Below is my unedited graduation speech. You can read my full post about graduation here. You can even see the places where it doesn’t make sense, but I powered through it anyway. The live version is obviously different from the version below. Big shout out to the other speakers, Mr. Merlino, and Ms. Widrig for helping me write this speech.

Oh my, there is a lot of you. I never understood why the prevailing advice for speaking in front of large crowds is to imagine them naked.

I really didn’t need to imagine my friends and peers, let alone teachers or family without clothes. That, my friends, is a scaring sight that will forever give me nightmares.

This entire week leading up to today, I was curious why I wasn’t nervous about my speech. Ladies and gentlemen, those nerves have just hit, hard.

Also, while I’m up here, I would like to present a conspiracy theory that I’ve been developing. Looking at you Mr. Dremousis.

Greg Schellenberg and Greg Schwab are the same person.

Let’s seriously look at the evidence: Both of them are named Greg. Both of them have the “sch” in their last name. Both of them played sports in college. And both of them are the same freakishly tall height. Coincidence, I think not.

While I’m here, long time no see running start students! It’s nice to know that you all still exist and joining us for the end here. Seriously, you missed out on the high school experience of fire alarms going off seemingly every week, literal fights over spilled soup, and the making out against lockers. You know who you are. And please, I’m just trying to get to my class guys.

Seriously, how many times did we have to walk on the field? I swear I heard Sherke shout one time “this school BETTER be burning down.” Not to mention, I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but our school is mostly made out of brick. Fun fact: I don’t know if you know this about bricks, but bricks are really hard to burn. Believe me I’ve tried.

[long pause]

Speaking of which, what is wrong with all of you? No senior prank? I’m especially looking at you STEM kids, come on! Last year Seniors let a pigeon terrorize our school, swooping into classrooms, disturbing lectures, and we come up with nothing? I remember turning on the lights after that assembly and everyone just so confused about that darn pidgeon. How did someone even capture a pigeon? How did they sneak it in to an assembly? Why would you want to spend your entire day hiding a pigeon?

Oh, and teachers. Can I share my 476th pet peeve with you? Why is it that deadlines are so stubborn for us, but when it comes to grading assignments, it seems like you can just push that out?

“Oh that paper that was done a month ago? I’ll have that in the gradebook by next week.” Next week comes along, and what do I still see in Skyward? A big old ass- strick. Is there some kind of a late penalty for grading?

Okay, okay, I have to give them a little slack, after all they are human like us. They even have the audacity to gossip about us students in their lunch breaks. If how us students gossip about each other can tell us anything about how the teachers gossip…

[side glare]

Apparently science department is pretty wild over there too, uh oh.

Alright, let’s get on with it.

Good evening faculty, family, friends, that weird uncle that nobody knows about, and recent high school survivors.

My name is Eugene Seubert and I have been sober for… oh wait, hold on, wrong speech.

The staff have made a huge mistake of selecting me for speaking to you today, they don’t realize how dangerous it is to give me a microphone.

None of them got nervous over there. Look at them all smiling. They still they can think fail me out of their class if I go too crazy. Here’s the thing think, I graduate today. You guys have no power anymore. Looking at you Ellinger.

While I was writing this speech, I’ll admit, I didn’t know what to talk about. I was wondering, what did I know that you didn’t? We all already know how we shouldn’t procrastinate on homework until 4 in the morning but let’s be honest.

[side glare]

Instead of talking about how GPAs don’t matter in the real world, or the cliche advice that “this is only the beginning, not the end,” I think I’ll talk about a lesson I learned from a camp in the middle of nowhere Washington.

Last July, I was invited to go to a camp called Mt. Triumph. I know, it’s a pretty self-righteous name.

There, we studied things like school climate, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and so much more.

But the largest lesson I learned there wasn’t how to interact with groups or how to chase a rat out of your cabin and into someones (true story),

but the power of vulnerability.

Up until I was at that camp, I was a pretty closed person. Throughout middle school and throughout the first two years of high school, I was holding a secret that barely anybody knew about me.

A secret, that I was so afraid to spill, that I would do anything to keep it. My secret was: my family.

See, I grew up in a household with an alcoholic father.

I remember moments where my dad would pressure me to not tell my mom he was drinking some nights, saying how “I would destroy this family.” Or how I had to hide the bottle when he was going through one of his binges.

I remember once when I took a few days off of middle school to join my family in the family portion of rehab. When I came back, it seemed like all of friends were wondering where I went. My answer? A ski trip. Here’s the thing: I have absolutely no idea how to ski.

But I was so worried of the shame and the judgement. Whether it be the “judgment” passed from friends, or the “shame” at family functions, it was a pressure that I wouldn’t wish on any of my enemies.

When I was a kid, I had to lie about my dad when he wasn’t around. My mom and I would be at one of those large chinese family dinners and if someone would ask where my dad was, I would have to lie. Not only that, my mom and I would have to coordinate to make sure our lie was the same.

Keeping this inside wasn’t healthy. I would never get close to anybody. I knew that I wasn’t the only kid in the world with this secret, but I still felt so alone and isolated. It was controlling me, what I did, and how I would interact with people.

Back to the middle of nowhere Washington, where the trees were many and the cell phone service nonexistent. Side note: if you ever have seen a teenager without cell phone coverage, it’s like seeing a fish out of water. Each time they are bored and want to escape, the pull out their phone, and go “oh yeah.” Then, the panic sets, their eyes widen, their heart skips a beat… you get the idea.

One day our camp counselor made us sit in a group with those blue desk chairs facing outwards in a circle.

The entire camp, the counselors and activities had been poking at us about we were suppressing. What was controlling you? What were the secrets that you thought would bring that judgement and fear? What were the darkest of them that affected your story so much, but nobody knew about? Which defined you, yet, you hid from everyone, including the people close to you?

We then wrote these anonymous letters to the group. When I wrote mine, I debated sharing.I was so red faced when I ended writing that letter, thinking that the letter I wrote would identify me, and my greatest fears would come true.

That day, that hour, was the most intense I have ever experienced, but also the most relieving I have ever experienced.

These were people who I thought were so strong and never had a secret. The people in the hall the always smiles at you, or seems like they have all of their life together. That they they shed light about their own personal demons, or even their own families. Whether that demon was self confidence, their depression, their loss of a loved on, or if their parent too had a substance problem, they let down their walls, and were vulnerable.

If it wasn’t for that day, I wouldn’t be out here talking to you. I wouldn’t be able to take the risks I have taken, I wouldn’t have been able to work so well in my ASB groups, and I certainly wouldn’t be so open as I am today, speaking to all of you.

It was a relief and a smack in the face that I was not alone. I almost cried in that room, not because of the anxiety of my letter being read, but hearing other people’s stories, stories that I would have never known about them. Things that defined them, but nobody ever knew.

After that, we all looked at each other and took a walk. Nobody judged and nobody shamed. That fear that if I shared what I have been holding back, that everybody would look down from a high perch to me was a myth. Instead, we were all there for eachother. We all realized that we all hid something, but there was no reason to. That everybody has their challenges in life, and what matters is that we help each other through them.

It was also no coincidence that we learned how to be vulnerable at a leadership camp. People often think that vulnerability is a bad thing — that spilling your secret shows weakness. That crying in front of a crowd is somehow cowardly.

But all of that is wrong. It takes guts, bravery, and courage, to take the risk and break down those walls. And once you stop letting your secrets control you, you can start controlling them.

Let’s take the #MeToo movement for example. If it wasn’t for women sharing their stories, something that they kept a secret inside them for so long, something that they knew society might judge them for, and share with a simple hashtag, corrupt men in high power would still be there. The Harvey Weinstein and the Matt Lauer’s of the world were brought down because a few women started to say #MeToo, then a few more said it, and soon we saw a global movement. This shows that vulnerability is necessary, that it powers change, and using it makes you a leader, not somebody who is weak.

If today, you are hiding something that defines you, I beg of you, demolish those walls down. Take control of what is controlling you. And use it for good. Now, I’m not saying to do it right this moment, but find the time to be vulnerable to that significant other, that family member, or those friends, to tell them what your story is. If I can do it infront of all 3000 of you, you can do it too.

So class of 2018, be brave, be bold, be courageous, be the best you can be, and most of all, be vulnerable.

Thank you, have a goodnight, congratulations class of 2018, and go hawks.

Categories: High School

1 Comment

Joyce Wheeler · June 17, 2018 at 10:02 pm

I am so proud of you, Eugene! These are very wise words from someone so young but you have been through a lot. Keep being vulnerable, authentic and awesome. I can’t wait to see where your life takes you next and I know you will do amazing things. Way to go kiddo!! Hugs to you and your mom. -Joyce

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