Are We the YOLO Generation?
James Caldwell High School Class of 2012 Valedictorian Jackson Salter: "Let's be the YOLO Generation and do something special."
The following is Jackson Salter's valedictory address given at James Caldwell High School's Class of 2012 Commencement on June 21.
YOLO. You only live once. In the last few months, the term "YOLO" has exploded throughout American teen culture. Today, it is commonly heard in the halls of James Caldwell High School. Are we the YOLO Generation?
YOLO: it's an acronym for You Only Live Once. What's interesting about this term "YOLO" is that it applies to all living things, except, of course, cats, which have nine lives, Voldemort, who has seven lives, and those West Essex kids, who have no life. Just kidding.
I recently saw a YouTube video that made me start wondering about YOLO. The video is called "Kiwi" and it currently has 32 million views. The kiwi is a bird species of New Zealand. But there's something a little different about the kiwi. It has no wings. It cannot fly.
The video tells the story of a kiwi with a dream. All her life, the kiwi has wanted to fly. Since the kiwi has no wings, it seems impossible. But this doesn't stop her. She wants to fly and she will do anything for it.
The kiwi comes up with a brilliant idea, the perfect solution. She jumps off a cliff to her death. This may seem tragic, but we have to remember that the kiwi lived her dream. She flew down the cliff.
In fact, the kiwi didn't just nonchalantly jump off a cliff. Before her jump, she spent years cutting down trees and nailing them horizontally into the side of the cliff. So when she jumped, it created the sensation that she was flying over a forest. In the kiwi's mind, as she fell to her death, she experienced the sensation of flight. Please don't try this at home. She did something no other kiwi had ever done before. She took YOLO to the extreme.
At James Caldwell High School, there are two ways we use the word YOLO: The first way is: YOLO, whatever, I don't care. The second way is: YOLO, I'm going to take advantage of the fact that I am alive, and do something special.
Are we really the YOLO generation? Would you go to these extremes to fulfill a dream? Or is YOLO just another meaningless expression?
Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, once said, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." As the JCHS graduating class of 2012, we each have a choice to make. We have decades and decades to do whatever we set our minds to.
Look around you. Someone plans on being a fighter pilot. Maybe he'll defend our country one day. Someone dreams of opening a bakery. Maybe she'll make the best cupcakes on the East Coast. Someone plans on becoming a music therapist. Someone plans to play football in college. We are future engineers, artists, athletes, policemen, doctors, entrepreneurs, and teachers. Someone is studying next year in Italy. Another will be exploring Australia. Another will be volunteering in Senegal. These are just a handful of the many dreams and passions that we are pursuing.
Since the first day of ninth grade, we've all grown. When I entered high school, I was pale and frightened. And now, four years later, I am still pale and frightened. Throughout these four years, we've eaten countless cookies in the cafeteria together, attended lavish proms together, and, we've taken classes together. One of my fondest memories was the audio activities offered in Spanish class. "Capítulo Uno. Actividad Dieciséis. Más Práctica." We all know and love those recordings.
Actress Mae West once said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” So let's do it right. Let's be the YOLO Generation and do something special.
Now I'd like to take a moment to thank the members of the Board of Education, Dr. Gerardi, Dr. Barnes, our wonderful teachers, administrators, and staff for making our four years at JCHS fantastic. Most importantly, the graduating class of 2012 would like to thank their parents for their unconditional love and support throughout the past eighteen years.
I'd like to leave you with the following words, once said by the profound philosopher, Carly Rae Jepsen. "Hey, it feels like I just met you guys. And this is crazy. But now we're graduating. So call me, maybe." Thank you.