Salutatorian Speech, Emma Beyer

Emma Bayer
Lessons I have Learned from Nature by Emma Beyer

Good afternoon! My name is Emma Beyer, and it is with great honor that I stand before you all as your salutatorian. I would like to extend a warm welcome to all students, teachers, honored guests, friends, and family members here today both physically and virtually; thank you all for coming to celebrate with the Class of 2021 as we graduate from Hingham High School!

By now, we are all too familiar with the coronavirus and the many ways it has affected our lives. I, for one, threw myself into an abundance of nature walks at the beginning of quarantine in an attempt to escape my house. Pretty soon, I was hiking and plantin g my garden more than I was doing my schoolwork. And although this year presented unique and unforeseen challenges for everybody, my time in nature taught me many lessons that I would be honored to share with you all today.

First: If you persevere despite the difficulties, you will emerge stronger than before.

Over quarantine, I began shaking my 7-foot-tall fiddle leaf fig tree; this practice might seem strange, but it is because I learned that administering a good, firm shake to your plants promotes growth and development. I propose that the same is true in humans: even the most difficult challenge has the potential to promote growth and development. My journey in the Hingham Public Schools system got off to a particularly rocky start: I was a disruptive, inattentive first grader who spent more time chatting and trading japanese erasers than listening to my teacher.

I especially remember that one of my very favorite pastimes in first grade was putting my bright-yellow, number 2 ticonderoga pencil in the annoyingly-loud automatic pencil sharpener and watching as the pencil’s pink eraser spun around and around. This proved less-than-satisfactory to my first grade teacher, Mr. T, because not only was I not getting any work done, but I was making it harder for my classmates to focus, too.

To make matters even worse, my Mom remembers being called in for a parent-teacher conference, and she was absolutely horrified when Mr. T showed her the three-inch tall stack of crumpled, unfinished papers shoved into the space beneath my desk

So, I wasn’t necessarily a star student in 1st grade- not by a long shot. But despite my inattentiveness in class and my apparent lack of organization, I persevered and developed better habits, mostly thanks to my decision to swap out my Ticonderogas for some mechanical pencils.

I am sure that many of you in the audience may have faced similar struggles, as even motivating yourself to go to school or pay attention during a Zoom lecture was particularly challenging this year. But you have  all persevered and come out of this year stronger than before, seated here today so that you may graduate and receive your diploma.

The next lesson I have learned from nature is that we are made for community.

Nature shows us that we are better together: just look at how bees work together to build and maintain a beehive, or migratory geese fly in a “V” shape to help each other conserve energy.

And we need each other, too.

I, for one, certainly wouldn’t be able to pronounce the word “salutatorian” if my family and friends weren’t there to coach me through it 🙂

And a few decades from now, when I am rocking my grandchildren on my lap and telling them the stories of the Coronavirus and my senior year, I won’t be able to recall specifics like the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus or when I got my first vaccine.

When I think back to my last year in high school, the memories that will stand out above all others are the ones I made with all of you. And I truly mean that. My amazing classmates, my wonderful teachers, the parents that made it all possible- that is what I am going to remember.

Lately, I have been telling everyone that even though the senior class has only been going to full-time school together for about a month, I feel so inexplicably bonded to each and every one of you. Even in this crazy year, I have been able to connect all of you, and I am so proud of what our class has accomplished against all odds. We are the class that has persevered despite the most adverse of circumstances; we have created light in the darkness, music in the silence, and community in the isolation. I am continually impressed by our class's spirit, optimism, and dedication, and I feel beyond privileged to count myself among Hingham High’s Class of 2021.

Now, for some final thank you’s:

To our teachers: Thank you for your continued support and dedication. I mean it when I say that none of us could have done this without your tireless efforts to further our education and our development as a whole.

To our parents: Thank you for being our rocks, our study buddies, and our biggest cheerleaders. We love you more than you know.

And to the Class of 2021:

  • Congratulations! I am so, so proud of each and every one of you. For most of us, today marks the day that we achieve our biggest accomplishment to date. I am so humbled to be here standing before you all, and it is my firm hope that none of you will ever hesitate to recognize the patience, strength, and determination that it took to accomplish this amazing feat. You all are capable of incredible things, and I can not wait to see where each of your journeys leads next.
  • You all are the reason that we were collectively able to salvage anything from this absolute shipwreck of a year. Our seniors…. are You have shown me how to persevere gracefully, even in the midst of immense adversity; you have reminded me that we are made for community. And in all actuality, you all are my community.
  • And if I have learned anything from nature, it is that you must stay true to your roots. The memories I have made in all of my years in Hingham Public schools (even during my days as a disruptive first grader), aren’t going to disappear when we graduate, and the people here won’t either; we will have both for the rest of our lives. We will have Hingham High School for the rest of our lives; we will have the Class of 2021 for the rest of our lives; and now, since we have the rest of our lives ahead of us, let's remember our roots, spread our branches, and make our lives into something beautiful.

I will miss you all so dearly, but here is to celebrating everything that lies ahead. Congratulations; we did it!

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