My Valedictorian Speech

May 1, 2009

I always wanted to be the valedictorian of my high school. (shhh that's a secret). I thought it would be such a rush to get up in from of my peers and encourage them with my profound words of wisdom that would forever change their lives. I would have eloquent quotes from successful people, Presidents and of course a good love movie, but at the end of it, those listening, would (in my dreams) walk away from my words, forever changed.

Then reality sunk in and after realizing freshman year that obtaining that valedictorian dream was a little out of my grasp, I just said I'd do it in college. So, since tomorrow is the day - my college graduation I'd better let you all in on the secret.

While, I had to be the bearer of bad news, I'd better tell you that I am not Pepperdine '09's Valedictorian. So, while those dreams are crushed under too many nights out and not enough nights in the library, I guess my pseudo-valedictorian speech is better said here.

To PepperFINE ’09,
Over the past four years our minds have been stuffed with information about literature, politics and more communication theories than I can ever dare to recall. We've been taught how to get along with roommates when the conditions seem unbearable, we've learned to appreciate the caf food and I think we've all learned at least one of the shuttle bus drivers names (it's Tom!). But, I think the one piece of advice I've learned, in my college career, that will stick out in mind more than the rest with me is that failure is okay.

I heard this quote from Grace McCalilster and I feel like she’s speaking to the hearts of all of us sitting here.
Listen carefully: you will fail here. All of you. College is not the culmination of your high school career. It is the beginning of your adult life. Only it is a slow sweet beginning that feels nothing like what life and all the attending obligations will eventually bring. So fail here… This is your chance.

Do things you know you can’t do, or think you can’t do but hope in your deepest most secret hidden heart that you can.

Be bad at things. Be embarrassed. Be vulnerable. Go out on a limb. Or two. Or twelve. The harder you fall, the farther you’ll rise. And the louder you fail, the clearer the distant bell of your future will ring. Failure is a gift. Welcome it. There are people who spend their lives wondering how they became the people they became, how certain chances passed them by and why they didn’t take the road less traveled. Those people are not you.

You have the front-row seat to your own transformation. And in transforming yourself, you might just transform the world. Believe that, and embrace the new person you’re becoming. This is your moment. Now. Not ten minutes from now, not tomorrow, really now. Know that, truly in your bones, and wake up each morning remembering it. And then keep going.
Just because we don't have everything under control at all times, doesn't mean we doomed to a mental breakdown. We're going to figure it out. Let's give ourselves some credit - we're college graduates after all!

It's human nature to fall, to lose control and to have to ask for help. There have been too many times when I'm too proud to stop and ask for help. I think by giving in, I'm giving up, and it's the complete opposite. Asking for help shows that we're mature enough to understand that things get hard, people disappoint you and sometimes you need help. I think that's key in jumping feet first into this new reality we're all about to face. It's scary out there, and we are going to get lost. We're going to fail, and if we can't ask for help of those around us we're going to crash. So lean on each other, respect each other, love each other.

Pepperdine has done a great job in offering us an education, brilliant teachers and a beautiful place to call home for four years.

But I think another thing that Pepperdine gave me that I don't always give credit to, is the people it's placed in my life. It gave me mentors, roommates, sisters, best friends, drinking partners, Starbucks companions, shopping buddies, dinner dates and so much more. And one thing I've been struggling with is the reality that I'm going to have to say (physically) goodbye to all these people. But Callie reminded me today that those friendships are built to last. The people I've meet here have inspired me and taught me in ways unimaginable. I can't get carried away with this process, because it's inevitable - I have to remember the details.

So, as I leave Pepperdine and Malibu, and the beach and all other things considered, I won't forget. I won't forget the tiny intimate details that makes this place great; like sitting in the courtyard at John's Garden for hours hoping to catch a glimpse of Gwen Stefani playing with her kids at the playground, mojitos (virgin of course!) at Paradise Cove, my favorite baristas, my CCB-family, that one study room in the library where we met, Thursday nights at Barrel, or Tuesday nights at Sunset. I will never forget Wednesday morning convos, trips to La Salsa or especially those nights watching Biggest Loser while eating 6 bowls of cereal.

 I’ll miss our extensive; Dr. Phil-esque talks around the kitchen table and wine nights watching Lifetime Movies. So, while I might be leaving this place I call my home, my memories aren’t going anywhere. They'll stick in the hearts of those I'm going to miss the most and even though we’re far apart, we’ll always have our memories. So, here is it, here’s to you, here’s to the best four years.

Let’s make the spectators proud; Graduation 2009? Let's do this.


  1. You are incredible writer, Kristen. I love this post so much. I wish you would have tried out for graduation speaker (cue frown + memories of "I thought y'all were datin'!".......) but since you didn't, I'm so glad I got to read your thoughts on commencement here. I love you!


I love hearing from all of you and greatly appreciate all your feedback and comments! xx Kristen