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West Orange Times & Observer Friday, May 20, 2022 1 month ago

Windermere High School: Valedictorian's speech

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Face the challenges on the road ahead with faith and conviction that as long as you’re doing what you feel in your heart is right, you’re going to do fine.

Today, I wanted to focus on what’s going on in our minds right now, because, ladies and gentlemen, this is it: We made it. And as we step in this new phase of our lives, I know there may be a lot running through your mind. You may be thinking about how you will miss your old routine or the people you’re used to seeing. But I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that this is also one of the greatest opportunities for a restart that we will have in a while. Although you could argue that every day is a chance to restart things, and I couldn’t agree more. From the moment you wake up, you have the power to do things differently and to choose how you’re going to take on the challenges of everyday life. However, this time around, you’ll wake up during the next few months and likely be surrounded by people who are also moving into a new phase of their lives. We will all be trying to adapt to a new environment, a new routine, new people. It’s like one big restart. 

Now, how you’re going to take advantage of this restart is completely up to you.

Some of you will take this opportunity to change your whole life around. Change your habits, the people you talk to, how you present yourself to others and, ultimately, how people perceive you. Some you will try not to change much — maybe because you’re comfortable with where you are right now as a person. And that’s OK. Regardless of where you stand, I’m here to tell you: Do it. Because you’re the one who defines what it means to be successful. You’re the one who knows what makes you feel fulfilled. You define happiness by your own terms. And if you’re trying to do your best, and you have all the best intentions in the world, then I’m a firm believer that things will work out.

For those who will be trying to change things up, I urge you: Do not give up, and don’t listen to those who tell you otherwise. Because they’re going to tell you that can’t change or that you can’t do something, but don’t let them convince you that you are an imposter in your own dream — that will never be the case. Regardless of whether you’re going to try and develop a healthy habit, practice a new hobby, learn a new skill or even if you’re trying to leave people who are not supportive of you in the past. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you changed, because they’re going to judge you for the person you were yesterday or the day before. But at the end of the day, we live in the present, baby.

So, call yourself a reader. Call yourself an entrepreneur. If you just started exercising for the first time in your life, call yourself an athlete. Call yourself the new you, because why wait to be the person you want to become when the future is only one second away.

Now go out there, follow your gut. Face the challenges on the road ahead with faith and conviction that as long as you’re doing what you feel in your heart is right, and you’re being conscientious about how you’re doing it, you’re going to do fine. You’re going to find your group of people. You’re going to get there. And even if you don’t, the hard work you put in along the way will have been more than enough to open many other doors for you to explore.

— Henrique Rodrigues 

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