The following is the text of the speech given by Wakefield Memorial High School's Class of 2012 Salutatorian Mark Bucchieri at WHS's graduation ceremony on June 2, 2012.
Once again, thank you for joining us to honor the graduating class of 2012. We welcome you on this day to an event that many of us, parents included, can’t believe is finally happening. Today is a day to reflect back with fondness upon the last four years. Today is also a day to look forward with excitement toward the new steps that each one of us will soon be taking with our lives. Mixed with the sadness of parting from the setting we grew up in is the thrill of having an opportunity to reinvent ourselves: as we go forth from Wakefield High, each of us has the opportunity to decide how the world will see us for the rest of our adult life. The people we meet in the future, whether through a new job, service in the armed forces, or college, will judge us based on our personality and our actions as we choose to present ourselves.
All of us can recall moments in our lives that we wish we could take back. But at the same time, we have all made choices that definitely changed our lives for the better. Where would you be today if you hadn’t decided to take that particular class, play a new sport, or reach out to people who may now be your best friends? We have all been advised to learn from our mistakes in order to minimize regret; but how can you learn from a mistake if you never took the chance to make it? It is much better to try and fail than to pass up a new opportunity or experience, even if you are uncertain of the results.
Over the course of high school, each member of the graduating class has learned from his or her mistakes and has seized opportunities in order to reach where he or she is today. Although the time has certainly come to reflect back with pride upon these accomplishments, it is also time to think about who we will become in the very near future. In a film made by senior class member Jacqui Carriere, students answered the question: “what do you want to do when you grow up?” Student responses ranged from careers as doctors to freelance videographers and from digging a hole to China to stealing a penguin. Members of the class of 2012 want to travel, want to teach, and more than anything want to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. Now we can begin to make these visions of ourselves a reality. For the first eighteen years of our lives the members of the graduating class have all received a very similar education, but the time has finally come for each of us to focus on the specific knowledge and skills that will serve us for the rest of our lives. Many graduation speeches tend to advise people either to follow their hearts or to embark on the journey to success. Why not try to do both? Think back to the countless teachers you encountered through elementary, middle and high school: the ones who were invariably the most interesting and engaging were also those who enjoyed their jobs the most. Now I’m not saying that everyone here is destined to teach in Wakefield, but the example of these teachers proves that to be happy with your career and to be good at it are often one and the same thing.
In the coming months and years each of us will be presented with more opportunities than we could possibly have imagined while confined to the structure of a high school education. It is our responsibility to put to work the education we have received in order to find not only what we’re good at doing, but also what we love to do. While some of us may already know what our particular calling is, the vast majority of this class can only find what truly resonates with us by diversifying and trying as many new things as possible. As First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
So what does this mean for the graduating class? Well for the next month or two it may mean little or nothing: most of us will be relaxing or working at the same summer jobs as we have in previous years. But as we move our separate ways and Wakefield High School becomes a part of our past, our actions and choices will affect who we are to a greater degree than at any other time in our lives. As always, it’s important to avoid bad decisions and to make choices that reflect what we believe. But it is equally important to take risks and to pursue experiences that may never again be available. Don’t just avoid the things you’ll regret doing, but actively seek out the experiences you’ll regret not having. In twenty years you’ll look back and think of the things you did and the paths you followed, for better or for worse. You probably won’t remember the mistakes you never had a chance to make. Thank you and congratulations to the class of 2012!