DEER PARK, NY – At its annual commencement ceremony, Deer Park High School Graduating Class Salutatorian Andreas Stamatakis delivered the speech that appears below.
Two months later, now in August, some of us see the summer as “half-over” others as “half left.” Either way, it is a good time to reflect on Stamatakis’ words of wisdom as we recharge our batteries and prepare for the fall.
Here is the speech:
“I’m supposed to talk to you today, on some level, about the value of our experiences at Deer Park High School and how they have prepared us for the future. Yeah…I’m not going to do that. Mostly because I take issue with the idea of being prepared at all. It makes it seem like we’ve been given instructions for success. Like if you follow these five steps, mix the ingredients just right and wait patiently the outcome is guaranteed! “It’s too bad that our futures aren’t fruitcakes. As we go forward neither the “efforts of our educators” nor the “strength of the STEM curriculum” will matter. If we are to be challenged to the limits of our ability, they really can’t matter. Because in college when you’re taking that impossible course, at work when your boss drops a situation on you that even he can’t deal with, at home when a loved one is in dire need of your support, nothing can truly prepare you for that. No one can give you the answers. It’ll be just you: your wits, your compassion, your drive to succeed and to do what is right. That will make the difference. In that sense, I’d be lying if I said we were prepared for anything. We aren’t. No one is. And that is the greatest gift we could ever be given.
“Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein each had an Annus Mirabilis, a miracle year, in which they discovered ideas that would rock the foundation of our reality. What is astounding is their age at the time of that year, 22 and 26 respectively, just at the outset of their careers. These were not stuffy old men who reaped the benefits of years of labor, these were kids who with wonder to guide them stumbled upon something truly beautiful. So often great men and women in all fields show their prowess at exactly the same time, between the ages of 22 and 26, if they ever would at all. They excel because they are not held back by habits and established ideas. They know nothing so they question everything. And those questions lead to discovery. Today we take a step toward a unique period of our lives. A time when our lack of preparation is our greatest strength. Because when challenges come, and they undoubtedly will, we have the greatest chance to do something unique and innovative in the face of adversity. We will set precedent instead of following it. We will lead meaningful change. In this way we might leave our mark on the world. And if it’s going to happen at all, it will happen now.
“We embark today on the most exciting opportunity we will ever have. Today, we leave the nest and there’s no going back. We only have one shot. We must look inside ourselves for the courage to take charge of our lives, to spread the love in our hearts. Let’s make it count. Congratulations to the Deer Park High School Class of 2014!”