During the first week of my senior year of high school, my entire class was called to a meeting—it was time to vote for class officers. As my peers filled the auditorium, our class advisor stood before us with a sheet of paper in one hand and a pen in the other. Her eyes followed each of us as we filed in and took our seats. She quieted us with a single look and the raise of her hand—in it was the paper. She asked for volunteers for class secretary, class treasurer, and eventually vice president. Each positon held six or seven candidates. When it finally came time to find someone willing to volunteer for class president, the room fell silent. At face value, being senior class president seemed like an invaluable opportunity. It couldn’t hurt to add a leadership position to my resume. It looked great on college and scholarship applications, yet no one wanted the position. Without reading too much into the situation I raised my hand. As soon as my hand transcended my forehead, the class advisor had her pen scribbling on the piece of paper and the entire row of students sitting before me turned around to see who raised their hand. I had won by default. My original confusion dissipated as I consumed myself in the act of deciding which of my friends I was going to vote as my right hand man (or woman).
After class ended that day I went to my advisor’s office to pick up the president’s itinerary for the year. I flipped through the papers and waved a goodbye, tossing the packet into my bag. Later that night as I was filling my planner with all of my duties for the upcoming year, I made my way to the last entry in the book: “Present speech at graduation”. Suddenly I understood why no one raised their hand at the meeting—no one wanted to speak at graduation. In the off chance that I wasn’t afflicted by a crippling fear of public speaking, this may not be a concern, but a concern it was. In the past 3 years of high school, select projects required the students to speak in front of the class occasionally in groups, frequently alone. At all occasions I faced the same ailments: rushed speech, shaky voice, uneven breathing, and all around increased fidgeting. Not only would they all occur at once they would happen in front of hundreds of people. Needless to say, already my heart started to race and my eyes urgently tried to escape their sockets.
Over the next thirty-three weeks I successfully omitted the idea of a graduation speech from my memory. Soon enough that caught up to me, and about a week before the graduation ceremony my advisor called me to her office to talk. When I got there she asked me to sit down. She began telling me the rules of graduation and what was expected of the president at the ceremony. As I saw the graduation brochure lying open on her desk, my memory quickly returned. Halfway down the list I saw my name, bolded and starred. I had completely forgotten about the speech and graduation was only five days away. She asked my when I could get her a copy of my speech to pre-read and approve before the ceremony, so after our goodbyes, I ran to the library to do some research. I logged on to the computers and did a quick google search of graduation speech prompts, ideas, and advice. Three hours later I had an idea of what I wanted my classmates to feel, but I had no idea how to use my words to persuade my desired response.
I made my way back home and began the task of actually writing the speech. I was faced with the fact that I would be the last person to speak to the whole class before we threw our caps and went our separate ways. I felt the immeasurable pressure of saying something that was going to be life-changing. I had to give them a piece of wisdom when the truth was I was still looking for it myself. I eventually typed up a speech. I spent the next day reading and rereading, adding and deleting, I finally had a finished product. The next day I handed my advisor the finished speech. She smiled and said she’d get back to me soon.
The day before the graduation ceremony I heard back from my advisor saying my speech was approved. I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.
Then next morning I went to my graduation ceremony and told the people who had been my best friends for the last thirteen years goodbye. As I walked to the podium I saw my classmates—my friends. During my speech I realized that the most important thing I could tell my classmates was exactly what I was feeling, because I knew they were feeling the same thing too.
A lot of the time writing is the author’s way of expressing a personal feeling. This was especially true about the graduation speech. That day, it didn’t matter that my speech wasn’t perfect grammatically or otherwise, all that mattered was that I went up to that podium and spoke with purpose. I wasn’t speaking just to hear myself talk, I was speaking for my peers to hear me and to understand me.
One of my main goals in writing is to present concise statements that flow from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, and are easy to read. This was especially important while writing my graduation speech because I actually had to present it orally. Some things read well on paper, but sound forced or awkward when spoken. My largest goal when writing this essay was to create an advanced level of flow and readability. Taking time away from editing allows me objectively read through the essay to check for readability and word choice—two things that are hard to identify if you have read the same sentence ten to twenty times while editing and revising.
In the end I learned a lot about myself while writing my speech. When completing this assignment, I returned to the speech and read it again. Even in just the few months since graduation’s passing there are things I would change if given the chance. I believe a large part of becoming a better writer is to look back at what you’ve done before. Without an idea of what is wrong or what could be better, you cannot improve. With this in mind, I think I can greatly improve my writing skills this semester. Within this semester I hope to improve the ease of which I write and also to increase the level of confidence I have in my writing.