Valedictorian Brigid Enright’s speech moves OVUHS crowd

BRANDON — Otter Valley Union High School Valedictorian Brigid Enright had it together when she strode up to the podium and began her speech in the OV gymnasium at Saturday’s graduation.
Before her were 97 other graduating seniors, OV teachers, administrators and scads of family and friends.
Enright was smiling, she was witty, and she was honest as she read her speech, explaining how she watched YouTube videos about giving good speeches in order to find inspiration for her own address.
“I even listened to a podcast about ‘How to write a really good speech,’ and still … nothing,” she said. “I, of course, did what any logical person would do and ordered some Chinese food (I promise I’m going somewhere with this). As I opened the fortune cookie, the light bulb went off. It read: ‘Failure is the mother of all successes.’”
And it was when she began to talk about failure that Enright started to become emotional.
“Failure is not a rejection of character or ability, but rather a confirmation of our humanity,” she said. “As we progress onto bigger and better things, it makes sense for us to be afraid. We started off little fish in a little pond…” her voice rose and tightened. “And in a few months, we will be little fish in an ocean, and yes, the unknown is terrifying but it won’t always be that way.”
Enright said “Sorry” and dabbed a tear from her eye.
“Yes, we have failed, but, oh my goodness, wait until the world sees us bounce back like it’s nothing. We’re going to fall before we fly, and that is OK, and that will always be OK.”
Her voice was shaking by then.
“Just brush the dust off, hold that head high, and carry on,” she said, taking a deep breath and shaking her hand out. “Sorry,” she said. “This is tough.”
She went on to describe historically successful figures who first experienced many failures, including the inventor of WD-40 lubricant. “Everyone has a can somewhere in their house,” Enright said, which went to market after its 40th trial.
“James Dyson designed 5,271 prototypes before his first vacuum cleaner even worked. In the 1960s, two engineers from New Jersey invented a new kind of textured wallpaper, but it never sold a single roll. We know it today as bubble wrap. Walt Disney was fired from his job as a cartoonist at a newspaper due to his ‘lack of creative ideas.’”
But when Enright had to address her fellow classmates directly yet again, the emotional weight of the occasion affected her deeply again.
“My advice is to make failure your best friend,” she said, choking back her tears. “Make it your comfort, make it your motivation. Dream big, fly high, and embrace all the trips, falls and fumbles on the way. Failure defines not the weakness of an individual, but the strength. It is fueled by passion, by fervor, by determination. Our greatness will be cultivated by our times at rock bottom.”
Enright was crying openly at this point, yet persevered with the crowd behind her, hanging on her every word.
“We are born fighters with triumph running through our veins. We are works in progress; we are movers and shakers; we are innovators who will rock the world to its core,” she cried. “We will be scientists, engineers, doctors, nurses, business owners, servicemen and women, artists, musicians, teachers, actors, craftsmen, farmers, officers, vets, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and so much more.”
Enright, sighed and cried and smiled, but pressed on.
“And so, go forth unto the world and fail in excess, but be sure to always, always, always learn from it. I ask each of you to remember this: you are loved. You are valued. You will prosper. You are important to so many people. Never forget: all of those little bumps, trials, goof-ups are what make you great. Best wishes to each and every one of you in all future endeavors, and much love to all. Thank you.”
And with that, every single person in the OV gymnasium rose to their feet in a thunderous standing ovation.

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