Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond
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An Open Letter to My High School’s Class of 2011.
BY MICKI BURTON
Dear Class of 2011 of My High School,
Giving the commencement address has been my dream since I was a freshman. The prestige. The fame. The chance to leave a mark on my peers that would last forever. Since the Class of 2010 graduated, I have been writing, re-writing, editing, deleting, crumpling, pounding, and scratching out my draft. The speech itself veered from the conventional graduation speech; not once did I mention the Class of 2011 or congratulate you all. But the message was inspirational enough and thanked all the proper people. It was by no means perfect, but it was what it was.
The day I found out that I was not chosen to speak was, coincidentally, the day I realized that if I gave my speech, I would be lying through my teeth.
Look, I realize not everyone is mature, and that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to be, but what I witnessed that day made me incredibly angry. My Popular Literature classmates and I had decked out the school hallways with Post-it notes that had positive phrases written on them. We called this “Kindnesspalooza.” Our simple goal was to hold a weeklong event that encouraged people to go out of their way to be kind to others. Hold a door. Pick up some trash. Compliment someone. It would be pretty hard to fuck that up. It would be incredibly easy to just ignore it and go about your lives as usual. Amazingly, a large number of you chose to go the extra mile and write your own rude and vulgar notes and stick them with the likes of ours (that is, if you didn’t just tear the nice ones down as you came upon them).
This is not to say that it was only the senior class committing these crimes, or that no one was championing Kindnesspalooza. It just infuriated me that this happened at all. Where were you, seniors, to discourage people from doing this? Why weren’t you leading the way? We are young adults, the oldest in our school, on the brink of college and careers and families. We are the future, god damnit! If we can’t get it right on a small scale now, how will we when the stakes are higher, when there are actual stakes?!
Anything and everything one does in life starts with a passion for something. Enrico Fermi cared about science and that eventually led to him developing the first nuclear reactor. I care about not wetting my pants so I use the bathroom. It seems you cared about seeing the Post-it notes my class worked hard on flutter to the floor, so you ripped them down. But why? Fermi wanted to advance nuclear technology and develop quantum theory. I want sweet relief. What satisfaction comes from writing a rude note or destroying someone’s hard work?
I wanted to leave you all with something uplifting as we moved on to the next chapter of our lives. But I cannot, not only because school administration prohibits me from doing so, but also because my words for you are no longer uplifting. They are cold, angry, but mostly frank. Some of you will go on to do spectacular things; you will change the world and help many because your hearts are big, you are aware of the needs of your surroundings, and you thirst for knowledge and success. But some of you will fall right through the cracks. You lack maturity to be taken seriously and the drive to change that fact. You just don’t care. And when you enter this so-called “real world” pretty soon, the people that tried to nurture you to some semblance of a person with manners in high school will be gone. You will be on your own; if you screw up, there will be very few people that will come running to help you.
Graduates, I, first of all, thank you. I have loved my time in high school, the good and bad, and that is because I have been surrounded by all of you. As much as I would love to recollect fondly on my high school career to a stadium full of people, it’s probably better that I don’t get the chance. I would be committing a lie of omission, arguably the most deceiving lie of all. Graduation speeches aren’t completely honest; they sometimes turn out to be nothing more than a shameless promotion for a school. The time limit further restricts what can and cannot be said. Still, I worked hard on my speech and was hoping for the best. It was my dream, after all. You, however, turned the burn of rejection into a dull, almost non-existent tingling sensation on the tip of my nose.
Nevertheless, Class of 2011, I just don’t know about you. I want to have faith you’ll learn the error of your ways and eventually grow up. And really, as much as I deeply loathe some of you because of your immaturity, I want to see you succeed. I want you to find something you deeply care about and turn it into a nuclear reactor or a trip to the bathroom to relieve yourselves. Once you know the feeling of success and fulfillment, you will find happiness in hard work. Inevitably, your happiness will lead to you projecting kindness, and all I ever wanted was for you to be kind. But that is all up to you.
Congratulations, I suppose.
– Micki Burton
Student Council Secretary
Commencement Speaker Reject
Pretentious and Concerned Classmate
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