Most conventional graduation speeches include similar elements: some inspiring quotes, words of advice for those graduating and thanks to the family and friends who helped them. Sherman High School Valedictorian Cristian Soltero’s speech at Saturday’s ceremony had these elements, but his speech was not run-of-the-mill.
Soltero began by saying he was going to deliver the speech “just a little bit different.” He produced a scroll with a seemingly novel-length speech written on it and started to read.
First, Soltero recited an aforementioned inspiring quote from speechwriter Robert Orben, “A graduation ceremony is an event where the speaker tells students dressed in identical caps and gowns that individuality is the key to success.”
“This honestly has nothing to do with the rest of my speech, I just thought it was pretty funny,” he said, invoking laughter from the audience.
Soltero went on to joke that he had set out to write the speech “with the same intensity that my fellow classmates have shown when an important class project is due. So late last night, I began.” He then offered some not-so-serious advice to his fellow graduates, informing them that “adult acne lasts longer than you think,” and warning them to not iron a shirt while wearing it.
The speech then took a serious turn, as Soltero said he had something “real” he wanted to share with the graduates.
“For many years recently I have struggled with the idea of failure,” he said. “It has caused me to go insane, and I can only imagine how crazy it will get in the coming years.”
Soltero encouraged his peers to not be afraid of failure and to not become discouraged by it, but to instead see failure as a learning experience. He closed with a quote from Conan O’Brien: “Work hard, be kind and amazing things will happen.”
During the proceedings the weather was sunny, warm and slightly windy. Guests completely filled the home side of the bleachers and spilled out onto the field and behind one of the end zones.
Another highlight of the ceremony was Salutatorian Sarah Walker’s multi-lingual welcome address, given just before Soltero spoke. She sent a thank you to family and friends.
“Whether we have traveled across five blocks or across five states, we are all here for the same reason: to celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of each student,” she said.
Walker then offered a welcoming message in Spanish, saying “Bienvenidos a la ceremonia de la graduación. Gracias a todos por venir.” Meaning, “welcome to the graduation ceremony. Thank you all for coming.”
Sherman resident Derrick Gabriel was one of the many family members of the graduates who attended. He was there to see his granddaughter Sha’Kallen Penn-White graduate, who will be attending Wiley College in the fall to study nursing. “I’m very proud of what she’s accomplished, and I wish her the best in life,” he said.
In addition to the expected “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the Sherman High School band, the audience also heard the Sherman High School choir sing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” and Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.”
Following Soltero’s speech was the main event of the ceremony: Principal Peggy Van Marter presented the graduates, and members of the Sherman ISD Board of Trustees presented the diplomas. Altogether, 326 Sherman High School graduates and 50 Perrin Learning Center graduates crossed the stage.