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Hannah Davis speaking at Piute's graduation.

Good evening family, friends, faculty, and most importantly the graduates of 2024. Whether you haven’t shown up to a full day of school since May 1st like Makayla or took your last final yesterday like Mrs. Nowers’ Math 1050 class, (by the way, yes, we did pass!) you have worked so hard to be here and you deserve to be congratulated tonight. 

Although the past 6 years have been filled with ups, downs, lefts, and rights, I think we can all agree that we’re so glad to get the heck out of here. So, I’ll keep this short and sweet for us along with my fellow ADHD-ers out there, however, I still want this speech to have an impact on all of you listening. For that reason, I chose a topic that I feel is particularly important as you venture into this new part of your life. 

I’ll be the first to say, I did cry on my kitchen floor because I was terrified to leave for college, and you know what, maybe I’m the only one to say that, but I can confidently say that each one of us has been at least a little scared about the unknown adult life is going to bring. 

Despite the uncertainty we may feel in these upcoming months, one thing remains true: you are so individually you! Nobody can force you to be anything or anyone that you do not want to be, and nobody has the power to set unrealistic expectations that you feel the need to fulfill. This new independence may seem scary at first, but it can be the most rewarding experience if you choose to be unapologetically you!

Now, it may take some of us longer than others to figure the whole adult thing out, but the cool thing is, you get to make your own decisions every single day that pave your personal path of life. For our entire lives, we’ve been compared to siblings, lived by our parents’ rules, been instructed by teachers, and so much more. … 

Now, we get to start a new chapter; class of 2024, the story is now ours. We get to choose where our story goes and who we become in the end. No one wants to spend their life regretting choices made or missed opportunities, so my advice to you would be to be you and never change for anyone but yourself. 

This is definitely easier said than done. A common fear that keeps individuals from being fully themselves is the fear of being judged, unaccepted, and unwanted by the people around them. Unfortunately society has created this stigma that we need to be and act a certain way; luckily for us, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

If there are people in your life that won’t accept you for who you are and want to become, now is the time to leave them behind and create a new circle of people that love you unconditionally! This stereotype of “normal” doesn’t exist, and I think our generation has been a really great example at exploring and embracing that full-heartedly. 

Pull Quote

Some of the most successful people didn’t become who they are because they conformed to society’s standards of normal. Bill Gates dropped out of college, Michael Jordan got told to quit basketball yet he kept going, Albert Einstein was told he was not smart and proved everyone wrong, yet every one of these people went on to do amazing things. 

The same can happen for us. There is an endless amount of potential in each one of us, so we cannot let people tear us down and convince us that we are not capable of something because, although it’s cliché, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Your success is determined by so much more than going to college or getting a high paying job. You determine your own success because each of our paths is incredibly different, and we each have a purpose in this world.

Whatever you choose to be … a parent, teacher, farmer, hair stylist, entrepreneur, astronaut, doctor, lawyer, et cetera, you will do amazing things! Whether or not you choose to pursue a higher education, you will do amazing things! I truly believe that every one of you will go on to achieve so many amazing things, and I hope you can be proud of who you are and who you will become. Your greatest accomplishment is your greatest accomplishment! Nobody can tell you differently. 

Now, I recently heard a speech that put women into a box and insinuated the idea that becoming a wife and mother is when their lives started. I just wanted to set the record straight. Despite what Harrison Butker* so arrogantly said, I hope that you will go out, change the world, and be whoever you want whenever you want because your life, whatever path you may choose, starts right now! Thank you.

by Hannah Davis, Valedictorian, Piute High School

Feature image caption: Valedictorian Hannah Davis (Marysvale) speaks to a full gymnasium at Piute High School in Junction on the evening of May 23, 2024. Courtesy of AJ Martel, The Byway.

*Editor’s Note: Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs kicker, spoke to the Catholic graduates of Benedictine College (Kansas) on May 11. He came under fire nationally for this statement made during his commencement address: 

“For the ladies present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. You should be proud of all that you have achieved to this point in your young lives. I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.

“I can tell you that my beautiful wife, Isabelle, would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother. I’m on the stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation. I’m beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me, but it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.”

Read about more Piute speeches in Piute High School 2024 Graduation by Ari Hurdsman and First and Last by Emma Wilde.

Read other schools’ graduation speeches starting with Well, Well, Well… by Ryen Treanor and Korben Young.