Class of 2019: Valedictorian & Salutatorian Speeches

On May 25, 2019, Sacred Heart Cathedral graduated 308 seniors at Saint Mary’s Cathedral of the Assumption. Graduates were accepted into 275 colleges and universities across 46 states and 8 countries. Enjoy the Class of 2019 Valedictorian and Salutatorian addresses, transcribed below. 


2019 Valedictorian Address
Grace Murphy ’19

Four years, 22 percent of our lives, spent within these walls, within the Sacred Heart Cathedral Community. The unavoidable countdown began years ago, but with each passing day, the end became more and more difficult to ignore: 62 days left, 35, 15, three, two, one, today. Good evening faculty, staff, parents, Board of Regents, and most importantly, good morning to the Class of 2019.

It is natural for us to look back on our four years and think about how we did this by ourselves. Graduation is a culmination of our own achievements, hard work, and perseverance. Graduation is our moment. However, it simply is not true that we got to this day by ourselves. This past year in my mindfulness class, we performed a very straightforward practice on mindful eating. We were each given a single raisin and our only job was to consider how the raisin came to be placed in our hands. A group of maybe 20 had to grow, harvest, and dry the grape. Another 10 had the job of packaging, while another five transported it to the store. My teacher’s husband had to buy us the raisins and clerk had to sell it to him. Finally, our teacher could come into possession of these raisins and place one in each of our palms. If 50 to a hundred of people played a role in getting a single grape from San Joaquin Valley to my hand, imagine how many people played a role in your education and your success.

A few weeks ago, I took a math test in my calculus class. As much as I would have appreciated assistance on the actual test, over 30 people made sure that I succeeded. That morning at 6:10, my mom woke me up while my dad made coffee. My friend drove me to school early even though he, and the rest of my carpool, would have loved to sleep for another hour. The security guard greeted us happily at the door although it was much too early for anyone. I bought a breakfast burrito that multiple people had worked together to make. That morning was spent studying, yet I knew I was ready for the test. In the weeks before, 10 of my classmates answered my questions, my math teacher was patient with me even when I was so lost that I did not know what to ask, and two more of my peers sent me their notes when I was sick. This was one day, one class, and one test. This is not even to mention the custodial staff that make sure I can learn in a clean classroom, the rest of our security team that ensure I can focusbon calculus not my own safety, and my teachers who saw I was stressed, granting me extensions or a reduction in homework.

Thousands of people have stood by my side in these past four years. My coaches who cheered me on, the parents of friends who would drive me home, my classmates who would edit my essays despite having hours of homework themselves, and even the stranger who held the door open for me while I struggled to carry textbooks, all played a role in me being here, standing before you today.

Think about how many people are responsible for you sitting here, in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, about to receive your Sacred Heart Cathedral diploma. It is definitely more people than you think. We have accomplished many great things, and we accomplished these things together.

We claimed not one, but three CCS titles in two days. We have orchestrated some of the best concerts and performances in San Francisco. We saw problems in the world and we challenged them. We stood together in protest against gun violence and the treatment of immigrant families. We raised thousands of dollars each year to fund microloans around the world. We have done so much in just 720 days, and here we are, at day 721. Even after these 720 days, this may be

the first time some of you have ever seen me or heard my voice. Believe it or not, I have seen you. I have seen you present in front of the class even though I knew you were afraid. I have seen you study hard for a final and earn that coveted 89.5%. I have seen you lose an important game, get a bad grade on a test, or get rejected from a college, yet I have seen you hold your head high.

We share both the big and small moments, both victories and losses. Because of this, we are all connected. There is a reason all of those banners around the City declare “Fearless, we pursue.” Today in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, “Fearless, we pursue the future.” Together we entered to learn, and together we are now leaving to serve.

As we all go our separate ways, more and more people will become part of your success story. Embrace the help, encouragement, and work of others, for none of us could possibly get to where we are today alone. I invite you to pay forward the support, love, and compassion you have been given in these past four years. Remember the 10, 50, or 1,000 people that have stood behind you. Be that person for someone else.

We have always been told to find our passions, find our gift. How will you use your gift to help others? You do not need to be a doctor or a teacher or a motivational speaker to change lives. Sometimes all you need to be is a friend. The smallest thing can make a difference. Be the words of hope, the fan in the crowd, or the friendly stranger in the hallway.  

I can honestly say that everyone here, all 308 members of the Class of 2019 played a role in my story. I hope that after these four years, even if it is only from hearing my words today, I played at least a small role in yours. Congratulations to the entire Class of 2019.


2019 Salutatorian Address
Nathaniel Jew ’19

Hey everyone - students, faculty, parents, fellow classmates—especially my fellow classmates—from the Class of 2019.

Stop talking.

These two words are words that I’ve heard over and over, at least once a day at this point, from teachers and friends and … not friends. I don’t necessarily talk all the time, but when I get started, oh man, I do not stop. I guess I’ve got a lot on my mind? All the time. Point being, I don’t think I’m the only one who gets this. Maybe not quite as often, but I think everyone in this room (or this cathedral) has been told to stop talking for one reason or another. Maybe it’s during announcements, or maybe it’s in the library, or maybe it’s because you really should be studying. It’s just something we’ve gotten used to because these days, particularly at school, it’s just never the time. And that’s fair.

But here’s the thing. We are running out of time. And it’s sometimes easy to forget that most of the opportunities we have to talk to each other, are here at school. I mean, think about it. More than half of the people that you’ve talked to every day, you met because of this school. So, once we’ve all moved on and we lose all those shared activities, by nature, you probably won’t keep in touch with most of the people you know here. But so what, you might be saying—common knowledge right? And yes, it is. I’m not saying this because I don’t think any body realizes this.

But there’s another side to it. Remember that how people perceive you, and how people remember you, and how people get to know who you are—it’s almost completely determined by your conversations. We get to know each other because we keep talking to each other. We tell people what’s on our minds: during class, during lunch, during that 15 minute break on white days that no one knows what to do with, during club meetings, backstage during rehearsals, during sports practices (I wouldn’t know). As we grow, each conversation we have helps us share that growth with others. It’s why we tell stories. And what terrifies me is that, for a lot of people, my version of their story ends here. And their version of my story ends here. What I am saying right now might be my last story.

So what is that story? Well it’s one that includes everyone here, and it’s one that, well it’s honestly unlike anyone else’s. So, I won’t say it here or my speech won’t be relatable. But even though it’s different, it’s full of little pieces of other people’s stories, because even though mine is unique to me, I went through it with other people here. I sing in a choir—not by myself—I build robots on a team and then go to competitions with that team, I do musicals that are a massive group effort, I even make video games with friends. I mean, people say coding is a solo thing, but man, are group coding projects way more fun.

And all of those stories have stories inside of them. That time our robot had a broken arm but still made it to finals … and then lost because of a broken wheel. That time in Mamma Mia when our Sky fell flat on his face while running off stage in a wedding dress. That time in choir when we sang a song about asking God to take our hand lest we fall...and then someone passed out and fell right behind me. Actually we have a lot of choir stories ... did you know that Santa was played by a girl one year?

There are just so many memories here, some of which I’ve gotten to pass on and others, but obviously I’m not the only one with things to say. I did this speech because I want to keep talking, and I hope that you guys do too. Because if there was a time for talking, this is it. You don’t have to talk to people that you don’t want to, but like I said, this is going to be your last guaranteed chance to talk to people who you’ve spent the last four years with—maybe more. For the ones you don’t get a chance to stay in touch with—leave a good final impression. We’ve got some great people here, so if you’ve got something to say, you better say it.

In fact, I’ve got a few more things to say, so I’m going to take my own advice right now, and list a few off:

One: This school’s community. I know everyone has heard this like a million times before—it’s insane. In a good way. I mean, just in the time I’ve been here, we’ve gotten a new choir room (which looks amazing), an entire hidden robotics lab, and we even have a dedicated math club that actually competes—like, what?!? And thank goodness for all of those because I would have made like five friends total had it not been for them. You don’t even know how many times my middle school friends talk about how jealous they are of my school—sorry, OUR school—and how I can actually pursue all of my interests on campus. I have lost zero hobbies, and I have some weird hobbies. Like, I can code video games on my calculator, while backstage during a rehearsal, and nobody even questions it. That’s awesome.

Two: how has every teacher I’ve had been so memorable? Not just good at teaching—they have somehow left a lasting impact on me even though it’s probably their fifteenth time teaching the same basic concept to just another random class. And sure, I think most high schools have good teachers, but I love how when I go and tell stories about my classes, my stories aren’t like  “I just got assigned this insane five-page essay,” which does happen, it’s more like “we had a disco party in chemistry” or “my teacher is in a band and we got to listen to his music” or “I got a piece of chocolate in history class! That one only makes sense if you’ve taken AP US History here, which is totally worth it.

And three: the students here are so … full of potential. In case it wasn’t obvious, it’s kind of why I like talking so much. There’s so much going on all around me all the time, and it’s because, well, everyone here is so active. People here actually, like, do stuff with their lives. They go out and do internships at hospitals and tech companies. They play sports in school, out of school, during lunch, during summer. They actually do the service projects that they propose like clothing drives and food drives. They tutor each other, they start coffee shops, they run independent events, and, you know, they keep up with their schoolwork.

It’s inspiring really, and it’s sort of what prompted me to give this speech in the first place. A lot of these things I only found out, like, this year. I wish I had known sooner. And I definitely know that there’s a lot more. Everyone here has so much to say. I bet that if I could ask people to come up here right now, they’d be able to say just as much as I did. So that’s why I want you guys (and girls) to keep talking while we still can.

Now, I want to reiterate: the end of high school isn’t the end of the world. You all know that life goes on, relationships go on, even after people have gone their separate ways. But, at the same time, I hope I’ve made this clear—don’t take what we have here for granted. Take the time to appreciate what you have, because as the old saying goes “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Actually that might be a song lyric now that I think of it ...

But anyways, whether this is the first time you’re hearing this or the last, trust me, take the time to tell the people here who matter to you that they matter to you. I know from personal experience, that messing this up—it’s a bummer. Take the time to acknowledge all the things that have shaped you here, because now you have the time. Be ready to go on with your life, but don’t go on without doing everything that you wanted to do here. Your life isn’t over. But for a little bit longer, neither is high school. Don’t miss out on what that means—especially not while your high school is SHC. So tell your last stories. Leave behind who you want to be. Share your memories. And whatever you do. Don’t. Stop. Talking.

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