Congratulations to the class of 2021!
Right now, I am full of joy. It is amazing to be here in person at MS 266. It is beautiful to see the people in person.
As the father of six, I understand the incredible sense of pride all of the parents, grandparents, caregivers, family, friends, loved ones, and educators feel at graduation. Thank you for instilling in these young people the importance of reaching milestones like these. Your pride is well-earned. It is my pleasure to share this special day with you. Though we face challenging times, with the coronavirus pandemic, the social injustices with policing and a variety of racial disparities. Know that today you are beginning to build upon your own narrative.
Every graduation is a community celebration. Your graduation is also your educators, your mentors, your community saying: you’re ready to move on to the next phase. Today is our saying to you, we’re proud of you and you have achieved something important. Your life matters to all of us, you are valuable and you all matter.
Graduates, this is your day. Our community appreciates all the hard work you put in. You may not fully understand yet the significance of what you all have achieved.
Nobody quite understands the significance of what you have achieved. You have faced a challenge that nobody has faced since the pandemic of 1918. None of your parents or grandparents grew up through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Yet you made it through. You are here. Your experience is unlike any other other graduating class.
Getting to this point is no small feat and of course comes along with many challenges. But your achievement today is a testament to the fact that you are all well prepared to achieve even more. Whatever you put your minds to, no matter the obstacles life may put in your way - you can achieve. Because you have already achieved something unique.
I played basketball for many years. And there are some things you learn. One thing is that teamwork helps you go far. I may have my shortcomings, and my teammate may have some shortcomings. But working together as a team - and with the help and guidance of our coaches - we support one another and lift one another’s strengths up.
Graduates, many of the people on your team are with you in spirit today. They are your coaches in life - they will be looking to help you refine your skills and overcome obstacles.
Another lesson I learned from basketball - give it your all. You get an amazing sense of achievement from pushing to the boundaries and putting your everything into it. You can get that same feeling from learning - especially your favorite subject. But also, you may learn to like your not so favorite subject or courses too.
Basketball took me around the world, in Israel and France and in Turkey, my community voted for me after I ran for City Council, later the Guinness Book of Worlds Records said I am the tallest politician in the world. And some people said, “well, we’ve never had a City Council Member with your background or your style before.” Or some people even said, “well, you’re not our idea of a City Council Member.”
I have to build on my own narrative and the narrative of our community. Passing laws on public health, public safety, economic development, helping small businesses, and upholding education, women, and overall civil rights in our communities. In this climate - it is especially important to help bring laws forward so that we can secure the rights every one of us deserve.
However, you look, no matter your height, or weight, or skin color, or hair style, or religion, or your background. Don’t listen to those who want to put barriers up for you, or boundaries around your talent and your gifts. Don’t listen to their limits and what kind of box they want to put you in.
I know that if you always keep the determination that brought you to today, rely on the people who are on your team, push yourself to achieve, and don’t listen to those who want to limit you. Do some combination of those things - you might not have to even do them all - and you will all have lives filled with great successes.
So, continue to build on your narrative. I have faith that this graduating class can do it like nobody else.
Before I end, I want everyone in this room to give a huge round of applause to the entire staff at MS 266.
Please give a huge round of applause to all the family members of the graduates.
Give a huge round of applause to Principal Frederick Torres.
In the face of all that happened, two have earned special recognition. Congratulations Sarah Johnson on being selected as Valedictorian! Congratulations Jaylene Noel on your selection as Salutatorian!
Thank you everyone at MS 266 and one last time: Congratulations to the class of 2021!