For the past year, I have been looking forward to the day when I would finally graduate. I just didn’t realize how quickly it would come. Last Friday, it finally did! I was lucky enough to be able to give a speech in front of my graduating class, and I thought I would share it here. If you are interested in seeing my graduation vlog, I’ll leave it below as well. Thank you so much to my family, mentors, teachers, and peers who helped me get here. I love you all.
Good evening everyone. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sadie Allen. I would first like to say that it is an honor to be able to speak in front of you all today. Before I start, I would like to thank my parents for pushing me to pursue this goal and not pushing me off a cliff (which I’m sure they wanted to do many times). I would also like to thank the many mentors and teachers I had along the way who always encouraged and supported my endeavors. Lastly, I would like to thank my peers. Congratulations to all of you. We did it.
For most of my life, I believed that learning was a finite point-- one that could be condensed into a thin piece of paper that could be framed and hung on a wall for later viewing. I have found that many people view an education in this way. In my younger years, this was the end for me. Learning was limited to classrooms, homework, and high school in my mind. I had not considered what was beyond receiving a diploma and I certainly hadn’t considered that learning was anything other than this.
During my final year of high school, I had the pleasure of working as an after-school tutor at Saluda Elementary. It was a wonderfully nostalgic experience. While I was approaching a monumental end to my educational journey in Polk County, the kids I worked with were just embarking on theirs. When I wasn’t drawing shark pictures, checking math homework, or monitoring intense capture-the-flag games, I spent quite a bit of time getting to know the kids I taught. Despite being younger than me, I found that I had much in common with the children I worked with. Most notably, an insatiable sense of curiosity. Every day for an entire school year, I was faced with dozens of questions, some of which I didn’t always have an answer to. Why does the stuff inside of honeysuckles taste good? Why don’t you have your glasses on today? Why are some people mean to me? Do they have toilets in China? How will I make new friends when I move?
The questions I knew how to answer, I did. For instance, the sweet stuff inside of honeysuckles is nectar and they do, in fact, have toilets in China. Many of the other questions, though, I found that I was still searching for an answer myself. I was reminded of one of my favorite Anthony Bourdain quotes as I searched for these conclusions. “Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.” In this sense, we are all just like the children I tutored at Saluda Elementary: small, curious, and faced with a lifetime of many questions and few answers. It is those asked questions and the continuous pursuit of knowledge that I believe mark a true education-- an education that is meant to grow and expand, not sit framed on a wall.
Before I go, I would like to leave you all with a bit of of advice: never let that childlike curiosity fade as you fly the roost, and hold it close to you no matter where you land. Thank you so much Polk County.