Six years ago, I was sitting in a white, sun-warmed chair (much like the one you’re sitting in right now). It was Khalsa’s last day of school, and the graduation ceremony was taking place in this very field—the same field where I had played countless games of capture-the-flag and Wall Ball. I was sitting in a row of final-years, ready to march onstage when my name was called. In the meantime, my legs were shaking restlessly as I tried to recall the lyrics of our graduation song, “Hello, Goodbye” by The Beatles.
I don’t remember a whole lot about that day. Details like who the graduation speaker was or what she talked about have slipped my mind. But I do remember at least two things: (1) it was hot outside, and (2) the graduation speaker started her speech by saying, “You’re probably sweating right now.” Back then, I had no idea that I would become the person I am today: the Stanford-bound valedictorian of my high school. I had no idea that I would eventually write and direct an award-winning music video about calculus, or represent Arizona in a national poetry contest, or co-found a charity that would raise over $14,000 to build a drinking well in South Sudan. No, at the time, I was just a sweaty final-year with an infinite imagination and a boundless curiosity.
That day, I felt a weird mix of emotions. On one hand, I was excited to move on to a new chapter, filled with lockers and bells and all the things I had seen in Disney shows but never actually experienced. At the same time, I was sad to leave Khalsa and its loving, supportive community behind.
But as the years went on, I came to realize that I never really left Khalsa behind. And no, I’m not just talking about the fact that I have returned to every Holiday Show and Spring Carnival since I graduated. I’m talking about the fact that even today, six years after graduating, I still apply the lessons I learned at Khalsa to my life. Lessons like you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions during Homework Handout. Or that it’s better to do the job right the first time than to get called out by the Job Checker. Or that when life gets you down, sometimes you just need to close your eyes and listen to the ringing of a bowl.
Khalsa has made me the person I am today, and for that, I want to say “thank you.” Thank you for the lasting memories, indelible experiences, and amazing relationships. I will never forget the Friendly Pines trips, YMCA visits, or Thanksgiving feasts. Over twelve years ago, I walked into the front gates of Khalsa for the first time, and I definitely wasn’t the same person walking out.
To the final-years here today, you have all grown into intelligent individuals who will leave a great legacy on the Earth. But this growth wouldn’t have been possible without the environment that Khalsa provided—an environment that allowed human empathy and childlike curiosity to flourish. I still remember learning about division from the Test Tubes, cutting polygons into triangles with Ms. Lindsay, and diagramming sentences with Ms. Karen. Throughout your years here, you have had the privilege of learning not so much “what to think” but instead “how to think.” Sure, you were taught mathematical concepts, but what you truly learned was how to persevere when you failed to understand all of those concepts. You were taught grammar, but what you truly learned was how to communicate thoughtfully. And you were taught art, but what you truly learned—and what you’re left with today—is imagination.
Ultimately, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future, but if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that the students here today will make a big impact on the world. After all, you’re the class that organized a food sale for the Sojourner Center. You’re the class that wrote and organized a silent play about biomes. And you’re the class that took the initiative to surprise Ms. Lindsay with a pair of orange Converse shoes. You should all be proud of your achievements, and now, it’s finally time to move forward.