Northgate: Class of 2011 Salutatorian Christopher David Hoffman’s speech

By CHRISTOPHER DAVID HOFFMAN Northgate High School 2011 Salutatorian Today is the culmination of twelve years of learning, not just the four in high school. For some of us, this is the final and ultimate height of an official education. For others this has only been the precursor to further studies. We, the seniors of Northgate High School, are here today having completed our education at this school. Every single day at Northgate, you have heard the morning pledge and announcements, assuming you arrive on time. We recite the pledge and, following a moment of silence, a collection of announcements is read. This repetitive morning routine always ends in the same way, with the exact same statement. You have heard it so many times you likely ignore it: “Northgate is committed to student success.” However, what is this success? How do we achieve it? Moreover, why is it the goal of our school? What makes true success a worthy goal for which any student should strive?
As seniors, we have already succeeded in this school to a certain extent. We have learned algebra, geometry, the history of the world, and the history of our own country and read poems and Shakespeare, whether we wanted to or not. We have learned whom to value as our friends, and we have learned those who will let us down. We have experienced and celebrated accomplishments, and we have mourned losses. In the good and the bad times you can still be successful because success is not being the best or having the most, or else no one would ever be successful. Success then is not what you have, but what you have done — what you have done to better yourself, to improve your community, to help those in need. Success may be achieving a goal, but what exactly is the goal that one should try to achieve? You must aim to achieve a dream, the importance of which outlasts your terminal and short-lived existence. Success is having one of those dreams — a dream worth following, pursuing, and dedicating your efforts to — and growing in character in its pursuit. Success is rarely the reward that you get upon the completion of a task, but rather, it is the growth of character, morals, and personal understanding. You must make the dream that you follow and the desire in which you pursue success a big one. The dreams and desires of our heart shape what we do and form how we think. Our beliefs and worldviews are based on this. In the real world and also in our microcosmic high school lives we, as students, rarely dream big enough and often dream after erroneous ideas, pursuing “ourselves” instead of that which is bigger than “ourselves.” Such dreams and desires are insufficient and lowly. Moreover, that which results from their pursuit is not only dissatisfactory to ourselves but also detrimental to our society and our generation. As C.S. Lewis says: “Our desires [are], not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures… and…when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” As we go out into the real world, as it were, do not be easily satisfied with short-lived “mud pie” success but dream bigger and be pleased only when your success benefits others. I ask you to think of that which we have lived through even here at Northgate. We have been the first class to go through the new ninth grade building, affectionately termed the ninth grade nursery. We have even managed to avoid the new math. Think of what historic times we have lived through. Natural disasters have ravaged the globe: multiple tsunamis in Japan and in India, earthquakes in Haiti, hurricane Katrina that devastated so much of our country and those that have recently hit our country. We have witnessed the Gulf of Mexico oil spill thanks to BP and the terrorist attacks on 9/11. We have lived through the death of Osama bin Laden, its orchestrator, the death of Michael Jackson, and the rise of Justin Beiber. In our life times, Al Gore has supposedly invented the Internet, and both the “Twilight” and the “Harry Potter” films have graced the cinemas. We have even survived Y2K, the end of the world last Saturday, and if we are lucky, we may even survive 2012. At this rate, we probably will. Think of all the history and experiences that we endured and all that each one of us has gone through as younger members of a messed up world that frequently disappoints. The hurt and the happiness that each of us has gone through never results in a completely perfect four years of high school. These years may have been some of the most tumultuous years of our lives. They may have also been some of the most rewarding as well, despite the challenges. Yet here we are! We have made it this far. We have succeeded thus far. In realizing this, I am brought back to our success again, the mission of Northgate. I would suggest that success as it is generally prescribed — the accumulation of knowledge, of things, of achievements, of promotions and getting more for “me” — is an unworthy goal and a half-hearted dream. Think of what Albert Einstein said of success: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.” True success, I wholeheartedly suggest, is not what you have or what you get. Rather, it is what you have given up for a cause greater than yourself. Einstein, an intellectual genius who never was a valedictorian or a salutatorian, recognized the impermanence of selfish success and vain ambition and states in this quote the value of service and the great importance of being a person whose beliefs and actions demonstrate his or her character. The success that builds up treasures on Earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal is success that is the result of tiny dreams and halfhearted desires, which satisfy only our carnality. Perhaps you want to be as wealthy as Bill Gates, as musically talented as John Mayer, as famous as Lady GaGa, as talented as Michael Jordan, or have the hair of Donald Trump. In different ways and by different means, we all desire to be successful, to be great, yet that desire for success seems to be only a daunting impossibility. And that kind of success is just that: impossible. It will wither away just as the people themselves do. However, I know that all of us can be successful in a better way. “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve,” said Martin Luther King Jr. There is so much injustice and need in the world and in our own backyard that there will always be ways to serve, and in this way, there will always be ways for you to be great and to be successful. We stand together today, as graduates, as a generation. Our generation will have its own problems and its own disasters, both natural and human caused. We will make mistakes. We will be forced to make decisions that have not been faced in the past. How we will respond as a generation and as individuals will determine whether we have succeeded. Let us make this generation a glorious success that pursues full-hearted, worthy dreams. Seniors, let us go out from this school for the final time, leaving behind the past but carrying the memories. Seniors, let’s succeed, let’s really succeed, from this point on and in all that we do let us seek real success. By pursuing dreams worthy of our dedication and by working to achieve and accomplish that which betters ourselves and the world around us, we will not only make a difference, we will find true success. In pursing this, we will succeed. Seniors, we will succeed.

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