Kings and Queens of Something


Salutatorian Jake Richeal received a standing ovation for his speech on Saturday, May 28, 2016.

Hello, graduating class of 2016. I’m here today to give you one last reminder of your awesomeness, and then throw in some great advice about the future so you can get properly sent off to the big bad “real world.” But most of you don’t need my advice.

See, you’ve already lived in the real world. You have jobs, cars, credit cards, and all that other hoity-toity adult stuff. For all intents and purposes, you are adults. We are adults.

Everyone has told me that being salutatorian is a great honor, but no matter how high up on the school leaderboard I may be, I am no more of an adult than anyone here today. Which is why I was incredibly excited to learn that beginning with the class of 2019, Prairie Ridge will officially get rid of class rank. And I believe that deserves some applause. [applause (I hope)] The fact is, college, and the rest of the real world, doesn’t care about those rankings.

Because we are more than just numbers. We are unique human beings. We, the 342 graduates of Prairie Ridge (yes, I counted), are 342 completely different people, with 342 different skill sets and 342 different values. We all have our strengths, things we’re good at, that one thing we can do better than anyone. And we all have our weaknesses, character traits we wish we could change, habits we just can’t break.

I want to take some time to celebrate that individuality. Cliche as it may sound, every one of you sitting here today is special, and has someone here today who can attest to that. Parents, siblings, relatives, friends, teachers, that special someone; whoever they are, at least one person is here today, proud of your graduation and the person you’ve become. We all want you to be proud of the gifts you have.

But I also want to caution you about the gifts you don’t have. We all have something that we absolutely suck at. And that’s fine: people have their flaws. But it’s bad when we assume that we’re better than others at one thing because of our skill at another. For example, I went to one of the Scholastic Bowl’s practices. Once. I figured, “Meh, I’ve got a 4.646 GPA, I can take these guys.” But then the questions came. “What novel had this obscure character?” “What year was this random paper ‘famously’ published?” “If Patrick has 5 apples and Brandon has 2, what would be the unsimplified Euclidean transcription of the universal constant k’s logarithmic taxonomy?” And I’m still sitting there, thinking, “Okay, 5 and 2, that’s 7, right?” Meanwhile, the Scholastic Bowl knew every answer in seconds. My GPA may be higher than theirs, but I am nowhere near any smarter. The point is, I was the GPA King. But if I don’t know my trivia, then I’m no Trivia King. My empire has its borders.

You are all Kings and Queens of something. Don’t try to rule someone else’s kingdom, because in the end, what you’ve really got, in your hearts and minds, is more than enough. You are all beautiful people, and I wish you nothing but the best in your lives. Take care.

Editor’s Note: Upon finishing this speech, Jake received a standing ovation from his classmates. Jake provided Wolf Prints with this final draft.