By Tristan Mora
Grosse Pointe North Class of 2012
Accepted at Oxford University in England
I begin this speech with a greeting, one of the final salutations that we, the graduating class of 2012, will hear on this day that must ultimately culminate in goodbyes. There is much to be said with “goodbye,” which is the recognition of parting, of ending. For some of us it will be only until tomorrow or next week, and for others of us it will be an acknowledgement of a longer separation, it will resound solemnly with notes of forever. Not only will we leave , maybe Grosse Pointe, even Michigan, and each other, but we will depart from a piece of ourselves. In only a short while we shall rise from our seats as men, and should we choose to look back, as we are walking proudly away, upon the last 18 years, we will find we have left children behind where we sat in these chairs. As it is, 18 years counts 9,460,800 minutes, and a few moments stand between us and putting them all away. That will be a great farewell.
“All children, except one, grow up.” J.M Berry was of course referring to the famous Peter Pan. Peter ran away, escaped, from the world of school and work and men, saying, “I want always to be a little boy, and to have fun.” There is something to that, to hanging on to what we have loved the most in the millions of minutes we have spent thus far removed from a world of responsibility, of decisions to be made and challenges that make or break us, a world alone. Our parents, certainly, will no longer be our barriers, but so also will they cease to be our shields. We will be out in the open at 18, easy prey to all we have ever been protected from and at the mercy of our still teenaged whims. In the face of reality, there may be some Peter Pans out here today. For myself, as graduation is extremely imminent, I remember my minutes, and I remember my mom first taking me to Disney World. I held hands with Mary Poppins while we walked through MGM Studios and I had to be carried back from the fireworks at Cinderella’s Castle because I fell asleep, When You Wish Upon A Star practically playing in the background. How carefree I recognize that time from my somewhat matured perspective, when I see my six-year-old self escorted through parades and rides, past people in costumes, through restaurants for each meal of the day and staying in beautiful hotels. My mother did all of this for me, when I had not a thought of the expense or the inconvenience, the time and her fatigue, all invested in one experience, all invested in me. The idea that I am shifting now from one role in that scenario towards the other can be overwhelming. But I do not know how to get to Neverland, and my supply of pixie dust is vanishing, just as the part of me that I am preparing to leave behind today fades in my currently empty seat. But do I want to go? Am I ready to leave? Then I think, as I look out at all of us here today, why would we want to stay? We are not afraid. We have been doing this same show, our show, for 9,460,800 minutes, and it is time to move on. There was a point in his great tale when Peter Pan believed he saw the end of himself, the end of the eternal sunshine of his remarkable life and he smiled and knew only, “to die will be an awfully big adventure.”
Now, we are almost as far from death as we could be, especially when you consider that the average one among us will add another 29, 959,200 minutes to the ones I have already mentioned, but we are at an ending. This act concludes to make way as a new one begins, bright and fresh and unique for each of us. I have traveled quite a bit through Mexico and farther south and I have learned that, according to legend, the quetzal, one of the most exotic and beautiful birds of Central America, will die if ever captive or caged. There is something out there that it refuses to live without. The quetzal is the symbol of the Guatemalan people, of freedom, just as the figure of the Norseman is ours. I believe this something that calls to the quetzal is the same force that once called the Norseman out to sea. The world. Adventure is out there, we cannot find it if we do not answer the call. We will peer, shortly, outside of our bubble, and find that yes, we are on our own, but that that is the beauty of it—this is more our time than any other has or will be again. We will be set free. And we are ready. Dissect our minutes, and we can see the true vastness of their expanse—the dedication to learning, to growing, to readying ourselves for what is coming. Twelve years of formal education, with the help of our teachers, and even more years of informal instruction from our parents and our friends, and from us. Put our minutes together and we find a catalogue of all the pieces of ourselves. It is with these full resumes that we dare to advance into new territory, our past will beget our future. The Peter Pan, the child, in each of us, is not lost, we are built upon his foundations, but we are grown up. Our greatest farewell is now our biggest adventure.
To close this speech, I thought to offer something meaningful: truth. There are bold exploits ahead of us all, there are pirates and battles, magic and love and possibility, but they not a given. It is all relevant to the effort and sincerity we choose to weave into the minutes ahead. For our time is only measured in minutes, and however strong in number they are perpetually slipping by without our consent. There is no should have, would have, or could have—they are the bars that will suffocate us—there is only did. A person who is able to make each minute count in a way that renders quantity immaterial, to delve deeper into the world than sixty seconds can reach, lives to fulfillment, to actualization, lives a life that transcends reality itself, to find Neverland in themselves. Can we do it? Can we cast off and fly from the cage into the next phase of our lives that begins tonight? We do not fear the unknown more than the unknown must fear us for we are coming. We are the class of 2012.
Grosse Pointe North Principal Tim Bearden said Mora's speech was one of several submitted and considered. He described Mora as "an outstanding student at North."