Daniel Tahbaz Delivers Graduation Speech: “Pelham Memorial High School: The Movie”

Stephen Rovida

Daniel Tahbaz, Senior

Daniel Tahbaz was one of two students selected to speak at Saturday’s graduation ceremony based on a contest in which all seniors were invited to submit a graduation speech. The contest was judged by faculty members from each department as well as administrators.

My mornings are like the intro to a movie. I’ll set the scene. A lone camera follows me out of the band room. Crashing cymbals and scattered trumpet blasts fade as a chilly breeze smacks me in the face. I step outside for a brief moment to catch some fresh air and re-enter the high school. I stop and chat with the monitors for a minute, and a smile creeps upon my face. As I head up the stairs, the soundtrack builds. Some late 2000’s pop tune crackles over the muffled hum of the PA. Mr. Rothstein’s voice cuts in and out. I lock eyes with a few of my buds. Handshakes are exchanged. Not cheap high-fives but business-like shakes, we like to keep it classy. The camera comes to an abrupt halt as I stop just short of my first period class. I catch up with a passing teacher and then fade into the classroom. The scene closes, and you can just barely see the huge grin on my face.

It’s abnormal for a teenager to be laughing at 8 a.m. on a Monday. Most depictions of the sleepy American teen would lead you to believe that something catastrophic must happen to cause enough joy at such an ungodly hour to draw a smile out of an overworked, sleep-deprived high schooler. And yet if you looked around my first period class on almost any given day this past year, I was never alone. Something special must take place to facilitate this phenomenon. Is the tap water in Pelham spiked with some potion that causes intense feelings of happiness and alertness in young adults? Certainly not. Is the oxygen in Room 218 mixed with a rare gas that causes temporary memory loss of college application deadlines? I doubt it. The only logical conclusion is that the seniors of Pelham Memorial High School exist in a truly extraordinary place. After four years of investigating this hypothesis, I can confirm that there is something magical about this school. It can best be summed up in one word: community.

Throughout my time at PMHS, I can never say I’ve felt alone. And this isn’t because I have a million friends who constantly shower me with love and kindness. In fact the opposite could be true, and I would still feel at home. This is the secret to our school’s magic. This is why a class of drowsy teens can be so alert and joyful at the crack of dawn. It is the hard work of a multitude of teachers, administrators, parents, and coaches that allow for this marvel. Every single person that I have met who is involved in the school has a single concern at the forefront of their mind, the student. I’ve sat on countless committees where administrators have actually taken the time to collect student input on critical decisions, and then really consider the argument made. I’ve talked to many teachers who could be off working top-level corporate jobs, but who remain because they love students. I’ve had deep conversations with security monitors and custodians who didn’t sign up to chat with a seventeen-year-old kid, but who have no idea how much of an impact they’ve made on me. In fact, it would be difficult for me to walk a floor of the high school without stopping at least one person who’s made a difference in my life. This community is what makes PMHS so special. I’ll be the happiest man in the world if I can find a place where everyone cares as much about people as they do here, but I’m skeptical that it’s out there.

If the start of my day is like a movie’s intro, then that means the end of my day is the credits. I guess graduation would be the final episode in the longest series of movies ever released, and unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances, it won’t be shot exactly as I imagined it. So let’s all picture the perfect ceremony takes place. I’m standing on Franklin in my blue cap and gown. The camera pans from the sunny blue sky to a shot of me with my arms around friends and family posing for a picture. Proud teachers and bored siblings look on, and the shot fades over a landscape of the stone castle where we’ve spent so many days together. What would my credits be? They would be a list of every teacher who’s sat with me after class and humored me by listening to some crazy argument. They would be filled with screenshots of every wonderful tradition that we have at the High School. They would acknowledge the employees here who gave me my first job, put in the extra hours, went past their job descriptions, taught me what service meant, and made me the young man I am today. They would be the longest credits you’ve ever seen.