06/01/2013 02:25 pm ET | Updated Aug 01, 2013

My Graduation Speech

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Greetings Class of 2013; we did it. We're finally graduating. Perhaps not all on the same day, or even in the same week, but at some point or other this month -- or even in early June -- we will all be walking across that stage and handed our diplomas at an event that has been 13-plus years in the making. For yours truly, it has been 1361 days from when I finished my first day of high school on Thursday, August 27, 2009 to graduation day, Saturday, May 18, 2013. If you enjoy numbers like I do, those 1,361 days can also be calculated as three years, eight months, and 22 days or 194 weeks.

It's remarkable, isn't it? I think I speak for most of us when I say that those 1,361 days went by faster than we ever imagined they would. I remember being a freshman and thinking about how long high school would be, but the thing is I remember thinking about that as if it was last week. Getting our permits, then getting our licensees, applying to and getting accepted to college(s), it all happened so fast.

All of those nights we spent cramming for the test the next morning, all of the books we read and the essays we wrote, all of the lessons we learned from not only our teachers, but our friends as well, all of the friendships/relationships we began, ended, and mended, and all of the wonderful and terrible experiences we have had throughout high school and the other years we spent in K-12 education have led up to this day that we never thought would come so fast.

In the time we've spent growing up, the world has shrunk down. We were only toddlers when AOL Instant Messenger was first released to the world. We are old enough to remember computers when they still were heavier than a sack of potatoes and colored in the blandest shade of beige there ever was. When we were kids, the Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over DVD was as close as we got to 3D TV and we used to trade Pokémon over the kitchen table in the form of cards, not over WiFi in the form of data files. Oh, and who could forget about all of those practically indestructible flip-phones many of us received as our first cell phones? Yes Nokia, I'm talking about you.

But I digress. I'm sure all of us could spend hour reliving and romanticizing our childhoods and everything that went along with them, but the point is, look at where we are today! AIM is dead and now you can chat with the world just by hitting "tweet," or "post." Computers and cell phones have become one and the same and forget 3D; we're on our way to wearing screens that essentially interact with the real world. In the amount of time that we have spent in K-12 education the world has shrunk so much even though we know it is immensely large.

As I think about all of my peers -- both the ones I know personally and the rest of you -- I know, without a shred of doubt that what Joel Stein thinks about us is absolutely and unequivocally wrong. Perhaps it's because nowadays it is easier than ever to see what your peers' skills, talents, interests, etc. are -- and because easier than ever to display one's skills, talents, interests, etc. to the world -- but I think we are the opposite of "lazy, entitled, selfish, and shallow."

When I think about the Class of 2013 I think about social activists, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, writers, photographers, scientists, teachers, leaders, philosophers, and so much more. I think about people that know how to do everything from code websites without ever having taken a single technology class to people who can launch social justice campaigns that change the world. No, we're not perfect. While we are the generation dedicated to ending bullying, we also are the generation that went from attacking people in person to attacking them behind a screen; those same screens have taken away some of our ability to appreciate things like letter-writing and in-person conversations. But we are who we are. We are the Class of 2013 and we are going to change the world. We are going to leave this world better than we found it.

It's been a great run, Class of 2013. Those who know me know that nobody has been more vocally cynical about high school than me. No, there are few that have moaned and groaned more than me but to be honest with you, as I look back on the past four years I enjoyed it, a lot in fact. Not collectively of course; I won't miss the early mornings or the hallways in between class changes. I won't miss the school lunches or taking classes just to fulfill a graduation requirement. What will I miss? The people.

Of course, we couldn't have made it to this moment alone. If you haven't thanked your family, friends, and teachers prior to this moment you certainly should after. None of us could have gotten here without them. They taught us how to be better people, they made sure we got to this day, and many of them are here now to see us transition to the next part of our lives. In the two schools I've attended high school (I moved in 11th grade) I firmly believe I was fortunate enough to have the best teachers at each school. I learned a lot more from all of those people than just lessons. But of course, I'll miss my friends the most. I think it's a testament to our friendship that I'm still good friends with people that I haven't seen in person in two years. We changed each other's lives and I'm a better person because of those people. Yes, the people I knew in high school are what made it great. All of the great memories I have of high school are great because of the people that were there to share those moments with me. Field trips, winning competitions, award nights, they all wouldn't have meant anything if I hadn't had people to share them with.

Before I end this speech of mine, I want to wish each and every one of you success in whatever endeavors you choose to pursue. While I will likely never see many of the people at my own graduation again, I very well may become lifelong friends with somebody reading this right now. I can't wait to work with Class of 2013 graduates one day. I know that even though others don't believe so, we as a generation have so much to offer to world. I know that we are going to do great things and I couldn't be more thrilled.

The only way I know how to end this speech of mine is with a favorite quote of mine by Eric Roth from his screenplay for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:

For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

So Class of 2013, let's make the best of it, and let's start all over again. For all intents and purposes, it's a brave new world out there and if anyone can make the best of it and start all over again, we can.