeans. From listening to N'Sync and the Backstreet Boys, to listening to Lil' Wayne and Flo'Rida. From wasting all of our time creating a Neopet, to wasting all of our time talking to people on Myspace and Facebook. From collecting and playing Pokemon, to, well, collecting and playing Pokemon. Some things never die. Unfortunately for us, it looks as if High School Musical and Hannah Montana will never die either. You either love it, or you hate, but either way, we survived it.

Four years ago, we showed up for high school, short and innocent, totally baffled by why there were classrooms with the same numbers, and amazed that the water fountains were gold. Then in our junior year, after we had become more knowledgeable and grown taller (well, some of us), those numbers we came to learn so well were completely rearranged, forcing us to be just as lost as the incoming freshmen. The construction period was intense. We were squeezed through tiny aisles created by temporary walls, never making it to class on time. The outdoor lunch tables that some had religiously sat at were removed, and we were relocated to a grander, spacious cafeteria with plasma TV screens that never played anything but ESPN. Those of us lucky enough to get a lunch leave pass during our junior year had no idea that we'd be the last class to have that privilege. Sure enough, everyday you could find at least fifteen people meeting up at PJ's for lunch. Oh, and you can't forget the new parking lot rules, that you were trapped in the parking lot until all of the buses left, for fear of being hit by a parked school bus. We all know the countless deaths caused by those kinds of accidents, God rest their souls.

When it all comes down to it, we're made for bigger things than this. We're going to get out of here, and we're going to live our lives, no doubt about that. Just remember to keep in touch. You'll regret it if you don't. As I said, there are hard times ahead. There are times where you'll just sit there and think to yourself, "Man, I lost the game." Times like that when you're going to need a friend. Don't throw away the friendships you've made here. One of these people might be able to get you a job someday, or might be able to lend you a helping hand. Life is all about connections.

Now I've been talking long enough. We're all dying to just get this over with. So I'm going to resort to a cliché ending, and quote one of the most influential men of all time, Freddie Mercury. "Just gotta get out, just gotta get right out of here." Congratulations class of 2009, we did it!

Here is the valedictory speech that school officials approved for Jem Lugo:

Springstead High School's class of 2009. Look around you. This is it.

Ever since I learned what the letters GPA stood for, I have striven to be a part of this ceremony, presenting this valedictory address. Yet, I stand before you tonight, speechless. Here I am; having accomplished everything I had ever hoped to achieve in high school, and I cannot think of a single thing to say that may remain with you throughout your life. What is there left to say that has not already been said?

The most important thing that I could think to tell you tonight is to remember where you came from. You were once an eagle. Stay true to who you are, and who you have become throughout the past four years. Do not conform your values or your personality for the sake of anyone else's. We have all matured tremendously into unique, educated individuals, each with a strong sense of self and a firm grasp of reality. Do not relinquish your individuality to correspond with the common standard. When you do, you will begin to lose your grasp on who you are, and everything that has contributed towards the creation of your exclusive singular being will start to erode. Four years ago, we showed up for high school, short, naïve, and innocent, completely baffled by why there were classrooms with the same numbers, and amazed that the water fountains were gold. Then in our junior year, after we had become more knowledgeable and grown taller (well, some of us), those numbers we had become familiar with were completely rearranged, forcing us to be just as lost as the incoming freshmen. As seniors, we roamed the hallways with pride, as the crowning glory of our school. And here we are today; surrounded by those same kids with whom we first began our daunting ordeal with. What is Springstead going to be like without us? The academic world is going to be missing some of its top performers; the sports will suffer without some of their best players. Theatre productions will seem stale without our dramatics, and the hallways will seem bare devoid of our presence. Frankly, Springstead is going to be a lonely place without us.

But the time is ours. Right now, this is the most important moment of your life, the pinnacle of everything you have worked for over the past 13 years. You will walk out of this stadium tonight as a changed individual. You have scaled the mountain, overcome the obstacles, won the game. However, in 30 years, when you look back at this moment, it will be nothing more than a distant memory, shrouded in foggy details and forgotten quotes. By then, you will have already encountered countless other challenges, some easier than others. There will be trials that, just like today, you will undertake and accomplish. There will also be those times where you will not succeed, but I urge you not to become discouraged. Instead, grow. You will learn that the obstacles you face will never cease to test you, and avoiding them is inconceivable. However, there is always so much more out there that we have yet to experience, and it is up to us to go out there and tackle life.

Now, graduates, take a moment and look at the student sitting to your right. Where will they be in 30 years? You are now surrounded by more potential than you have been in your entire life. We are the doctors, lawyers, and scientists of tomorrow. Perhaps one of us will climb the political ladder, reaching towards a future presidency. The possibilities are endless. In the final analysis, life goes on. We are going to leave these hallowed halls, and we are going to live our lives, no doubt about that. The introduction to our story has now been completed, but the chapters have yet to be written. This is not something we have done before, such as another essay, or a response to an FCAT passage. This is our future and it is finally in our own hands. It is now up to us to seize the pen and start writing. The truth is, everyone wants to be remembered. We all want to leave our mark, our legacy upon the world. Whether we realize this desire or not, it festers within us all. Tomorrow will begin the first chapter of our lives, our first chance to lay down our own lasting impressions, to prove that we really did exist. The way it will be written is up to you. How will you be remembered?

Congratulations class of 2009, we did it!

Rejected and approved speeches of Springstead valedictorian Jem Lugo 06/04/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 5, 2009 10:29am]
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