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3 minutes reading time (697 words)

For Beatrice Croteau, a grandmother's wisdom

AHS graduation speeches

A graduation adddress by Beatrice Croteau, an Arlington High School honors speaker on June 4, 2022.

Good afternoon everyone, and congratulations to the class of 2022. We made it. I wish I could come up here and offer a sentimental, sweet send-off of the past four years -- the past 13 for
those of us who’ve been together since kindergarten -- but nothing I say will ever cover the lives we’ve lived in the past two years, let alone the past two decades: the people we’ve met, the things we’ve done, the people we’ve lost, the things we’ve learned. So instead, I want to tell you a story about the future.

This story actually starts like two years ago, but bear with me.

Fall of my sophomore year, I told my mother I wanted to give a speech at graduation.

Naturally, she had much wisdom to dispense. She told me, “Go watch Bill Gates’ graduation speech. Muhammad Ali, Gloria Steinem, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Oh and Steve Jobs has a great one too!” So, over the years, I went and watched every single one of those speeches.

She was right -- they’re fantastic, inspiring speeches.

Steve Jobs documented his story of success, from college dropout to tech billionaire.

Chimamanda Adichie gave a compelling analysis of feminism shaped by her childhood in Nigeria and career as a writer. The further I got into these speeches, the more one thing became apparent to me: they were drawing inspiration from lives as tech billionaires, world-renowned writers, world-class boxers, and leading thinkers of the 20th century.

I am none of those things.

I turned 18, like, two weeks ago.

Lacking words of wisdom from my own life experiences for a graduation speech, I next turned to people like myself, graduating from Arlington High School, for inspiration.

There is an online archive of Arlington High School yearbooks dating back to the turn of the 20th century. My favorite part of these yearbooks is a section that was started in 1993, which came to be titled, rather ominously, “prophecy.” In this section, every graduating student predicted where they would be in 10 years. I like this section for two reasons. One, it’s hilarious, with my personal favorite being from the class of '93, whose prophecy predicted they would be “in some sort of new wave insane asylum ranting about goats” in the year 2003.

My second reason for liking this section is because of what it represents. As graduates, we have our lives ahead of us. From this point forward we can go anywhere from “Italy designing Ferraris after becoming independently wealthy from the lottery” like a graduate from the class of 2000 to “making marmalade in a geodesic tent somewhere in the Andes Mountains” like David Conneely, (class of '93).

This is the beginning of the rest of our lives. And I urge you, use this time wisely. Have fun, do good, get your hands dirty, change the world, do something so notable that one day you’ll
be giving your own commencement speech so good that it’ll be the despair of speech-aspiring teenagers everywhere.

Before I end, I would like to offer a word of advice, from the one last place I turned for inspiration: my grandmother.

For context: my grandmother put herself through college in the '50s to study math, and she won her age group in the World Triathlon at 70, just a couple years ago.

Now, four children, 12 grandchildren and decades later, the one piece of advice that helped her achieve it all: “wherever you go, there’s always going to be someone better than you, and someone worse than you.”

No, I have no idea what she actually meant by it, but I would be happy to share my theory with you: You can’t win at everything. You can’t be a genius at everything. Know your
strengths, but it’s better to learn from others than to try and do everything solo. After all, there are very few things in life worth doing alone.

Thank you, good luck, and have a lovely day.

This expression of opinion at the 2022 Arlington High School commencement was published Saturday, June 4, 2022.

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