GOOD Morning Wilton is pleased to share the speeches delivered Saturday, June 15, during Wilton High School‘s graduation of the Class of 2019. This speech was given by Madeline Burke, the graduating senior class Valedictorian.

Good afternoon, Wilton High School Class of 2019, and congratulations to each and every one of you. It is an absolute honor to be able to stand before a group of individuals that is so exceptionally vibrant, accomplished, and poised to take on the world.

My purpose today is to offer some form of wisdom, some suggestion of purpose, or a spek, a glimmer of hope that will carry us into the next phase of our lives with a sense of assuredness. But when I really thought about it, I’m not sure I can do that. I’m 18, I still can’t confidently park between two cars, and I’m almost positive that I left my hair straightener plugged in back at my house (Sorry about that, Mom). I don’t have the power to glimpse into our futures and report back with any highlights. I can’t promise that it will be sunny and dry on your wedding day, or that the human race won’t face an early demise due to the devastating effects of climate change. I can’t even promise that you will win the AirPods at PGP, or the sunrise at Compo Beach tomorrow morning will be the spectacular shades of pink, orange and yellow that our Snapchat stories so desire.

But, admittedly, there are some things that I do know.

I know that completing four years at this high school has taught us a myriad of lessons–some that we may forget, but others that we will remember for the rest of our lives. In other words, we are done here … this is it. But today, Saturday, June 15, 2019, is just a pin, a road marker, a geotag (if you will) that defines a culmination… the totality of our academic, moral, and social education thus far.

Today is a day to let you know that you’ve made it, but it’s also a day to think about who you are now and to remember who and what you’ve been before. Even though there is a finality in the air, we mustn’t forget that the school behind me, and the ones just down the road, taught us to be–in every sense of the word.

We learned and we wondered and we cried and we laughed and we grew up together within the four walls of those buildings. So, after 13 years, there must be some things we all know.

Number 1:  It is important to hold the door… especially the heavy one on the third floor near staircase four. Holding doors is a non-verbal communication that we support the person behind us. It signals connection, camaraderie, and kindness–all traits we’ve fostered here. And while we’re at it, we know that it’s right to let people back out of their parking spots during the 2:55 traffic jam. We’ve learned how to be selfless.

Number 2:  Working together makes a difference. How many Cider Mill Tug-O-War champions are in the crowd today? We’ve learned to honor our commitments, to trust our classmates, and to be team-players. After all, it took a whole lot of teamwork to break that Middlebrook playground with the vigor that we did. Whether group projects, wind ensembles, or a classic game of matball in gym class, we’ve been our best when we’ve been together.

Number 3:  Look to your left… and now look to your right. The people around you have likely taught you how to be… more than any book, exam, or lecture ever could. The memories you’ve shared with friends, or teammates, or acquaintances will be the ones that will ignite your 40 year old self with a spark of nostalgia, driving you to call-up those goofballs you met in high school. Since freshman year, we’ve spent almost 5,000 hours with each other. We’ve learned to be friendly, to be cheerful, but with a hint of snide self-deprecation, and to be endlessly supportive. We’ve learned that our relationships with one another have brought the brightest light of all into our lives.

And Number 4:  We’ve become… whatever it is we wanted to become.

Personally, I wore an enormous pink bow in my hair on the first day of freshman year. And to tell you the truth, I just might wear a bow to PGP tonight.

So maybe I’ll always be Maddie Burke – the girl who wears bows in her hair. But, we all have grown up to be… to be scholars and activists and notable athletes and distinguished performers and aspiring playwrights and inquisitive student journalists and wonderful friends and, above all, people. We’ve become the people we will continue to be after we leave this field today.

So, Class of 2019, go be those people. Never forget to lock your gym locker.

Always keep your head up amidst the chaos of life’s five minute passing period.

Continue to make noise, bring a smile to the faces of others, and play Super Smash Brothers in whatever becomes your next Jungle. Strive for excellence. Be courageous. Be dazzlingly bright. Be selfless… and yes, at the right times maybe a little selfish. Be smart… we didn’t take all those hard classes for nothing. Be bold.

Be kind. Be good. Just be.