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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jun. 3, 2020 8 months ago

Windermere High School valedictorian's speech: Guilherme Bejar

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We stand here today on the edge of the rest of our lives. Young, hopeful and eager to dive into the unknown, as if saying to the world: “Whatever it is you got, bring it, bud.”

By Guilherme Bejar

Before I start, there’s some people I’d like to thank. I’d like to thank my parents for all the patience and work they put in raising me. I’d like to thank my teachers, especially Mr. Ihnenfeld and Mrs. Stoner, for answering my dumb questions and putting up with my complaining for the past two years. And lastly, I’d like to thank my friends for making it so through everything I did there was someone to share it with. Thanks for that, Blake.

Times are hard — hard enough that we had to make sacrifices. This class didn’t have a Grad Bash or Prom, and for all I know, you’d be reading this on a computer screen. Our school that was so full of energy before we left is now cold and silent. Our last few months of high school were spent not with friends but stuck at home wondering every day what terrible thing would happen next. And while I think it’s fair to say that none of us saw it coming, that’s how our senior year ended.

But all of that does nothing to change the fact that you made it. Through demanding classes and early mornings, through agonizing traffic and college applications and now even through a worldwide pandemic, you persevered. And that’s cause for praise. Despite everything else, today is a day of celebration. A day of looking back, proudly, into all you’ve done and achieved in the last four years. A day of remembering. A day of hope. A good day.

There’s a few events which I think shaped my years in high school, and which I think each of you will recognize in your own lives, even if in extremely different ways. I remember four years ago, when, as a 14-year-old freshman, I set foot upon my first high school and marveled at how big and strange it was as I looked for any familiar face. I remember staring holes into the ceiling of my English class in sophomore year doing my very best to keep my eyes open until the 2:20 bell rang. I remember meeting friends that would stay so for years, and all the crazy stuff we did together. And even as I stand here talking about all of these things, I remember how grateful I am for having gone through them all, and for the person I became as a result.

More than just remembering, though, today I’m also thinking about the future. Up until this moment in our lives, we had a set path, something that whether we liked or not, we had to get up every day and do. That’s no longer true. We stand here today on the edge of the rest of our lives. Young, hopeful and eager to dive into the unknown, as if saying to the world: “Whatever it is you got, bring it, bud.” So go outside and bask the warm sun for a while, let the wind roll in your hair, and realize you’re just at the beginning of your journey; you still have to make it count. 

Thank you.

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