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My Speech at the La Cañada High School Senior Awards Ceremony

Ethan Kim gives a speech to the LCHS 2021 graduating class. (Photo Credit: Edwin Tieu)

The following is the transcript of a speech I gave on June 1rst, 2021, to the La Cañada High School 2021 graduating class, their parents, and the La Cañada High School faculty.

Seniors, teachers, parents, and faculty.

Good afternoon and congratulations to the LCHS graduating class of 2021. Today is a day of celebration. A day where we commemorate the long sleepless nights we spent finishing homework we started at midnight, the time we spent studying for the soon-to-be-canceled SAT, and the awkward class periods with everyone’s Zoom cameras off because of “laggy internet.” On a more sincere note, today is a culmination of thirteen years of education in the making, a testimony to how far we have gone since our first day in Kindergarten. 

Before I begin, I would like to extend a special thanks to the administration for doing a great job facilitating distanced learning during the pandemic. I also would like to thank the teachers who did an exceptional job teaching.

A much-needed thank you to the parents who tried to work online while sharing internet bandwidth with their kids zooming and watching Netflix at the same time. And lastly, a well-deserved thank you to the LCHS faculty that maintained our school and tended to our students. All of you are the reason why we are graduating. 

Now, let’s face it. No one could have predicted COVID-19 and our transition to online learning. And with that, came more competitive college admissions and a scramble to appeal to colleges. In the days leading up to our application results coming out, there was an atmosphere of tremendous uncertainty. Everyone wondered how this pandemic affected their chances and some even feared the library their parents donated was not enough. 

And rightfully so. Simply put, this year’s college admissions season was absolutely brutal. This was a year where it seemed like every prestigious university rejected students with a 5.3 GPA, seven varsity sports, a dozen LCHS clubs, and a letter of recommendation from God himself.

The fact of the matter is that a rejection letter is simply just the beginning. That rejection and feeling of inadequacy will forever be inevitable as long as our ambitious spirit defines our goals. 

Even before college admissions, we all remember staying up till three in the morning studying for a bio quiz or a Math test, the months it took completing the I-Search or the disappointing and solem F on our tests. But recognize that every misstep that we take, every failure that we encounter is an opportunity presenting itself and a trial that will yield profound renewal and conviction. 

While COVID-19 made 2020 and our senior year bizarre, it allowed us to take the unconventional and form it into the unique. When the SAT was virtually canceled in California, various students in our grade traveled from California all the way to Idaho or Arizona to take the SAT. When COVID-19 barred outside extracurriculars, some of us utilized social media to create online tutoring programs and charity organizations to help our community. When COVID-19 prevented indoor gatherings, school extracurriculars like debate, model united nations, choir, theatre, newspaper, Science Olympiad, various athletic teams, and a host of extraordinary LCHS clubs found ingenious online ways to continue their passion. When significant historical events unfolded, a handful of us took to the streets in our first ever protest. When COVID-19 hit the nation the hardest, several of us voted for the first time in a defining presidential election. Even when we changed to Zoom, all of us quickly reshaped our learning and study habits to meet our altered circumstances.

What initially seemed like a crisis became an opportunity to employ our most innovative and creative thoughts for adapting to the seemingly unusual. Some of us accelerated while others faltered, but, no matter the outcome, understand that our greatest accomplishments began and will always begin with a simple motivation to overcome.

Realize that by conquering your fear of the unfamiliar, you will undeniably open channels of ingenuity and embark on unparalleled endeavors. 

And as we enter the final stages of the coronavirus and the preliminary stages of adulthood, we must recognize that the world will eventually look to us when another crisis comes. The world will depend on those of us who will venture into the world of medicine, those of us who will enter the realm of mathematics and technological advancement, those who perform beautifully in the arts, and those of us who will revolutionize the future. And when such a moment arises, we must demonstrate that the graduating class of 2021 is a force to be reckoned with and prove once more that La Canada High School is not just the home to the creative and intelligent but to the bold and resolved. 

Thank you and congratulations. 

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