Hello friends, family, and faculty, I’m here to represent the only class at the high school that had one full normal year. I’m so grateful to be here today giving this speech because I know that all of you thought this morning, “You know what I want today? Age-old wisdom from an 18 year-old.” And that’s what I’m here to give you. I want the students and audience to understand how much we, the students, learned from this experience. Now to start off with a quote from Dr. Seuss.

I’m kidding. No one wants to hear any of that. I’ll try to keep this speech as empty of clichés as possible, which will be difficult and I probably won’t do well at it, but for your sake I’ll try.

I was thinking about what typically goes into a graduation speech and thought about reminiscing on the past four years, looking back on memories. I was trying to think of shared memories between all of us but the only one I kept coming back to was the semester in which the only time we talked to each other was during those awkward three minutes when our teacher would force us to do work in a breakout room. I don’t think that’s something any of us want to think about.

Okay, what’s something we do want to think about? Something memorable and nice that we did in the past four years. Well a few of us played Quidditch in Ms. Kurtz’s class, hopefully starting a tradition that will continue for years to come. So what else?

I don’t think it’s fair to sum up high school in stories and memories of what happened to us. And I’m not just saying that because of a lack of... stories worthy enough for this moment. What’s more important than what happened is what we did; how we adapted to a changing community and world and how we impacted it.

Some of us are leaving the Island for university, some for travel or work, some for service. Some of us will stay. All of us will be trying to figure things out. Where is our place in the world? It is easy to feel scared and powerless...climate change, gun violence, the divide and conquer nature of politics, increasing racism, decreasing womens’ rights, I can go on and on . . . This is the landscape we are inheriting. And it’s easy to feel hopeless when that’s our present. But we stand on the shoulders of giants. If we work hard and stay focused, we can build a better future on the infrastructure given to us.

Growing up on Martha’s Vineyard makes us special. We are special. We have watched our community fight it out all our lives! Remember the round-about? Squibnocket bridge? It’s who we are. We don’t shy away from trying to make change, even though it sometimes takes a long time and a lot of fighting. This character trait will serve our generation very well.

We can already find examples of this fighting and dedicated spirit just in this class. Recently we’ve had students organize an Islandwide climate summit and discussion, a walkout to honor the 21 people killed in Uvalde, a student organized a fundraiser that raised nearly $2,000 for the Island Food Pantry, and students have participated in climate, black lives matter and women’s marches.

Now I mentioned how it’s difficult to be optimistic when so much is happening around us; lucky for me I’m surrounded by people willing to work towards a better world. While asking my classmates about future plans, it seemed like every other person was planning in majoring in environmental science. At first I was a bit jealous because it made me less special but then I thought about how inspiring that is. The students being honored today are students who found beauty and importance in the incredible nature of the island, who were inspired by it and now find value in protecting and researching it. This island inspired us to strive for change, to want to fight for it. It encourages me, and many of my classmates, to pursue environmental action, to ensure that it’ll be around whenever we, and future generations, come back.

I’ve talked a lot about how we’re going to change the world and shape it into what we want it to be. That seems daunting and impossible, especially considering we’re only at our high school graduation. What impact will a few teenagers have on the world? We’ll be studying, working, learning how to be adults; we won’t have time to enact great change. Fortunately, even the smallest thing, such as where we spend our money, makes an impact, however minor. That, in a consumer society, is our greatest power. You can decide what you support with your money and time, our most valuable assets. We can now decide where to work and what to study, we’re about to have more freedom than we’ve ever had before, no matter where you go after today. We can use that freedom to do great things, however minimal they seem to be. I know this is cheesy, sorry everyone, but we will be inheriting this community and world, all parts of it, so everything we do matters, which is something to be excited about and look forward to.

I know I just delivered one of the most cliché speeches and topics (you are the future, seriously?), but this idea resonates with me, as I hope it does for others. I can’t to see what waits for us after today and I know we will be prepared for whatever that may be. We are endowed with a fighting spirit and a strong desire for something different.

Congratulations to the class of 2022 and thanks for listening to the wise ramblings of an 18-year-old.

Ingrid Moore is class valedictorian for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School class of 2022. This is her graduation speech, delivered at commencement ceremonies Sunday at the Tabernacle.