Kali Branstetter 2021 Graduation Speech

Hello everyone! As you all may know, my name is Kali Branstetter! I am so honored to be speaking in front of all of you guys today as our class celebrates a huge life milestone. It is crazy to think that we have finally reached this moment, as we celebrate our past and begin our futures, in our caps and gowns and in front of our community and families. All we could do was count down the years until we graduated and were able to begin our lives independently without any hesitation. However, now that we are in this moment, we are quickly realizing just how fast that time went by. 

This has been a fantastic week filled with activities, less responsibilities, and no classes. Experiencing the things that we always looked forward to as seniors. Over the last week, I’ve had the chance to think about what Weiser has meant to me, and about what comes next for our class. And I found myself thinking about time. About how quickly it flies by, about how there’s never enough of it. About how life comes at us so fast that we don’t always get to appreciate the time we have, and the people we share our time with. Or about how people said to enjoy high school as much as you can, because each year goes faster and faster…and how I didn’t believe it was true because graduation seemed so out of reach. With that being said, I feel like I started at high school last week, and now I’m on the graduation podium, dressed up in my cap and gown, trying not to embarrass myself any more than I have to or have in the past…realizing that everything those people said was so true. Each year goes by faster and faster.

Before I was able to find the words for this speech, I was absolutely clueless about what I should talk about, how to keep it all interesting, and how to put all of our years together into a few paragraphs…letting my perfectionism take over. Like many high school students do, I googled “graduation speeches” and came across many examples of what to say and what not to say. In fact, I found out that saying things like “This is the first day of the rest of our lives.”, “This isn’t the end.”, “Follow your passions”, and “These are the days we will never forget.” are all cliches that should not be brought up in a speech. And while all of them are very cheesy and over-used, they are not entirely wrong. We WILL look back to these days in high school and reminisce about the times where we would attempt to remake all of the recent TikTok videos…use words like “lit, oop, yeet, sus, simp, cap, lowkey” and the newly discovered, all thanks to Beau, “jhit”….play the circle game…quote vines…and keep up with all of the latest trends that seem like nothing now. All of these things are what have helped define us, regardless of how absurd some of them are. We ARE on the quick path of starting our lives independently by following our passions. Despite what good and bad things have happened in the last 12 years of our lives in school, we will remember those little moments that helped individualize and shape us. 

As we grew up, the world seemed so big. We were innocent, not realizing how real the world can be at times. As middle and high school hit, we were exposed to many realities, the most serious being the pandemic in these last two years. And while this was one of the hardest obstacles we had to face together, we all persevered through it and were able to finish. We overcame the stresses of handling online school, quarantine, cancellations, abnormal school activities, and many other things on top of the traditional stresses of SATs, scholarships, college applications, extracurricular activities, and schoolwork. There were times where we considered just giving up, but we didn’t. Despite all of the traditions we had to change or miss out on, we were able to make the most of it and create many new memories. On a positive note, we are having a pretty traditional graduation, which is something we all were hoping and praying for when we started our senior year. We must use what we have learned about ourselves in this last year as we move forward into the next stages of our lives and remember to live in the moment, to laugh, and to appreciate the things that we have and the people in our lives. We must cherish the moments we are given, because there is a fine line between living in the past and appreciating the present. As long as we remember where we came from and take our memories with us –because they are what shape us into who we are– we won’t let those few moments define who we are and won’t let them stand in the way of our transformations. Life is a lot like softball, which is something that I am very passionate about. As a batter, we never know what pitch we are going to get. This is much like life and how you never know what is going to come, whether it is something as serious as covid was or not. It’ll throw us curveballs, riseballs, drop balls, and all sorts of pitches. Sometimes we will strike out and feel defeated. Other times we will keep fouling the ball off, not making perfect contact. And sometimes, just sometimes, we will hit a grand-slam…which truly feels like cloud 9. Just from these chances alone, we can’t let the thought of striking out consume us enough to the point that we end up getting stuck. And with that being said, we were able to persevere and make it to this huge achievement. This all brings me back to this moment, this time, and this ceremony. It seems like only yesterday that we were freshmen, nervous about our first week at high school, worried about where our classes were, and still discovering ourselves and our passions…The first moments we experienced on the football field watching our boys play and wearing red on Fridays…Even the moments we would spend battling with the other grades to get the spirit stick, making fools of ourselves on the stage as we would attempt to lip sync to songs…sometimes getting us disqualified. 

This ceremony is about celebrating all that we have experienced and what is yet to come. Our graduation is the most significant moment that we have reached so far. As Harvey Mackay, a businessman and author, once said, “Time is free, but it is priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.“ If we spend so much time focusing on the future or the past, we will lose focus on the moments that matter the most. The value of time is often overlooked. And as we approach more official adulthood and new chapters, we must remember that we can always make more money but cannot make more time. As long as we put a price-tag on time and visualize how precious it is, we will avoid wasting it. Time seems endless, and as we have witnessed with our time together, it flies by quickly. So while it seems like it is endless, it really isn’t. Which is why I encourage all of us to take advantage of every moment and or opportunity we may receive. Bringing softball back into this all, like life, it has no clock. No time limit or “sudden death” overtime. You know there is an end to the game, but you never know exactly when it will… just like life. You might be way behind in the score, given a death sentence, but can rally and come back to survive another inning or even win in the end…which makes it all much more worth it. Without knowing the end, we must experience every moment like it is the last. 

Before I wrap this up, thank you to everyone who is here today, everyone who has helped shape our class. Parents, family members, teachers, coaches, community leaders, close friends or whoever you may be, we would not be here without your guys’ support and contributions to Weiser High School and individuals. We are forever grateful for all of you, especially as you share this huge moment of celebration with us. Personally, I want to give a huge thank you to each and every one of my classmates. I am happy I have been able to spend the last four years plus some with you all. I am so excited to see where all of us go as we embark on our next journeys. I am proud of all of us. 

Some people may mark high school as the best years of their life, but high school is just the best set of years in our lives AT THE MOMENT. We have so much left to live and learn, and the best part about Weiser is that there are so many people with a different variety of interests, talents, backgrounds, and, now, futures. We have people in this room right now, who are going to be athletes, in the military, teachers, therapists, designers, nurses, doctors, engineers, and the list goes on. No matter what our future steps may be, we will always be connected by these years in our lives. We must always remember to live life in the moment, because time isn’t free and it matters how you spend it. Once a wolverine, always a wolverine. We are the Class of 2021.

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