Disrupt The World For Good

It truly was an honor to be named Valedictorian of the Jericho Senior High School graduating Class of 2018. I wanted to share with all of you my graduation speech, so here it is....

Good morning friends, family, loved ones, teachers, and administrators. It truly is an honor to be standing here before all of you today as Valedictorian, representing the Class of 2018.

I want to start off by asking you all a simple question: When you stare in the mirror, do you like who stares back? Do you see only a surface-deep appearance, a blurred image of unused potential, or do you sense the genuine you?—the fortitude that radiates with your reflection, the experiences that have brought you to this instant in time, and the anguish you have not only overcome, but that has served as fuel in your quest to disrupt the world for good.

I’ll be the first to admit it….for a long time, instead of seeing an image of a girl suffused with self-worth, I frowned when I saw my Indian nose or brown, sometimes blotchy skin. I didn’t believe in myself, and in turn, I lost touch with my true nature. But after years of facing this battle that tested my inner strength to its very core, my world changed forever.

I would like to share one particular, transformative moment from this time. The summer before sophomore year, I went on a service trip to Thailand, working in Klong Toey, an impoverished region of Bangkok for 4 weeks. It was there that I met Prateep, a resilient woman who made me realize that limitations are just illusions created by our minds, a pure source of fiction. Prateep grew up with literally nothing—no family, no education, no opportunity to leave the ceaseless cycle of poverty she was born into—and yet, because she lived with the mindset that within every human soul there lies an innate greatness waiting to be unleashed, she disrupted the world for good. Throughout her lifetime, she responded to “No” with “Bring it on!” “No? These children cannot receive a proper education because there are no schools in Klong Toey?” she said. “Watch me build a school with my bare hands; watch me plant bricks of purpose and perseverance over life’s rejections.”

It was from Prateep that I learned there lies something within all of us that is greater than any obstacle. We just have to actively choose to see that sheer will and grit when we look in the mirror. With nothing, she accomplished everything. Imagine what we can do with our invaluable Jericho educations. If we choose to foster our strength by believing in ourselves, we can cure cancer, we can end gun violence, we can create breathtaking art, we can make history, and in doing so, we will change this Earth forever. When we disrupt the world for good,  we give up superficial notions of ourselves and of others, in order to fulfill what we are meant to be together—truly great and grateful.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” So, Class of 2018, when you look in the mirror, disrupt the surface for good, for it’s what lies within us that defines who we are and who we will become. And if you see it in the present, you become it in the future.

**My speech can also be found on Youtube. Click here to watch!!