Graduates of East Lancing High, family members, and friends—Good Morning!

How does it feel to be Valedictorian? Utterly amazing. I have summited a great mountain, and now I stand among the clouds, gazing down at the world before me. It beckons me on towards the even greater heights along the horizon.

That’s what I should have said. Three weeks ago, when Principal Sanders brought me into her office to inform me of this achievement, I should have used the mountain metaphor. Sadly, I did not. My actual response, “Of course, Karen, I’m Steven Hawking compared to these idiots,” failed to convey my immense gratitude for this honor. I hope these more dignified words, which did not occur to me until 5th period that day, can in some small way mitigate my initial boorishness.

It truly humbles me to represent so many bright, talented students.

Consider me first among equals, and first in name only. This year’s Salutatorian, you should know, finished with a GPA only a fraction of a percent less than mine. It could have easily been her behind this podium. When I stopped Wendy in the hallway to deliver the news, she graciously congratulated me, stating, “M.I.T. rejected you, but at least you have an empty title now, right, loser? Maybe Cornell isn’t as remedial as everyone says.”

To Wendy Freeman, I say this. Sweet Daddy-kins may have purchased the M.I.T. admissions committee with a building endowment, but he couldn’t buy you an A-plus in Calc 4, could he? Otherwise you’d be Valedictorian and not Second-Place-atorian. You dummy.

Unfortunately for me, this retort failed to appear in my mind until minutes later, when Wendy had already shambled off to 3rd period. My rejoinder in the moment, “Well, that’s just like your opinion, man,” admittedly fell short of the mark. Big Lebowski quotes have their time and place, but that was not one of them.

Regardless, I would not stand before you today without the tireless work of so many gifted educators. I came to them a tabula rasa, and I leave them now a rich mosaic, etched and colored by the deft hand of their instruction. They gave their wisdom so freely. So selflessly. Not four years ago Mrs. Patterson stayed long after class, well beyond the mandate of her tenure, to discuss an exam with me. I’ll never forget her sage-like words. She said to me, “Stop grubbing for points, you little shit. You earned a 98, so accept it and leave me alone. Go play Dungeons and Dragons or something.”

Well, Linda, I wouldn’t have to grub for points if you knew the first thing about mitosis. Who could have guessed a vapid Art History major would prove so inept at teaching biology?

I wish I had said that. Instead, I broke into an ugly cry and stumbled from the room, having jammed a big toe on the outstretched metatarsals of a life-sized skeleton model. It’s never too late to right the wrongs of the past, though, is it? Moving on.

Who could forget the East Lancing High football team and their historic run of four, that’s right four undefeated seasons. The Spartans, led by quarterback-captain Bryce Hardbody, won yet another state championship, and once again it was all anyone wanted to talk about. Bryce and I have known each other since kindergarten, actually. Not a school day has gone by these past 12 years without him flicking me in the left testicle at least once. I thought I had escaped one Tuesday in 8th grade, but miraculously, he showed up at my front door. He charmed my parents, who, despite my many protests, invited him inside to deliver the dreaded blow. So thanks Mom and Dad, for that.

I’ll never forget the day I met Bryce. We were 5. He approached me, a wide, easy smile on his face, and promptly struck me in the genitalia, declaring, “Taste the rainbow, nerd.”

What a strange skittles reference, first of all. Had you just seen a skittles commercial, Bryce? Was your fetus brain, capable of holding no more than one cognition at a time, straining to release that phrase from the confines of your vacuous skull? And great job assaulting a complete stranger. Had you run out of squirrels to torture in your back yard, you little psychopath?

That would have been satisfying to say. My actual response, which was to urinate prodigiously into my Old Navy shorts, fails to rank among my proudest moments.

But look at me now. Valedictorian. From this day forward, I will leave Bryce and everyone else in the dust of my many achievements. In 10 years I will return for the reunion, rich as Croesus, flexing on you all in alligator skin shoes and a tricked out Tesla flying car. The recently divorced cheerleading squad will be all over this bruised left—

My apologies. If everyone will please check their Twitter accounts this afternoon, I’ll send out a more dignified conclusion to this speech.

Until then, congratulations, East Lancing graduates! We did it!

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