Most of us don’t remember our high school graduation speeches, but one valedictorian in Colorado has gotten national attention for hers.
Emily Bruell, a valedictorian at Roaring Forks High School in Carbondale, Colorado, delivered a powerful message to her fellow graduates. Objectively, it was about labels. But the ultimate takeaway was the importance of courage.
Bruell talked about how she’s labeled as “smart,” and held up a title card that identified her as such. She said it was an identity she had always had and, at times, clung to.
“I even have it, here, a little prop. I worked to fulfill it, studying, working diligently on every perfectionist detail of my homework,” said Bruell.
Then, she said, she began to identify with another label.
When Bruell held up another piece of paper with “gay” printed on it, she received a standing ovation — a reaction that neither she nor her principal expected, according to the Associated Press.
In her speech, published by the Post Independent, Bruell used her own experiences to highlight how prone to taxonomy humans are, and how off-base that can be.
She recognized the comfort that makes it so hard to shirk labels.
“My label may have kept me from getting invites to the wild parties, but it also gave me a niche, a place of acknowledgement and acceptance.”
She acknowledged the tendency we all have when faced with something new.
“And the easiest thing to do when you are scared of something is to ignore it, to just keep on acting the way you did before you got scared.”
She showed that making yourself vulnerable will not kill you.
“The label of GAY GIRL is irrevocably revealed. And standing here, still in one piece, I’m realizing that while the label is accurate, it’s also not everything.”
She explained how limiting labels can be.
“But every time we define a person so narrowly, we miss seeing the parts that don’t fit under that definition.”
And she challenged the class of 2015 (and people everywhere) to see humans instead of categories.
“This is our opportunity for a life without labels. Take it.”
Photos by Colleen O’Neil via AP