Infinite Halfway Points


Photo by Kirsten Voel-Pel

Class of 2018 valedictorian Julia Alvey speaks at graduation on Saturday, May 19, 2018.

Julia Alvey, class of 2018 valedictorian, delivered this speech at graduation on Saturday, May 19, 2018.

Good morning friends, family, faculty, administration, and congratulations to the class of 2018. It is my honor to speak before you today.

I’m going to start by admitting that when I sat down to start writing this speech, my first thought was back to Freshman Honors English and how almost every graduation speech centers around a metaphor. I thought for a while because I knew I wanted to come up with something unique, all-encompassing, and meaningful. Being the math nerd that I am, my mind jumped to the idea of Zeno’s paradoxes. Now, let me explain a little bit. Zeno was a great philosopher who came up with an innumerable amount of theories and paradoxes, but the one that stuck out to me was his Dichotomy Paradox, which essentially says that between every two points, there is an infinite number of halfway points. When I first mentioned this idea to one of my friends, they thought it was a terrible idea because it seemed like I was telling everyone they could never meet their goals or achieve success. However, to me, this paradox is the perfect metaphor for high school.

Let’s begin by placing our first halfway point, a common one, at the first day of high school. Over the past four years, we’ve all had an infinite number of halfway points, both shared and unique. For some it was going to state for the first time for Science Olympiad… and winning… or performing for the writer of our musical. For others it was winning the state football championship 2 years in a row or even those small moments like acing the test you worked so hard to prepare for. As we sit here today, I promise you that these halfway points are not the end, for we literally have an infinite number ahead of us from this point forward. These moments will serve as some of the greatest successes and failures of our lives, challenging us. Changing us. Crafting us into something completely unique. For some, it’ll be buying your first house or having your first child. For others it’ll be graduating from medical school or getting your dream job. The possibilities are truly endless.

But one of the most remarkable things about this paradox is the final number it presents. If you take every halfway point and add them all up from 1 to infinity, you get 2. (I know it sounds crazy, and it honestly still frazzles my mind, too, but you’ll just have to trust me on this one…) Now, I say this to tell you that my speaking here today does not make my halfway points any more significant than any of yours, as every human being gets their own infinite sum of 2. Everyone has their talent, whether it be in art or music or academics or sports, and at the end of the day, we´ve all walked these halls together as part of our halfway points. So go forward in the direction of your dreams because at the end of the day, we’re all the same, no matter what direction we end up going.

To end, I would like to quote one of the greats… Winnie the Pooh… when he said “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. As I look out at everyone here today, I can wholeheartedly say that sharing my halfway points with this school and these classmates and this faculty has made it so hard to say goodbye. Thank you for the past four years, and here’s to many more adventures, whatever your path may be, and congratulations again to the class of 2018.