2013 Commencement Speech

Philip Lin ’13

Generating a great graduation speech requires a few key ingredients. First: the stock. Start with a helping of nostalgia, perhaps reminiscing about kindergarten naptime and juice boxes. Then, add a dash of personal growth. Stories of overcoming great adversity are safe and relatable choices. Always remember to sprinkle generously with metaphors of unity and consensus. Top it off with idealistic hopes for success in our future endeavors. Yields for one graduating class. Every time, the same old recipe — but not this year. In 2013, we’re serving up something hot and fresh.

You see, every past Commencement has mentioned harmony and class unity. Well, these are definitely powerful ideas, overcoming our differences to become one and the same. Carnival and Variety Show are must-mentions, and for good reason — they did bring us closer together. At the close of Carnival’s Junior Walk, brave souls launched their glow sticks high into the air, culminating in a sky of graceless fireworks. Before our final Variety Show performance, Dillingham Hall’s air hung heavy with hollers and songs and Right Guard deodorant. Whether scrambling to dodge these earth-bound, glowing missiles or cheering our respective scenes, camaraderie blossomed, if only for a moment. You see, every good graduation speech needs a bonding story like that.

Yet, with the Class of 2013, conventional recipes ultimately fail. They can’t account for the oddballs, the outliers and simply fantastic elements of our grade. In our cookbook, variety is truly the spice of life. Independent ingredients bring forth fantastic flavors. Like our glow sticks, we are a chaos of lights, flying in different directions, not a homogenized mixture of like-minded masses, nor are we cookie-cutter clones. Rather, we each offer fresh, tantalizing tastes. Some of us are athletes; some of us are mathletes. Some illustrate the world with words, some do it through melodies. Some of us are photographers, painters, sculptors and doodlers. And only a few of us could become singing-dancing-speechmaking class presidents. Yet, we all decidedly shine.

Past classes might claim that by May of senior year, they came together to sing “Kumbaya.” Call me cynical, but we have no desire of mimicking them. They have their ambitions and we our own. We have no uniform plan. Rather, we Punahou graduates of 2013 will embark on our own paths and forge our own futures. Fellow classmates, whether you’ve been here for four years or 13+, make your mark. If this is the only advice you remember today, then fine. Break the mold! Smash stereotypes! Command your will, and become an unyielding force!

Every Punahou class, both past and future, knows the importance of class unity. However, it’s our class, the class of 2013, that truly relishes diversity. The fact that we, vastly different individuals, can enjoy being together says a lot, actually. While we may not agree on every single issue, why would we want to? We are not mere lemmings, but spectacular fireworks: independent bursts of sparks and flame that bathe the world with dazzling warmth. To paraphrase singer Katy Perry, we “make them go oh, oh, oh as we shoot across the sky-y-y.” And when we, 422 fireworks, fly together to own the night, it’s nothing short of brilliant.