2016 Commencement Speech

Justin Kaneko ’16

Well, Class of 2016: we did it. We are graduating from Punahou School. Tonight is a night to celebrate our accomplishments, reflect on our experiences and simply just be together one last time.

To start off, the Class of 2016 is nothing but talented. Our Class alone has some of the nation’s finest scholars, artists, athletes, musicians, entrepreneurs and much more. I don’t have a doubt in my mind that this class will lead the world towards new heights and innovations that were once unimaginable, just as we did during our days at Punahou.

But, what is a day? When I asked Siri, she said, “A day is a unit of time.” That’s it. Since this answer clearly did not suffice, I decided to consult an old friend – the dictionary. “A day is a period of 24 hours as a unit of time reckoned from one midnight to the next corresponding to a rotation of the earth on its axis.” That’s a little better, but, although this may be the proper definition of the word “day,” I’d like to think we do more with our time than simply just rotate on a giant rock’s axis.

Now, math is not my strongest subject, in fact it is probably my worst subject, but I ran a few calculations:

63,875 days ago Punahou School was born. To put that in simpler terms, that many days divided by 365 is ... um ... if only we had giant banners all around us to tell us how many years that is ... doesn’t matter. Needless to say, Punahou is very old.

Approximately 4,835 days ago, the Class of 2016 started its first day of kindergarten. We held onto our parents like leeches, refusing to let go. But eventually, we did, and thus began an incredible journey that would forever shape who we are.

We spent our days climbing trees, playing four-square and rolling around in the occasional pile of mud. Someone once told me that you could hardly tell that Punahou students were Punahou students due to the lack of shoes and the holes in our shirts. Some still sport these looks to this day.

But, through all of that we blossomed strong friendships that would later evolve into the Class of 2016.

Sixty-four days ago was the last day the final round of college decisions arrived. There were tears of joy and of sorrow, but it illuminated the path that we so patiently waited 91 days to see, and approximately 90 days from today, we will begin to take our first steps down that path and begin a new journey. 90 days from now, we will look into our parents’ eyes and remember that first day of kindergarten. There will be looks of hope and excitement, but also of fear and longing. But, like kindergarten, we will let go and venture out into the endless opportunities of the unknown.

But tonight, we are here: zero days till graduation. We have come such a long way, and are going so much farther, but we must cherish this moment – right here, right now.

So as you can see, a day is not just a unit of time, but a way to look back on our journey and remember all the great times we had together. No search engine or computerized personal assistant can tell us this and neither can any biographer or any other secondary source for that matter. Only we can tell this story, and what an incredible story we have to tell.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” So be yourselves, 2016, because no matter what anyone says, that quirky spark of weird that is inside all of us is what has made us great for the last 1,460 days and will make us even greater for the rest of our lives.

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