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May 19, 2014

St. John's Prep Class of 2014 valedictorian speaks to peers

Transcript of Alec McNiff's speech at the 'Prep


Up to 80 percent of rising college freshman admit that they are uncertain of what they want to major in and by the time they graduate over 50 percent of them change their major. Who knows, the star athlete majoring in business may switch to a theatre major. If you asked me what I’m going to do next year in college, I would probably say I’m thinking about economics, but I’m also interested in government and statistics. Maybe I’ll try to join the crew team or even write for the school newspaper. I’ve never studied Arabic, and I’ve never tried acting. To be honest, I don’t know. And that’s the beauty of it. If I’ve learned anything at the Prep, it’s that life doesn’t require an outline, and, honestly, never really presents one on its own. Rather than plan to follow the expected path, the safe cliché set of choices, let’s be cautious, even suspicious, of planning, at least for now.

So, Class of 2014, let us not be cookie-cutter clichés. Blaise Pascal, the famous mathematician and physicist once said, “The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality”. Albert Einstein couldn’t speak fluently until he was 12 years old. No one expected him to be a genius. Larry Bird dropped out of Indiana and became a construction worker for about a year before returning to college basketball. Arnold Schwarzenegger left his body building career to become an actor. He then left his acting career to become governor of California. Then went back to acting. Or at least tried. The point is, the originality and innovation that we all seek will not come easily, but it will come, eventually.

Finally, one cliché that we can’t avoid today is gratitude. We could not have earned these caps and gowns without the help of others. I’d like to personally thank the people that got me through high school: my loving parents, my supportive siblings, my incredible peers and friends, my challenging teachers and mentors, and most importantly, whey protein.

Congratulations to the St. John’s Prep Class of 2014. I’ll miss you boys. Thank you.

Alec McNiff is the valedictorian of the Class of 2014 at St. John's Preparatory School. McNiff and his classmates graduated yesterday, May 18, on the Danvers campus.

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