‘We all have a right to go after what we dream of’

Justin Cho delivers the valedictory address during the Gilroy High School graduation ceremony Friday.

Before I get started, I’d like to thank some people that deserve some recognition. I want to thank the parents, teachers, school faculty, fellow students and friends. I believe that we’ve already thanked the parents but please don’t forget to thank them again when you’re asking them for money for college.

Also, I would ask that you please do not turn off your electronic devices. Leave them powered up and recording, photographing and tweeting all that comes off this stage in the next few minutes.

I just can’t express how honored I am to be speaking in front of all of you today. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this at all, that was a lie. (Make sure they know you’re kidding.) When Dr. Sanchez gave me the notice that I would be making this speech in front of all of you, I decided to prepare with the same intensity as many of you would for an important research paper. So late last night I started working, I drank a can of Red Bull, played a couple of hours of Call of Duty and then opened up my browser.

 For those of you who don’t know me, as Dr. Sanchez introduced me, my name is Justin Cho. And to set the record straight for those of you who were wondering, I am Korean; not Japanese, not Chinese, not Vietnamese or any other Asian race you can imagine up, but Korean. And to further answer the curious, I am not North Korean, but South Korean. That’s the country under the one we always hear about in the news.

I suppose because I’m Asian the typical stereotypes come to mind. He must be really smart, a bad driver and do nothing but study. All of these rumors are true. It’s a fact that Asians do fairly well in school, only because they have parents at home who will punish them for getting a B+. I’m not kidding. I remember I came home from school one day and my mom called me over. She pointed at the computer screen and asked, “Justin, what is this?” I replied, “Ummmm, an A in English?” She said, “No Justin, that’s an A- and I’m concerned for you. You better bring that up to an A or you know what.” This essentially sums up my academic career throughout my life. This sounds like a bad situation, but I truly thank my parents for I would not be where I am at today: without a girlfriend and going to college, to study even more. With all sincerity, I love you Mom and Dad.

But I am not here to talk to you about me; I am here to inspire you, by talking about me. So everyone is aware, we are now entering the meaningful portion of the speech. This is where I will attempt to give you advice, that I probably won’t get right, and that you probably won’t listen to. Ready? Let’s do this thing. We have been told as children to follow our dreams, but what if it’s a stupid dream? Ten-year-old me had a dream of playing ping-pong for a living, but thankfully dreams can change. If all of us went with our first dream, the world would consist of superheros and princesses.

Whether it is becoming a doctor or a lawyer or a millionaire or even a professional ping-pong player, we all have a right to go after what we dream of, which is probably the biggest cliché of all graduation speeches. What is more important about our dreams is that they will change – and that’s OK. One could chase a single dream, convinced that it is their purpose and the key to success, and reach it just to find that they don’t feel the satisfaction they craved. Such disappointments are a part of life. But through those disappointments can be the realization of one’s true dream.

In closing, I’d like to share a quote by Conan O’Brien: “Work hard, be kind and amazing things will happen.” The quotes meaning goes without saying. And if some of you don’t remember a single thing I said during this speech, just remember this: Through disappointment you can gain clarity and with clarity comes conviction and true originality. I thank you for this honor and congratulations to the Class of 2012.

– Justin Cho, Gilroy High School valedictorian

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