Here goes what my valedictorian address would have been. Do understand that it is meant to be heard rather than read, but I believe it translates all right to the page. Enjoy:
For four years, twice a year, I have submitted my poetry and fiction to Santa Clara’s literary magazine…I’ve been rejected every time. I’ve been in a championship intramural basketball game, down by one, seconds beating away, as I stood at the free-throw line…And missed.
I have applied for a dream scholarship to study at Oxford, to win an elevator pitch competition, to get a job related to my major, to get an unpaid internship related to my major, to just get something for my resume, to apply for graduate school, to fall in love, to have a plan for what I’m actually doing with my life after they pull me off this stage…Every one of those has been unsuccessful.
So as you can see, by every meaning and connotation of the word, I am a failure. And I will continue to be one for the rest of my life; I’ve accepted that. Why? Because for the rest of my life I will also continue to dream.
Edgar Allen Poe wrote, “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” We all have wishes and hopes, dreams tucked soundly behind eyelids and against pillows. But why should they remain there? Why do our hopes of becoming a screenwriter, an NBA referee, or immigration lawyer; a fashion designer, animal activist, or plain old rock star, have to suffocate between the closed ends of our journals and diaries?
Because we fear failure; we fear the ruts in our cheeks that tears could erode, the scrapes on our palms from hitting the gravel. We fear not getting a job, not getting a paycheck—the two most notorious criminals pinning our dreams to the soles of our feet, every step burying our dreams deeper and deeper into the underbelly of our shoes.
But it is only those who have never tried to achieve a dream that have escaped failure. Those who have never wagered their heart for a hope, who have never slapped their happiness on the table and said, Flip the card, that have not experienced failure. But this world does not shift for the man or woman who has never failed, the man or woman so terrified of messing up that they’ll avoid a risk at any cost. For how could we ever scale taller mountains if our gazes are always trained on how far we could fall?
Thus, it is the greatest atrocity of human freedom to settle for what is easy—whether that is a job, a lifestyle, or an injustice. For humanity was endowed with the greatest power of all: to imagine that which is different from what is—the power to envision a world that we don’t have, but could. A future unlikely, but possible. It will always be easier to refrain from doing a wrong than to act to procure a right. But with the potential of the human spirit, an infinitude for which the sky is modeled after, you, every one of us, has the ability to bend down, pick those dreams out from the ridges of our shoes, and carry them against our hearts where they belong.
We are dreaming creatures. We are future-oriented, hopeful animals. We, no matter which experience has cudgeled this belief, will always have faith that things can be better. As long as you use your mind, listen to your heart, and follow your passions, improving the world will just be a side effect. We all know that our education alone isn’t worth the paper our diplomas are printed on. It is what we do with them that matters. For greatness is not born; it’s chosen. So choose it, listen to your calling, your authentic self, and don’t just reach for your dreams, grab them.
Now, I am not saying you should forget that reality has this thing called gravity as you try to tether yourself to the clouds. I’m just encouraging you to remember there are multiple ways to fly. There are ways to have a paycheck and do something you love. There are ways to afford the rent and accomplish something spectacular. There are ways to dream without your father calling you a hippie.
You now have four years of education strapped around your waist, a diploma squeezed beneath your arm, you have friends, connections, opportunities that the majority of the world has never dreamed of having, and those who have don’t dream of using. But you are different. Santa Clara has raised us to be different. We are not the lollygaggers or the unambitious, the loungers or the thumb-twiddlers. We are the dreamers and the doers. The superheroes without capes or masks, but with the ability, the strength, the courage, to protect the world just the same.
And so I tell you now: don’t be satisfied with your world. Don’t be satisfied with a comfortable paycheck or a respectable job. Your dreams are still possible; your dreams are still attainable. Be the men and women you were fated to be, let the destiny of your soul make this world better than you found it. Thus, I encourage you all to go out there and fail. I encourage you to follow a dream you’ve always had and fail miserably. For until you realize that failing is just learning one way not to achieve what you dream of, you will forever be too afraid to truly succeed.
I am proudly a failure. And now I wish for you to be one too.
So go out there class of 2012: Dream. Fail. And you will succeed.