Attached is a video of Senior Class President Andrew Terraciano’s graduation speech. A transcript of his speech appears below:
Every day of my life, I carry other people with me, or their memories with me. For example, I carry my grandmother’s paratrooper patch with me, all the way from her time in Vietnam, to my time in Pelham. Over my last few years at Pelham, and in the Pelham schools, I’ve had the opportunity to experience some truly amazing things, some truly inspiring things, and some truly absurd things—things I will carry with me forever. To say that the last year and a half has been easy, or even bearable, would be an egregious overstatement, and disrespectful to everyone present here, and all the work they’ve put in. As I look in the stands, I find myself inspired—not only by the many faces here, seemingly yelling, “We finally made it,” but also by the friends and the truly wonderful people I’ve met in my years here. With each passing day, I gained a new perspective, a new lesson, and, most of all, a new story—a patch for each person.
To start with the truly amazing stories, I was on the field when we broke a forty-year losing streak against Harrison with the football team. I wasn’t playing—I was a waterboy—but I most definitely had one of my feet on the field. I saw a member of that same football team, just a few months later, drop as low to the ground as possible, and win limbo at olympics for the third year in a row. I saw people who, to my knowledge, had interacted very sparingly, come together every single year, without fail, to organize dinner orders, posters, banners, decorations and even music selections for olympics. Most amazingly, I saw people show up to school nearly every day for four years, and do hilarious, astonishing, intelligent things, and pretend that it was no different than their routine. With each individual comment, I found a new point of view, and added a new patch—and a series of new stories, like that time in sophomore year, while in English class, that I spoke to someone for probably the second or third time and found one of my best friends and closest confidants. The next year, though, I sat next to a different person in that English class, and found someone that I will still get lunch with, or go for coffee with—we consistently annoy each other—but I’m also certain that we can’t live without each other.
Then, the inspiring. This group has gone through as much loss and sadness as any class has previously. I think that, over the years, I’ve spoken to each person in this grade about their personal hardship at least once, honestly. From some people having stories of battle and conquest, internal or otherwise, and some people having stories of deep and acute loss, I see these people come together to serve the ultimate goal of humanity—to live life. It’s a difficult task, but they do it, day-in and day-out. One of the most inspiring things I’ve probably seen was the galvanization of the town and school communities around those experiencing loss. Recently, as many of us are aware, Pelham lost an earth science teacher. In the weeks following, you were unable to find someone that wasn’t extending love to their families and friends. I’ve seen a man, long confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, attend every single football game and every Pelham event he could, until the day he passed. I’ve heard stories of people saving lives at this school, and maintaining each other’s friendships through terrible odds. From this day until my last, I will remember and retell these stories, and I hope to one day be as inspiring.
Finally, onto the truly absurd. I remember my freshman year very fondly due to the absurd. It was that year, after all, that I was assigned to a figurative social class in global, in order to understand the caste system, but actually because it meant that the teacher didn’t have to remember our names. In another class—science research—my friends and I created a notes document to prepare an experiment, and we proceeded to set up more security points than the CDC (trust me, we checked). One year, we gathered wreaths and a hand truck and raced down the hallways as we sold the holiday decorations. In English, we read Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” I studied the play, looked over each line, prepared costumes, choreography, inflections for each and every joke, but most of all, I planned the diversion. “Twelfth Night,” like many other Shakespearean plays, involves a number of songs. I was able to convince one of my good friends to take that role. As a socially awkward freshman, I stood there thinking that I could truly embarrass my good friend, but, like many wonderful plans, it failed miserably. My joke was met with astonishment as my friend walked to the front of the stage and, without breaking for even a moment, sang in perfect verse, perfect grammar, perfect meter and surprisingly average pitch. As funny as it was to me—his confidence in the eye of embarrassment—it was barely the surface of some of the absurd things that I’ve seen. The most absurd thing that happened, however, while we made these stories, was that the lines between “friend” and “family” became forever blurred, much to my joy.
A number of years ago, I heard a quote that feels strangely appropriate. It was at the apparent death of a character, and it read, “I’ll be a story in your head. But that’s OK: We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? Because it was, you know, it was the best.” Naturally, it’s from “Doctor Who,” a series about a time-traveling immortal being that I tried to convince all of my friends to watch at one point or another, but the important thing is the stories, and the patchwork people that we become with those stories.
Now, I have officially broken the first rule of speeches—don’t talk for too long. Thank you all for coming today, parents, guardians and otherwise, to see the graduation of one of the greatest classes to ever pass through this school, and thank you all, old friends, for making it the greatest class to ever pass through the school. I cannot wait to see all of the amazing things you all do, and I know it will be the best.