Thursday, June 3, 2021

Naomi Parson's Pottstown HS Valedictorian Speech

Naomi Parson, PHS Valedictorian
Blogger's Note:
The following is the graduation speech given Wednesday by Pottstown High School Valedictorian Naomi S. Parson

This is a redefining moment, for all of us; a day we have dreamed of, dreaded, and counted down the minutes to. And as much as I’d love to claim responsibility for making it here, standing before the Pottstown High School Class of 2021, I think we could all agree that success such as this is one owed to the people around us. Be that friends, teachers, or coaches, each and every one of us has a list of mentors and supporters. I could go on and read off name after name, in and out of the classroom, on and off the court, but there is only one person I always come back to. One person who inspires every venture in my life; my big brother Stevie.

The Sunday before the Thanksgiving of 2014, my brother Stephen and his soon-to-be fiance, Kate, died in a car crash. His integrity, compassion, selflessness, and goofiness are undying qualities I will forever admire and strive for. I would like to share with you a few pieces of wisdom I carry with me everyday, memories, fragments of a truly pure-hearted man that I hope will inspire you as they have for myself and my family.
 

Share a Steak

My sister and I would skype Stephen as often as possible while he was at his military base, but there was one particular encounter that has stuck with me.

A little something about my brother was his passion for food, he wasn’t one to let a single bite go to waste. We had called him while making his dinner, a steak of course, and all the while we talked about our days, school, and everything ordinary. Watching him cook up a masterpiece, it wasn’t hard to realize how buoyant and untroubled he was in that moment. For a brief few minutes Stephen said he had to visit his neighbor, a friend across the hall. When he returned, he blissfully told my sister and I that he could not help but share a plate of his food. That simple gesture of sharing a meal not only brought a smile across my brother's face, but I’m sure, gratitude from another.

This sort of random kindness was not uncommon when it came to Stevie. Ever since I was little, I remember Stephen and my oldest brother leaving before the sun rose for the day to work on a farm, giving nearly every penny to our family. But the steak, the silly love for food, was something that brought a smile to his face. And if there was even the slightest opportunity to share that love, he would take it.

So whatever your passion may be, no matter how small or silly, share that with others. Because when you do that thing that makes you truly happy, your life changes. But when you share it with those around you, the world changes.

Letting Go

This next lesson is one that my brother has left me after his death, yet holds just as much influence.

The most inspiring virtue of Stephen’s character shone through his love for Kate. The two were as perfect for one another as perfect can be. Nearly a month after their passing, my mother told me the most insightful memory of my brother. She recalled a phone call she once had with him, one that speaks to my brother as the man he was and the person I hope to become.

Stephen had confessed about struggles in his relationship and more importantly, his mentality; “Sometimes I would get angry at her (Kate), but then I would realize that there was no point. No matter what she did I still loved her, and I couldn’t stay mad over a silly fight.” This is the importance of letting go.

We all have a tendency to obsess over trivial things; I often engage in arguments that only worsen the situation. But every time I am able to catch myself, I listen to my brother’s voice. We are not perfect and must continue the conscious fight to let go. Even when the situation is one fueled by anger, I hope you can each find the courage to look past the hindering walls, as my brother had, and instead face it with love.

Always Tip 100%

Once my brother told me, “Always tip 100 percent, and leave a drawing or note on the napkin.” When I first heard this piece of advice, I was skeptical and ultimately thought of it as irrational. As charming as the thought of giving a hard working waiter/waitress a gracious gift as that is, I likely never could afford to pay for my meals twice. I have approached this conversation many times with confusion. Not long ago, I finally understood what he meant.

Initially I thought of my oldest sister, who has worked as a waitress and bartender for most of her adult life, and considered the blessing a 100 percent tip would provide. But this bit of wisdom goes beyond the objective statement. The simple fact is that you might not possess enough money or stability to give a tip so generously, but that does not mean you don’t have something to give. People come into each other's lives without relent. It's not what they provide or serve for you, it is what you are willing to give back to them. As much as you are able to improve their lives with what you have but don’t need, do it. But most of all, leave them with a picture of kindness.

As many of you know, I had the pleasure of playing “Jesus” in this unprecedented year’s musical Godspell. A community was built during those hours of dancing and singing that will never leave me. But of all of the friendships and remarkable breakthroughs, there was one miracle too incredible to be coincidence. During one of our earlier rehearsals Mr. Decker approached me, asking for my shirt size so he could order my costume. When I clicked on the amazon link and saw what I was going to wear, my heart stopped. It was a superman shirt. Of course to anyone else, this was just a shirt, just a bit of fabric, but to me and my family, it was everything. That red “S” surrounded by a sea of blue is a symbol in our family because that shirt, that popular, insignificant superman shirt, was Stevie’s signature shirt. I kept it a secret, hid the shirt in my closet. I wanted my family to experience the show as it was meant to be; the moment that old shirt was taken from a garbage can on stage and thrown over my shoulders was going to be a moment of perfection.

Of all the musicals, of all the costume designs, of all the families, and of all the students, I bore the symbol of humility, love, and compassion on my chest. I’m telling you this not just to express my thanks to the incredible people here who made it all possible, but to share with you a lesson I only just learned.

The world works in mysterious ways. We have all seen little moments, little victories that just seem too good to be true, but they are right there, staring us in the face. No matter what adversity brings, it will all make sense one day. And I hope, one day, you wear a superman shirt of your own, proudly carry your past on your shoulders, with integrity and acceptance. But until that day comes, I encourage you to follow the words of a big brother; whatever it is that sparks your passion and brings you bliss, share it unconditionally with those around you, approach frustration and opposition with love, letting go of the anger, give others every ounce that you do not need, and leave a mark on this world that is a true picture of kindness.

11 comments:

  1. That was absolutely incredible. So proud of you Miss Valedictorian. Your family must be beaming with pride. I am sure your brother Stephen is as well. Much love & Congratulations!!! Henry & Sherry Clever ����

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  2. Probably the best valedictorian speak I've ever heard (read). I know how proud of you your family is. Congratulations! Christine Eder (Groh)

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  3. Wonderful! That was from the heart and I believe it filled many hearts with hope.Well done,Naomi,

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  4. Without question, one of the Finest young women I have ever had the privilege to meet and work with! Congratulations, Naomi! Well done!

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  5. I will always carry Naomi in my heart as one of those transformational students who have brought me such unending joy when I work with them. Naomi, go with God!

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