Julia Henry’s Salutatorian Speech


SalutatorianMembers of the Board of Education, administration, teachers, staff, parents, relatives, and friends: good evening and thank you for coming tonight to celebrate this graduating class. More importantly, thank you for your tireless support over the past four years. Class of 2016: congratulations on a job well done!
When first tasked with giving a speech at graduation a few months ago, my millennial self immediately began a note on my phone to record ideas or thoughts whenever they struck. Initially, I had confidence I would deliver a life-changing message for you all to hear today. However, as I began writing, I realized my 17 years of life on this earth has not given me nearly enough experience to impart words of wisdom that will change you all forever. So instead, as advised by friends and family, I’m going to stick to what I know.
Numbers have always been my comfort zone. Whether it was my six-year-old self who memorized the four times tables based on the number of laps in a swim race (4 laps to a 100, 8 to 200, 20 to 500 and so on), or my seventh-grade self who tried so hard to decipher the pattern of room numbers in our school, only to discover that there was none, or my high-school self who has relished hours of math research, calculus and physics, I’ve always seen and studied numbers in my everyday life. Seniors, I know what you’re thinking, you were hoping this wouldn’t be a nerdy speech. My apologies. However, if you are doubtful that numbers have been a big part of your high school career, then obviously you are forgetting about the importance of the number of your most Likes on Insta or the length of your longest snap streak. While these numbers are not defining by any means, all numbers carry meaning, and there are so many that make up our past four years of high school.
We have spent 1,106 days walking the halls of the school we sit in front of today. That is the equivalent of 6,636 hours, 398,160 minutes or 20 billion seconds. For most of us, this is an underestimate as it does not include the countless hours spent here outside of the hours between 8:08 and 3:08. Whether you were here for the possible 648 practices you could have attended since seventh grade, or the eight hell weeks since ninth grade, or the 15 concerts, eight PoCoHos, four school dances, 1,500 early morning meetings, or 23 honor society inductions, we have all spent a huge portion of the past six years on this campus.
We, the class of 2016, wouldn’t be sitting here today without some pretty important people. The teachers who have graded approximately 2,000 tests and homeworks a year: we thank you. The coaches who have pushed us through a combined 670 games or races: we thank you. The attendance office for letting us graduate even though we were absent 30 percent of this year: we thank you. The 1,800-plus members of the Manhasset Neighborhood Watch Facebook group who have diligently made our streets safer for all: we’re happy you employed social media so effectively. The administration for popping our 500 water balloons on our last day of high school: We’re still not over it. And last, but certainly not least, the parents who have made 2,340 lunches since kindergarten, sat in a combined 33 hours of traffic while dropping their kids off at school and waited up an extra countless hours for their kids to come home: we love you.
Without all these people, and all their efforts, the 279 members of the class of 2016 would not be sitting in front of you today. Altogether, they are what make Manhasset the greatest place to grow up. Even the nine letters in Manhasset carry meaning: nine for the number of periods in a day, eight for the number of times Mr. Vercessi repeats himself over the loudspeaker, seven for the number of stops at the guidance office during the college application process, six for the number of times you’ve gotten kicked out of the spa, five for the number of tickets you’ve gotten for parking in 90, four for the number of days in spirit week, three for the number of excused gym classes you can miss per quarter, two for the number of cookies sold in a pack in the cafeteria and one for the one place named Manhasset. There is only one Manhasset, only one Plandome Road, only one Louie’s, only one bagel store iced coffee, and only one town in the country that has a lacrosse stick featured in its Snapchat geotag. Perhaps most importantly, there is only one Manhasset class of 2016. Fellow graduates, all of you who sit in front of me today are very different. Whether you were a national science research competition winner, all-state singer, club president, all-county athlete, class clown or all-star benchwarmer, you have added immense value to our class. Together, we make an unforgettable and extraordinary class of 2016. Together, we are one. Together, we’ve experienced the uniqueness of the small town we’ve grown up in. Together, we have come to recognize that Manhasset is individual in its community, and, suddenly, we feel uneasy about the prospect of leaving this place we call home. However, all good things must come to an end.
Class of 2016, tonight our countdown hits zero. In just a few short moments, we will throw our caps in the air and become Manhasset High School Alumni. The zero left on our countdown to the end of high school is what brings us together for one last time as a class tonight at the frolic. In math class, we were taught that zero denotes the absence of value, but the zero left on our clock tonight is full of meaning. It brings us together in celebration, and also in sadness. Zero is also what propels us forward. We now have an enormous opportunity presented before us. We have this blank slate, a zero, if you will, that we can now begin to count up from. While the memories of our high school careers will never be forgotten, we can now broaden our minds to the world far beyond our small, unique town. We can move forward to become the very best versions of ourselves. We can achieve those dreams we’ve talked and thought about for years. After today, we will all continue to give meaning to numbers, whether it be the number of credits you take in college, the number of children you have, the number of places you travel, the number of people’s lives you touch, or the number of people you love. Addition is the most basic property of mathematics, so, class of 2016, continue to add to the numbers you’ve accumulated here at Manhasset because those will always be engrained in you. Finally, the beauty of numbers is that they go on forever, so, friends, never stop living, never stop laughing and never stop learning, because there is an endless supply of numbers to give meaning
to. As Buzz Lightyear would say,
“To infinity and beyond.”

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