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Embrace being under construction

AHS graduation speeches

Olivia Moir, honors speaker, addressed commencement at Arlington High School on June 3, 2023. 

Faculty, staff, family, friends, Arlington High School class of 2023: I am grateful to have this opportunity to share my thoughts with you on this momentous day.

Exposed beams and broken tile, columns and clock towers,

We started off our 4-year journey 

In a different world. Sometimes I 

miss the chipped mosaics of students past, 

the unsanctioned murals on the big stall wall,  

the crabgrass creeping through cracks of the little courtyard. 

Those creaky, cramped auditorium seats.  

“Under Construction” is a phrase we’ve grown used to,

This town, this school, this student body. 

New stores, new schools, rise up in place of the favorite and familiar, a jarring replacement of what used to be. Sophomores become seniors, unrecognizable to those who were absent for the journey. Buildings and bodies shift and stretch and surprise.

In this half-finished building, now more than ever, we understand the pains that come with growth. 

Just as we can’t judge this building in its imperfect state, we must have grace for those who walk its halls, as they themselves are undone.

It’s hard to be both project manager and project

managed. Architect and blueprint. Artist and art.

For some, everything goes according to plan,

the blueprint is executed flawlessly,

rising from lines on bond paper, an exact replica of the prototype.

They follow the timeline to a T, never bust a budget, never miss a deadline,

They chose their college at age 10.

They’re wearing that college T-shirt under their gown. 

For some, the path is more of a labyrinth, with each turn a surprise.

They pause, they change their minds, they retrace their steps, they call for help.

They wonder if they’re headed in the right direction at all.

They’re the master painter, painting over their old artwork,

scrapping the traditional for the transcendent.

They’re the sculptor shaping a clay slab

into a mug, then a vase, then a bust. 

Today, we celebrate completion, but we are not complete.

This town, this building, this student body will continue to shift and stretch and surprise.

Change will come with each brick laid and each ribbon cutting, with each road repaved and pothole filled, with each tree planted and dollar donated, with each vote cast and oath taken. With each graduation and matriculation. With each birth and each death, when unions are forged and dissolved. Change will come, whether you’re following your blueprint, or you are chainsawing your way out of the labyrinth.

Change will come. Embrace being under construction. 

This expression of opinion at the 2023 Arlington High School commencement was published Sunday, June 4, 2022.

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