The world is your oyster Dream big Never be afraid to try You are the hope of the future Commencement isn’t the end It’s the beginning Today is the first day of the rest of your life So proud of each and every one of you The class of 2014 will surely blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
When it comes to high school graduation speeches, “no cliche left behind” generally seems to be the rule. But every June, a few standout speakers manage to kick it up a little–or a lot.
1. Mitch Anderson, valedictorian at Belton High School in Texas, stunned family, friends, and school officials last year when he used his 15 minutes of fame to deliver a coming-out speech. “I feel the moment has arrived for me to be publicly true to my personal identity,” Anderson said. “So now, I can say, I’m gay.” Not everyone loved the talk, but on the bright side, no one in the audience fell down dead or anything.
2. Sandra Bullock was the surprise speaker for this year’s grads at Warren Easton Charter High School in New Orleans. The Academy Award-winning actress offered pretty much the most down-to-earth graduation advice ever, including these two game-changing gems:
- Eat something green every day, with every meal.
- Do not pick your nose in public. How about we just go get a tissue?
3. Troy Snyder, principal of Mead High School in Colorado, was busted for plagiarizing his inspirational commencement speech this spring. Turns out he’d stolen many of his remarks from Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, the bestseller by Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg. Snyder ended up resigning. The class of 2014 ended up with an unexpected lesson in, um, integrity?
4. Rashema Nelson of Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C., excelled in high school academics and sports, just like her valedictorian peers around the country. Nelson, however, was probably the only valedictorian this year who was also a homeless shelter resident. “I wasn’t going to give up, so I didn’t give up,” Nelson said in her speech. Now headed for Georgetown, where she has a full scholarship, Nelson told reporters that “I just want a home. I just want somewhere I can call mine. I want my own shower.”
5. Kate Logan, who graduated high school back in 1998, stripped off her gown in the middle of delivering the valedictory address at Long Trail School in Dorset, Vt., and gave the rest of the talk buck naked. Appropriately enough, her speech emphasized “the road less traveled.”
6. Anders Zetterlund used his valedictory speech this spring at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, Minn., to debunk commencement cliches about entering the real world. “We [high schoolers] may not have to pay taxes or invest for retirement or even make our own dinner most of the time,” he said, “but if you look at pure workload, I’d say we are decidedly in this ‘real world’ everyone likes to talk about. Sure we don’t do the 9-5 grind like all you real-world adults in the audience; we do the 24/7 one.”
7. Cody Simpson served as this year’s valedictorian at Atlanta Country Day School in Georgia (the school caters to celebrity students). Just days before the ceremony, Simpson caused a kerfuffle when he posted a shot of his naked posterior on Instagram. But apparently the Dancing with the Stars sensation still has his feet firmly on the ground. “Ladies and gentlemen, intelligence will always remain the sexiest thing in the world above all,” he recently tweeted.
8. Angela Brandi wanted her time on the graduation podium to be extra-memorable. So instead of delivering a speech, the 2014 valedictorian of Valders High School in Wisconsin sang and performed “The Cup Song,” substituting her own custom-written lyrics. While weird, the idea wasn’t 100% original–three years ago, when Brandi’s big sister was Valders’s valedictorian, she sang her speech, too.
9. Erica Goldson, valedictorian at Coxsackie-Athens High School in New York in 2010, got really, really real in her remarks. “I have successfully shown that I was the best ‘slave,’” she said in a speech dissing not only her own achievements, but those of the entire U.S. educational system. “I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.”
Congratulations–or whatever (!)–to the class of 2014.