When asked by his parents recently who was speaking at Scotia-Glenville’s graduation, Kyle Rankin just shrugged like he hadn’t given it a second thought.
Turns out Rankin did know who was speaking at his graduation on Saturday: He was.
In his speech, Rankin challenged his fellow graduates to strike an individual path, embracing and amplyifying what makes them each special. It won’t be easy, he warned them, as other people will attempt to pigeon-hole and stereotype them. But hold strong and be yourself, he said.
“We will come across barrier in the way of our path,” he told his classmates and the family and friends clustered in Proctors in Schenectady for the school’s 110th commencement ceremony, which saw 188 students receive diplomas.
“There will always be someone out there to find something about you and make it define you, but doesn’t define you,” Rankin continued. “How we look doesn’t define us, our character does.”
Rankin, in his joke-filled address, pointed his classmates toward Kanye West’s Twitter page for a bit of advice on taking time for themselves. In a recent tweet, Kanye admitted to sometimes closing an elevator door as someone was running to catch it, giving him the privacy and opportunity for reflection guaranteed by an empty elevator ride. Don’t be afraid to take those moments for yourself, Rankin said.
“It’s OK to push the door closed and be on your own for a bit, it’s OK to be different,” Rankin said. “If we were all the same, the world would be boring.”
The Scotia ceremony stamped its special brand at Proctors when the Scotia-Glenville Pipe Band ushered in faculty and administrators to a rousing symphony of bagpipes and drums.
Gabriella Therrien, the first of the program’s two students speakers, wanted her classmates to think more in terms of Game of Thrones than Braveheart. She infused her speech with an analogy to the persistence, training and bravery that knights must demonstrate as they advance from page to squire a knight. Along that winding journey, Therrien said, knights must overcome countless fears and ultimately help others do the same.
“I have a whole lot of fears, some of which are ridiculous,” admitted Therrien, listing her — fireworks, thunder, balloons, bees, airplanes “and public speaking.”
But everyone has fears. Therrien said. “Fear is what drives us forward. Fear is what motivates us to be brave.” She advised her classmates to always be persistent and brave as they strive to overcome each of their fears.
“No one is born brave, it’s not that simple,” said Therrien, whose dad died when she was two years old. “Everyone had to work at being brave… you have to do something even if you are afraid.”
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