Relationships offer lessons

Gilroy High School Valedictorian Diego Hsu

Gilroy High School Valedictorian Diego Hsu’s speech from the 2019 commencement ceremony

It is my honor to represent this astounding,graduating class of 2019. First and foremost, I would like to especially thank the administration, the teachers and the faculty members behind the scenes here at Gilroy High. You have all provided us as students with an excellent education while fostering a safe and inclusive learning environment. None of us would have been able to get to this point without a village supporting our every decision, and for that, I would like to thank all of those who have helped us become the people we are toda

None of us get to choose our family or what situation we were born into; we simply have to take what we are given and make the most of it. But it turns out that we all won the birth lottery. We have all been given the gift of education, opportunity and a chance to be the change we seek to see—and for that, we are lucky.

High school has taught us many lessons, but what I have taken away most from this social experience is that it is the relationships we decide to build that teach us most about life. Fortunately for me, I gained this social capital through having a background in sports, by being raised in a multicultural family and by being in accelerated classes. All these elements together gave me exposure to people with completely different backgrounds, identities,and aspirations than mine. It is this social capital which allowed me to build relationships here at GHS with such unique, special and significant people that have taught me so much about the meaning of life.

It saddens me to realize that the days of seeing all these great people every day will be coming to an end as we venture into the next chapter of our lives. However, I like to remind myself of when Dr. Seuss said: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” Before our final farewell,  I’d like to highlight just a few of the many people that make me smile when I look back on this chapter.

The most important figure in my life, the woman many know as Ms. Hsu—the Spanish teacher in colorful dresses and high heels that can be seen dancing swiftly across the classroom—that woman I know personally as my mother, the strongest woman I have ever met. I love you, Mom. Thank you for your unconditional love, your never-ending support, and for showing me that mistakes are an inevitable part of life. You have taught me that the mistakes we make are lessons we will grow from as individuals. And to all the parents out there, thank you for the countless sacrifices you have made that allow us to see our dreams become reality.

To my friend, Brandon Koppelmaa, you showed me what it means to live a life engulfed in kindness. You continue to make this world a happier one by bringing your energy, your smile and your joy with you in every action you make. You inspire me, and everyone around you, to be someone you love. To my closest friends, Brandon Weiler, Joe Barnes and Dallas Gutierrez, you showed me that life is meaningless if you can’t share moments of happiness and laughter with the ones that mean most. We are on our way! This is only the beginning. And to Alexis Robertson, my best friend, you taught me through your own strength that forgiveness must be found in order to open the soul to love. Thanks for always sticking by my side; I appreciate you.

To my most influential teachers, Mr. Treadwell, Mr. Rudy Gonzales, and Ms. Vu, I thank you for being true role models. Mr. T, with your man bun and colorful pants, I thought you could’ve been part of the cast of Glee, but thank you for teaching me to live carefree and with dignity. Thank you for exemplifying that kindness is not a sign of weakness but instead it is the greatest strength one can exhibit to humanity. And Rudy, thank you for your lectures on democracy and philosophy. Thank you for expanding our minds to realize life as we know is not a normality around the globe. That there are kids out there right now not being guided to a path in education but to a path of war and destruction. Thank you for popping our bubble. And Ms. Vu thank you for teaching that we all have a journey but to go about life never in a hurry. Thank you for teaching us to appreciate the sublime times and not to worry, that everything will work out just fine.

In all honesty, I know I can’t flow like GB Jame$ or Daisha Sparks, or dance like Alexandria Felix, or play the tuba like Eric Gjerde, or code like Max Schlapfer, or bring everyone together like King Izzy, but that is completely OK because we all have our own talents, strengths and intelligences to share with this world.

Although I stand here on this stage as valedictorian, intelligence is much more than a perfect GPA or high SAT score or acceptance at a big name university. These factors are not indicative of intelligence. For too long society has associated these things with intelligence, and it is time for that to change.

I’ve learned, through the remarkable people I’ve met, that intelligence is displayed in endless ways in which none are particularly how many words you can read per minute nor how quickly you can solve a math problem. What I’ve learned from my relationships is that everyone has a gift, and that intelligence is simply a measure of competence. It is the ability to do something successfully while having a receptiveness to learn from previous experiences so that we can continue to better ourselves in whatever discipline we practice. That is intelligence; and with that, I believe everyone in this graduating class has the capability to do something truly magnificent in this world.

Finally, if there’s something to take away from this speech, it is these three pieces of advice my good friend, and the best man I know, Brandon Kappalmaa gave to me:

1. Seek Yourself. Ask yourself who am I?

2. Find companionship. Know that in love there will be no mask; and

3. Do not lose sight of your dream.

Thank you and Congratulations Class of 2019, We did it! Fight on!

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