North High Valedictorian Yoel Hawa reflects on ‘Endgame’

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North High Valedictorian Yoel Hawa talked cultural phenomena, endings and new beginnings at the 2019 commencement ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Great Neck Public Schools)
North High Valedictorian Yoel Hawa talked cultural phenomena, endings and new beginnings at the 2019 commencement ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Great Neck Public Schools)

Yoel Hawa, the valedictorian of Great Neck North High’s class of 2019, delivered a speech about cultural phenomena, endings and new beginnings at commencement. It was sent to the Great Neck News by the Great Neck Public Schools. 

Hello Seniors! This is the last time we’ll be hearing those words until four years from now! Well, we did it!

I’ve been looking to 2019 for a long time. I knew that this year would be our grand finale. I knew that this year would finally bring the end…of Game Of Thrones. And the end of the Marvel movies as we know them, and the Star Wars movies, and The Big Bang Theory, and so many things that I love. And I’m missing one…oh right, and the end of our time in high school.

I always thought it was fitting that 2019 would be a year of so many cultural endings. This year closes a chapter on the top two highest-grossing film franchises of all time, the most watched network TV series, and the most popular show in the world. And we will all be closing our current chapter alongside them. So, what can we learn from all these simultaneous graduations?

First of all, these cultural phenomena all ended with a big bang, if you will. The Big Bang Theory soared to new highs in terms of viewership, and secured its legacy as a top comedy show. Avengers: Endgame broke records to become the highest-grossing film domestically of all time, and was loved by everyone that saw it. And Game of Thrones…well, it tried. The point is, as these things ended, they left behind their marks on the world. In much the same way, as most of us move on to college next year, a part of us is always staying behind in various forms: the influence we have had on our parents and siblings at home, the friends that we’ve impacted that are still in high school, the teachers that we annoyed so much with our senioritis that they will never forget us, and so on.

And yet, if you look closely, you’ll see that none of these so called “endings” is really ending at all. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is already moving on with its next phase. Disney has already begun to work on what comes next after Star Wars: Episode IX. The Big Bang Theory already has its own spinoff, and Game of Thrones might have as many as five spinoff shows to disappoint fans with. The parallels to us are pretty clear: this is not the end for us, just the end of our current chapter. And now, we are ready to start our new life out in the world with the proverbial million dollar check that was promised to us four years ago finally in our hands. And no, sadly we cannot use that check to pay off our college debt.

Now, I know I’m supposed to give some advice for this future I speak of in this speech, but let’s be honest, how am I, who’s at the exact same point as everyone on this stage, qualified to give any advice for our future?

So instead, I’m going to draw on the wisdom of one of my personal heroes that’s also closing a chapter this year, someone that I even came to school dressed up as this year for Halloween. I am talking about Iron Man. This inventive, technology-minded genius always manages to find a solution to every problem he faces, and though I wrote this speech before seeing the newest Avengers movie, I can’t wait to see him in countless more movies…oh uh…nevermind.

Anyway, in the first Iron Man movie, as he is preparing to go on his first test flight in his new suit, he tells his artificial intelligence butler, Jarvis, that “sometimes you gotta run before you can walk.” Though that line was intended to be humorous, and definitely a twist on the old saying, I actually think that it is a perfect piece of advice for us as we move on to this very important time in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s important that we move with care, that we carefully crawl, then walk, and only then break into a run.

But sometimes, we should make like Tony Stark and go straight for the sprint. And if we do that we will probably fail. Many times we’ll go for that run and land flat on our face. But we just have to get up, dust ourselves off, and use what we’ve learned to try again. And sometimes, just sometimes, our risks will pay off, and we’ll be successful.

So, I say that we run first. Run into new things and new opportunities. If we don’t land on our feet, then we’ll just get up and run somewhere new. Take risks, innovate, create, and lead the world of tomorrow. If we have faith in ourselves, then there’s no telling what we’ll be able to accomplish.

Our time starts now. This isn’t even remotely the end. Well, of the speech yes, but this isn’t the end for us. This was just our prequel, our superhero origin story, our episodes one through three. And now, it’s time for us to use all that we’ve been soaking up for the past four years. It’s time for us to no longer crawl, or even walk. It is time for us to show the world all the incredible places where this Class of 2019 is going to run.

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