Salutatorian Address by Michael Yoon ’16
Good evening. I am Michael Yoon, and it is really an honor to be standing here today.
If I had to guess the one thing that is on everyone’s mind right now, I would guess that it would have to be the momentous occasion due to happen in less than 40 hours, the commencement ceremony. Now, the word “commencement,” as many of you may be aware, means “beginning,” suggesting that the end of our experience here at NMH inevitably leads to other exciting experiences awaiting us, whether it be a continuation of academics in college, a time of exploration during a gap year, or a self-guided pursuance of a dream. In this time of transition, I would like to suggest to my fellow seniors that we all look back at our beginnings at NMH in anticipation of new beginnings to come.
Whenever I think about my beginnings at this institution, it surprises me how much I have changed over my four years here. I arrived at NMH as an incredibly shy person, unknowing how to actively vocalize my thoughts. I didn’t really feel a need for it. In fact, for the first few weeks of my HUM 1 course, I dreaded going to class, afraid of making statements that may potentially disagree with others’ viewpoints. “What if my ideas are wrong?” I frequently wondered. I therefore kept silent for many weeks, despite all the interesting discussions taking place in class. I felt out of place, uncomfortable.
Fast-forward three years, and comes senior spring. I don’t think I’ve changed much in outward appearance, and I still am a relatively quiet person, but I’ve come to learn the value of engaging in dialogue: all throughout this semester, I’ve been finding discussions in my AP Language and Composition class to be especially riveting, with classmates of such diverse backgrounds pitching in their stories. We frequently encountered situations where 15-minute exercises would turn into full-period-long discussions, over and over again. The topics, too, were varied. In discussions ranging from food sustainability to feminism, and from political rhetoric to morality, my classmates tirelessly asserted their viewpoints, while respectfully challenging or agreeing with those of others.
This atmosphere of dialogue is what I find to be so central to our collective identity at NMH. And, on the personal level, I was able to secure a stronger sense of self-identity, as new perspectives that I would’ve never even imagined before, entered my life.
I wonder if all this speaking about acceptance, diversity, and dialogue sounds a little repetitive to some of my fellow classmates. Since tolerance is already a firm foundation of our community, one might wonder, “what use is talking about something that is already established?”
On the one hand, I don’t think there can be a perfectly accepting community, and so we should always strive to become more accepting. But on the other hand, I want to urge my fellow seniors to think about how our accepting community changed you as an individual since your beginnings here at NMH. I know I have changed in significant ways. Reflect on how NMH has shaped you, so that you may be able to take a piece of our community to your new beginnings. After all, the reality is that our time on this campus is coming to an end.
There’s a stanza in our school song, “”Jerusalem” that reads:
I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In every green and pleasant Land
Although I am aware that the word “Jerusalem” may have different connotations for different people, I believe that, in the spirit of our school song, Jerusalem symbolizes a place of harmony. In reality, it is also a place of great diversity. So, as we sing these four lines, I want you to think about how you can build Jerusalem, or, in other words, take the lessons of diversity you have learned from NMH to wherever you may find yourself next year. Thank you.