Valedictorian Speech - Fall 2019 issue

Kieran Kasha, Valedictorian Speech

Good evening. I would like to express my immense gratitude towards the parents, families and friends, faculty and staff, and my fellow graduates for the opportunity to speak on this important occasion. It is a great honour to be delivering the valediction for this group of inspiring individuals; people that I have grown with and have come to deeply respect over the past four years. 

A valediction is the act of saying farewell. It is not merely a call to move forward nor a reflection upon what’s passed. It is an acknowledgment of both an end and a beginning. During the course of the past year, we’ve each been delivering our own valedictions to activities, to the school itself, and to each other. Each of these farewells pulling away a singular petal from the flower of goodbye. Still, we are comforted by the knowledge that reaping the fruits of our past sows the seeds of our future. Valediction is an important part of moving forward as it helps us to realize the extent of our roots. We can see how many people, times, and places we’ve changed with our presence.  Mr. Rogers once said: “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” This simple message is especially poignant now, as our community mourns the recent passing of Mr. Leupold. During his many years as an educator, Mr. Leupold left so much of himself in the Luther community, not only in the lives of his students, but his colleagues, those he coached, and even those he simply talked to. He had a passion for talking to people, for learning about and connecting with others, and he always seemed to know exactly what to say to make someone laugh or feel valued. I always remember our conversations with a smile just as he made so many people smile with his dry sense of humour and his sincere kindness. Mr. Leupold was there for all of us, his eyes alight with sparks of wonder, his voice fueled by a fiery passion for teaching and a compassion for anyone willing to learn. I think that by being open and caring to those around us, we can be the embers of his light and warmth. In choir, Dr. Morgan always says that as soon as you remove just one person from a group, the group fundamentally changes. It will have a different sound, a different dynamic, a different story. Luther will certainly be different without this large graduating class, but it is also changed by the valedictions of singular people: faculty, staff, and each and every one of us. This specific group of individuals, the Luther of this past year, will never happen again. Yet, the memories we made together will follow us wherever our separate paths lead and we can find comfort in the fact that we are destined to make meaningful relationships with the new people that we meet. We don’t have to change ourselves for those connections to happen. We all have an inner light regardless of our differences, regardless of our successes and failures, regardless of any choice we make. Fred Rogers was referring to this light when he said that “you don't ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you.” You don’t have to be prosperous or popular. You don’t have to achieve your dreams to be loved. You just have to stay true to yourself for others to accept you. You just have to stay true to your roots because you can only see where you’re headed if you know where you’ve been. 

One of the most crucial parts of where you’ve been are the spaces you’ve occupied. The physical places where you have lived and learned. We give so much meaning to these spaces. We associate tangible places with intangible memories and emotions and by doing this, specific places become meaningful to us and others. In this way, we have built the halls of Luther into our hearts and minds, allowing us to carry the school itself forward as we continue on in our lives. I’ve spent far too much time at the school. Not as in too much time in the classroom, learning, but in the physical building. It’s definitely my fault for never taking driver training, but I honestly don’t regret the hours I spent meandering through that wonderful old building that I’m leaving behind. I was able to see Luther transform from a learning space to a living space, a phenomenon that I’m sure those of you who are dorm students are used to by now. Staying at school between the end of classes and the beginning of various events allowed me to see the building become an arts centre, a sports arena, or even an entertainment complex. These transformations and renovations that Luther has gone through since it’s construction may have made the school look and feel different, but the foundation has always remained the same; the heart of Luther, its strong community, never changed. It is because of this that I realized that Luther is a shared space. It belongs not only to the students or staff but to anyone that crosses through its doors. The memories, the laughter, the tears, belong to all of us. This is especially important as we become adults, as we become global citizens. The world itself is a shared space that belongs to all of its inhabitants. This calls for a greater awareness of one another and a larger sense of empathy in our interactions with others. Some issues loom so large in our world that they seem impossible to change. Walt Disney believed that the real trouble with the world is that “too many people grow up. They forget.” We grow up and forget where we came from. We forget the spaces that our lives have given meaning. We forget what has influenced us and what we ourselves have influenced. But if we refuse to forget, if we remember our capacity to change each other and ourselves, we know that we can make a small but significant difference in our world. Just as we shaped the shared space of Luther, we can continue to shape the shared space of our world. Even with experience and assurance, change can be daunting. I have certainly felt anxious as my world has extended past Regina’s city limits. And like an endless field of wheat, my future rolls on towards the horizons of change, needing both the rains of caution and the sunlight of courage to grow. 

Change requires courage and so does leaving home. To me, home can be a physical place, a person, a time, or even a feeling. Home is where we feel comfortable, it’s what we’re used to. In some ways, we’re all leaving home, even if we’re staying at the same house. Our friends, our teachers, these past four years, even Luther itself has been a home for us. We’ve grown up, learned, performed, competed, and cheered together in this home. We have lived. But this should not deter us from seeking new horizons. If we can carry home with us and establish it anywhere our heart belongs, we can find stability even in the many changes that will happen over the next few months and for the rest of our lives. We all have the courage to move forward. The fact that we are graduating in spite of the seemingly endless stream of assignments, exams, commitments, and pressures is a testament to this courage. We made it. But now we are called to move forward, to use the strengths that we developed at Luther under the guidance of our caring teachers, parents, and guardians and with the undying power of our determination. It is daunting to step out of the comfort of the past and move untethered into the future, but we know that with the home we carry in our hearts, courage guiding our steps, and the strong Luther community alongside us, we can walk down the often intertwining paths of life. We keep moving forward, one day, one step, one moment at a time. Let us, in this moment of valediction, pause in gratitude for our pivotal past, in celebration of today’s triumphs, and in anticipation for our favourable future. May we have the courage, kindness, and confidence to explore the bright beginning that this beautiful ending has set into motion. We can because, as the astronomer Carl Sagan expressed, “exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.”

I wish you all the sincerest congratulations. Thank you for the past four years. And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: blessings on your life, that concludes high school.