OV valedictorian talks of ‘hard time’

BRANDON — Audience members were treated to a dose of stark reality in a speech by Otter Valley Union High School Valedictorian Max Williams at Saturday’s commencement.
It was met with a standing ovation.
Williams began his speech before his 74 fellow graduates saying he had started writing another speech first, one full of “goofy childhood memories” and “cheesy clichés.”
“But I soon realized that that wasn’t genuine,” he said. “That I would just be reading the same old boring speech everyone does.”
So Williams started again, and what followed was a nuts and bolts assessment of the world he and his fellow classmates were entering.
“The truth is, we’re coming into the real world at a hard time,” Williams said. “A world where there is a constant threat of nuclear war. A world filled with the fear of terrorists around every corner. A world rife with inequalities, with prejudice, with people who refuse to see the world through other people’s eyes. A world where our president has been said to slander anyone he wants to, and women accuse him of sexual harassment. A world where every other week, there is a school shooting. It’s a hard world to live in, but one that is being passed on to us.”
But the valedictorian said as easy as it could be to back down from all of that and let others solve the world’s problems, he has faith in his classmates.
“We won’t back away,” Williams said. “We will be the generation to fight against the injustices. To put an end to world violence. To bring about the change that is needed in this world. In a world as bad as the one we live in now, only the spirit that we have can get us through the darkness, and bring us back to the light.”
He said he sees his classmates in various roles poised to make change possible: doctors, engineers, lawyers, police officers, firefighters, plumbers.
He closed with this:
“If we want to change the world, we’re going to have to take a leap of faith. In the words of Barack Obama, ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.’ Thank you.”
And with that, the OV gym, dubbed the House of Noise, erupted with applause as hundreds of family members and friends rose to their feet in a thunderous applause.
LONG-TIME OTTER VALLEY coach Patti Candon shows her pride in new OV graduates Gabby Poalino, left, Katie Coolidge and Christa Wood after commencement in Brandon on Saturday.
Brandon Reporter photo/Lee J. Kahrs
Salutatorian Gabby Poalino, speaking just before Williams, referred to Eleanor Roosevelt for inspiration.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” Poalino quoted the late First Lady as saying.
To that Poalino added her own thoughts, which were appropriate for the occasion:
“When we were younger, our dreams were to be police officers, veterinarians, firefighters, and I’m sure there are a few of us out there that wanted to be princesses. I hope you continue to believe in you dreams and chase them into the future.”

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