Elizabeth Leong delivers stirring valedictory address
Posted 06/04/2017 11:33AM

The following was read by Principal Patrick Ruff at the Graduation Ceremony:

Our Valedictory Address will be given by a student who has distinguished herself in many ways. She has achieved an un-weighted grade point average of 3.95, while taking 14 Advanced Placement and Honors courses during her tenure at SI. She only received one grade below an A. A true renaissance woman, she was a founding member and fixture of SITV managing close to 80 people in the production of episodes that inspired us, informed us, and made us laugh. She captured key moments and told our story through a very authentic lens.

She founded Girls Who Code and took aim at the gender disparity in the tech community by developing curriculum to teach our students the basics of computer science. She served on Senior Class Council and was the Social Media Representative on Student Council. She has volunteered at the Alzheimer's Unit at CPMC, the San Francisco Food Bank, and St. Anthony's Dining Room amassing over 250 hours of community service. She is an Advanced Placement Scholar with distinction, a member of the Principal's Honor Roll each and every semester, and a member of the California Scholarship Federation.

Whatever she sets out to accomplish, she does so with passion, perseverance, and humility...and SI is a better place because of her.

Fr. President, ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to present the Valedictorian of the Class of 2017, Elizabeth Leong.


Below is Elizabeth's valedictory address:

Good morning Board of Trustees, Father President Reese, Mr. Ruff, members of the administration, faculty, family, friends, and my fellow graduates from the Class of 2017.

We are ruined. My dear classmates, we are ruined for life.

We have advanced through four years of Jesuit education and now we are forever and profoundly changed, ruined.

When we first walked through the double doors of SI, we were small. We were followers who wandered in packs to keep from sticking out from the crowd. We were conformists. We aspired to wear the trendiest clothing, obtain the right amount of likes, and be a part of the popular group. That was our hope at the time and that was our world - both were small.

But something happened over the four years. Our Jesuit education has given us new eyes. We are no longer nearsighted when see the world, attending to the small things that matter only to us. We are ruined because we are no longer blind to suffering and inequity. In our analysis of Ellie Wiesel's Holocaust story of resilience and the strength of the human spirit, we understand the repercussions of being a bystander. In The Odyssey while following a hero's determination to return home, we realize our responsibility to stay true to the people and activities we love. In Native Son while unraveling the magnitude and complexities of Bigger's plight, we identified the unjust structures and harsh realities that exist within our society. We have learned to be literate with these texts so as to wrestle with the subtext.

And who do we blame for ruining us? Our teachers, parents, coaches, and directors have taught us to examine the context, causes, and connections to the world's problems. They were never satisfied when we took very little intellectual risk in an essay. They challenged us when we remained silent in a class debate. They called us out when we chose a topic for an easy A instead of one that challenged our preconceived notions. They pushed us so that we could leave our small world behind for a bigger, slightly more scarier, yet genuine one. They have taught us how to read the world. And all along the way, they taught us while nursing both the curiosity of our minds and the fire within our hearts. Thank you.

And we have taught ourselves as well, not just by listening but by doing. We stood as the honor guard to remember our beloved friend. We recognized that we have the responsibility to make our school a community for all. We have demanded a better future where all can see themselves reflected within the curriculum. At town halls, we have shared microphones with the silenced and placed ourselves in someone else's reality. We have used our platforms, whether that be the football field or the front page of our school newspaper, to call attention to injustices in the world. We have marched across our city for causes that affect everyone. We have changed our future by starting with us. We are change-makers in our own right. We have found our own voice by heeding Congressmen John Lewis' personal call to stir up some "good trouble" in the world.

We are ruined because we can no longer ignore that itch inside our souls. It is calling us to choose a side; not on either side of an aisle, but to the inside of a circle. Fr. Greg Boyle asks us to, "imagine no one standing outside that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased." Can you see it? We are all inside that circle. Imagine, all of us laboring to extend this line of love and service beyond this gym, beyond the Sunset, beyond San Francisco, beyond the United States until we have encompassed the world.

When we have taken up the call, we have to remind ourselves that it is not about volume. We do not need to add to the noise. Instead, we will be different. We will listen to understand rather than respond. We know the power behind silence. Like hearing God in the quiet whisper after the earthquake, we will find the answers there.

Class of 2017, this is the last time we will be together in the same room. With our education and our knowledge of how to discern and self reflect, we are called to act in love; to rise above complacency; to conquer indifference. We have heard Fr. Pedro Arrupe's advice, "Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." It is time for us to determine what "everything" means to us. It is time to spend the rest of our lives chasing after something that we might never obtain yet throughout the journey feel so satisfied and at peace because we know we are doing what we are meant to do. It is time to find our calling.

Let us embrace and trust in all that we have learned over the past four years and nurse our own fires. Let us actively shape our own futures. Let us stir up some "good trouble." Let us continue to cultivate that itch inside our soul. Let us extend the circle of love and service. Let us learn from the silence. Let us fall in love. And let us find our purpose, our calling. For if we do, the world, like us, will also be ruined.

Thank you.

AMDG
St. Ignatius College Preparatory

Courage to Lead; Passion to Serve

2001 37th Avenue San Francisco, CA 94116
(415) 731-7500
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