Good morning! First of all, I want to thank all the parents, families, friends, and students who are here with us, celebrating the graduation of the Class of 2016. I also want to thank my awesome, fantastic, and amazing classmates, it is great to see everyone not getting in trouble and peacefully sitting here, waiting to receive our diplomas.
Yesterday when I learned that I would be the salutatorian, I was shocked. For the past four years, I have tried my very best to maintain my grade point average in third place to avoid having to give this speech. But, I guess it is what it is, and I need to embrace the surprises in life. So I went to Piney Point to get inspired, and it reminded me of the first time I arrived at SAS.
Four years ago, when I was fifteen, I carried two giant suitcases, traveling from Beijing to Sewanee alone. I never came to the States before, I never visited SAS, and I never traveled by myself. After more than 20 hours of flights, I arrived at Nashville airport at night. A faculty member picked me up and drove me up to the mountain. After a very, very, very long drive, the teacher made a turn, and stopped the bus. "We are at the school now," she said. There was complete darkness surrounding us. Yes, complete darkness. I couldn't even see a building because there was no light on the street. It suddenly reminded me of the news I used to see on TV—"this is a kidnapping," I thought. My imagination went wild. I thought I had been kidnapped and put on a mountain. Maybe these people will threaten my parents and ask for money. Or, maybe even worse, there will be some scientists who want to do experiments on human bodies, and I might be the chosen one. I was scared, and felt insecure.
When I got off the bus, Mrs. Zachau came to me and welcomed me. She took my luggage and helped me to go to somewhere I could not see. She was so nice and kind to me which comforted me for a little while. But I had a second thought, what if this is part of the plan? Maybe they asked someone really nice to make me feel comfortable so I would let my guard down. This is creepy, I thought.
I couldn't sleep because I was scared. But everything turned out fine, as you can see. I am standing here with all my body parts, unharmed, and nobody did experiments on me.
But when I think about my "kidnapping theory" again, it actually makes sense. For example, one of the teachers "kidnapped" me and showed me the charm of British Literature, even though she is frequently late to class. Another teacher "forced" me to learn how to draw a world map and label all the countries right. I also need to thank the English teacher who pushed me to write a page a day so I was able to get my speech done last night. Oh, and there is one more teacher who "encouraged" us to memorize the "meaning of life"—every week.
SAS is like a lab, and all the teachers are scientists who can help students to make changes and improvements. They've shaped us into mature beings and prepared us for the future.
Seniors, Congratulations! We survived through all the experiments, and we are ready for new adventures in the future. Everyone else, well, you guys are still in progress. What is the same for all of us is that whenever we are heading to a new journey of our lives, we might be nervous, excited, or worried, but we need to hold on to our faith, trust ourselves, and embrace the new experiments. We've done a great job so far, and the future will only be better.
Salutatorian Grace Liu will attend Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.