Sunday morning, May 21, the Evanston Township High School Class of 2023 celebrated its commencement with a ceremony held at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena. Every spring, students interested in speaking at graduation can submit a writing, poem or musical selection ahead of time, and senior Heath Grossman won the honor this year. (Senior class poet Makedah Abraham also performed a spoken word piece.) Below is the text of Grossman’s speech, which you can view around the 51-minute mark of the commencement livestream video.
Good morning everyone, and thank you all for being here to celebrate the ETHS Class of 2023. The day we’ve all been thinking about for so long has finally arrived.
It’s a big day, but also a weird one. It can come with many emotions, so I encourage all of you to be present. Appreciate it. Be present, because this will never happen again.
Now, of course, this will happen again, and generations of students will graduate from ETHS, but we won’t be together in one space, as one group, ever again. So look around. Appreciate it.
Do you all remember August 21, 2019? It was our first day of freshman year. We were greeted by the overly excited, blue-shirt wearing student ambassadors, and we couldn’t have made it to class without those ambassadors. But, once we got to the classrooms, it was the amazing teachers at ETHS who spent the next four years helping us become better writers, scientists, artists, athletes and citizens.
We have all grown to be better people during our time here. We have found our interests, our strengths and our challenges. This was the time to try new things, make mistakes, meet new people. So, to the teachers, safety officers, janitorial staff, cafeteria workers and all the other staff at ETHS, thank you for everything you do.
I want you all to take a moment, and think of one positive memory of your time at ETHS, whether that’s cheering with a friend at a football game, the bridge building contest in geometry or the teacher first period that made classes fun. Think of that feeling. That feeling is what I hope you remember ETHS for.
I also encourage you to think of all those who have supported your high school career these past four years. It might be family, friends or someone who isn’t with us today. Do you all remember Mr. Rogers, you know, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” He was often asked to give speeches like this at ceremonies or graduations. He encouraged the audience to take a few moments to think of the people who helped them become who they are, so I think we should do that.
Take 10 seconds to think of the people who shaped who you are today, and I’ll watch the clock.
So, I encourage you to be that person for someone else. Pay it forward, and look for ways to encourage others to be the best version of themselves.
I feel comfortable saying that these past four years weren’t exactly what we expected, thanks to the pandemic, rising political tension and ongoing climate crisis, but here we are. With many battles behind us, but also many ahead of us, remember what you learned. I encourage each and every one of you to use your skills from ETHS in the real world to build a better tomorrow.
After this one-of-a-kind day, we will all go our separate ways. We may be nervous for what’s next – I know I am. But, as you look around this room, think about how all of these people around us will change so much in the years to come. We are surrounded by future artists, product designers, plumbers, nurses, teachers, parents and people who will find careers that haven’t been imagined yet.
In some ways, the thought of nothing being permanent is comforting. The idea that we will be forced to move forward with life, keep growing, keep evolving forever. We are ready for what’s next.
So, I leave you with this: Don’t forget to follow the three R’s. Respect yourself, respect others, respect the community and do everything the Wildkit Way. Congratulations Class of 2023, and go Kits!