Senior Co-President Address by Arvind Shridhar

June 14, 2020

Good morning everybody,

I’m incredibly honored to have the opportunity to speak today, on behalf of the class of 2020, to a Whole Foods parking lot.

I wasn’t really sure how to go about writing this speech. They say to gear what you say towards your audience, but I’m not exactly sure what type of speech would capture the emotions and aspirations of grandma’s 1997 Honda civic. I’ll give it a shot anyway.

High School boy speaking at podium.

Like many of previous Wheeler assignments, I ended up writing this speech pretty close to the last minute. However, the reason why it took me so long is much different than my 9th grade personal essay on what it was like to wear a Hawaiian shirt for five days in a row. Writing this, I was genuinely stuck. There are so many things I want to talk about and I didn’t know which one to focus on. Mr. Campbell suggested I write it about teachers named after famous soups, but I don’t think any of us are ready for that conversation.

I could talk about my memories from the beginning of my time at Wheeler, such as how I showed up to the new student barbecue a few weeks before freshman year in a full button-down shirt, suit pants, and dress shoes … I know what you’re thinking. I looked amazing.

I could talk about how all of us have gone through personal and important journeys over these last 18 years. How we’ve all experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I’ll never forget the day that I watched Happy Feet for the first time. I leapt off the couch and told my mom, “When I grow up I wanna be a tap-dancing penguin.” You can imagine the extreme disappointment I felt when my mom looked back at me, and said,  “Arvind …. Grow up, you’re graduating next week.” I guess some dreams just aren’t meant to be. mom.

It wasn’t until a spontaneous advisory call two weeks ago that I really understood what I wanted to address today. Appearing on the infamous zoom grid on a Thursday morning advisory meeting, Ms. Pell made the comment, “We are all getting so good at living with uncertainty.”

When I heard that, it made me think about what defines the class of 2020. I truly believe it boils down to one word. Change. There’s no class, no group, no generation in history that has experienced more change than ours. The world that we were born into is not at all the world that we live in today. We were lucky enough to experience childhoods where it was still the norm to go and play outside and find random friends in your neighborhood, or to tune into Cartoon Network at 6 AM every morning to watch Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu: Rise of the Snakes… I’m sure we can all relate. Given that technology didn’t have a grip on the world yet, we were really one of the last grades allowed to experience our childhoods to the fullest.

The world today drastically differs from the world of yesterday. In some ways, this is a very positive thing. Since we were born, polio has been completely eradicated, average life expectancy has increased by over 6 years worldwide, and two weeks ago, we sent astronauts to space for the first time in the last 9 years.

At the same time, the world today was entirely and completely unprepared for a major medical event that had been expected and predicted for years. The world has more war refugees now than at any point in history, and many children still don’t have access to education in developing countries around the world.

Up to this point, we’ve seen the world change in ways we never could have imagined, and at a rate faster than ever before. Our class is in an extremely unique position. We are surrounded with the burden of fixing the problems that have yet to be fixed, and we are also responsible for setting the seeds for what the future of the world will look like. By leaving the Wheeler bubble, we’re being reintroduced to the world with more mature eyes, no longer with the filter of all the things we previously took for granted. Our nature has always been to observe change, to react to change, but now, we take on the responsibility of creating change.

At Wheeler, we’re often told our class, unlike any other class before it, is uniquely filled with leaders. The most important thing to take away from what defines our class is the internal desire to lead that exists in each and every one of us. We’re going to be moving on to a stage of our lives where we’ll be given an opportunity to fight for the changes that we want to see. We, the Wheeler class of 2020, must be unrelenting in our pursuit of change. Let us fix the problems that hold us back, and forge the solutions that move us forward. It’s time that our class gets into the driver’s seat and puts our foot on the gas pedal. Not yet though, wait till you leave the farm, otherwise grandma’s honda civic will have a dented bumper.

Thank you all for making our class so wonderfully unique. In whatever individual fields we choose to enter, I look forward to seeing all of us become leaders in the causes that mean the most to us. Think about whatever it is that gets your blood boiling, whatever it is that piques your curiosity, and be the one who defines what you will mean to the future.

Thank you

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