Revising a Time Honored Tradition

Evan Oukrop

Graduation speeches should not only be for the class valedictorian and salutatorian.  The final ceremonial speech that typically reminisces our high school careers and contemplates the possibilities of our futures is what seniors look forward to as part of their last day to commemorate the past four years in high school.  

The class valedictorian is awarded this high honor as a result of their academic achievements as their classes’ highest ranking grade point average (GPA) holder.  Their accomplishment is nothing to sneeze at.  It takes years of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication likely achieved through taking numerous advanced placement college level classes.  The valedictorian achievement is definitely worthy of the honor bestowed upon them to deliver the graduation speech.  This honor has been a high school tradition for decades.  

The graduation ceremony is a well-choreographed event meant to allow seniors and their families to gather one last time to remember their high school experiences and say good bye to school staff, faculty, and classmates.  There is laughter, cheers, and sometimes tears with emotions ranging from excitement to nostalgia and sadness at the thought of the end of an era.  If the ceremony is for the seniors, then it should be by the seniors.  With that said, I propose that in addition to the valedictorian speech, the school also allow at least one non-valedictorian senior to deliver a graduation speech to their peers. 

The slot for an extra speech could be offered through a tryout session where those seniors who are interested in giving a graduation speech could present their speech to the school principal, who would judge those who are competing.  Including a non-valedictorian speech could provide variety to the ceremony and a perspective from another senior.  

The addition of another speaker would not lengthen the ceremony to an unreasonable time.  The speech could be limited to 4-5 minutes.  I would argue that just because things have always been done a certain way, it does not mean that there can’t be room for change.  Depending on the theme of their speech, the performance could be fun, funny, entertaining and another moment to remember the last day of our high school career.