June 3, 2008
Naperville School District 203 says a graduation speech given by Naperville
Central High School valedictorian Steven Hankong Su bears "a strong
similarity to another graduation speech published on the Internet."
School officials have revealed the source of his material: the parody
publication The Onion.
Last week, district officials said they asked Su's family to return the
valedictorian medal he was awarded and said his speech would be removed from
the videotape of the ceremony. He would be allowed to keep the valedictorian
title because it was based on grade-point average and earned before he gave
the speech, officials said.
Similarties between the two pieces of writing are clear. The article in the
Onion includes the following sentence: "We may have entered this place as
106 separate strangers, but we have emerged as 106 friends with our whole
lives ahead of us." Su's address includes: "We may have entered this place
as 730 separate strangers, but we have emerged as 730 friends and classmates
each with a bright future ahead of us."
The full text of Su's speech, provided by the school district, follows:
Good Evening. As I started writing this speech yesterday night, I realized
that this speech was possibly the most difficult piece of writing I have
ever encountered in high school.
No, I didn't have to worry about present tense verbs or spelling mistakes,
or even the dreaded passive voice. (I'm sorry to tell you this, Mrs.
Placket, but this speech is full of passive voice.) Instead of these normal
challenges, I was faced with the daunting task of summarizing four years of
high school into a three minute speech. To make it even more complicated,
we, the Class of 2008, have all taken different classes, had different
teachers and participated in different sports and extracurricular activities
while here at Central.
In order to write this speech, I thought long and hard about a common
experience we have all shared while attending Central and remembered back to
the first day of school, freshman year, when the 730 of us all arrived here
e***d at the prospect of finally being in high school. The 730 of us were
all still strangers to each other. We had little in common except for
matching gym clothes, locker problems, and no idea of what we would do in
the future. But here we are, four long years later, in the future, at our
In these four years, in between memorizing the unpronouncable names of every
Egyptian pharoah while on the second floor, and performing single, double,
and dare I say triple integrals in the flat wing, we formed bonds with new
friends; bonds which are stronger than the non-polar covalent chemical bonds
that we learned of while in Room 99. Sorry, the nerdy side of me came out.
Our four years at Central have also furnished us with the education,
experiences, character and leadership necessary to overcome any obstacle
that we face in the future. We have received so much during our stay in high
school. Now it is our turn to give back.
Thomas Edison once said, "If we did the things we are capable of, we would
astound ourselves." No quote is truer for the Class of 2008 than Edison's
As we leave high school and become the next neurosurgeons, NFL superstars,
hedge fund managers, and perhaps even president of the United States, we
have a responsibility to share what we have learned at Central through our
future actions. We need to spread the compassion and wisdom that we have
gained at Central to others and continue striving for excellence. We are the
leaders of tomorrow... scary, isn't it?
As I look down at everyone tonight, I am proud to be a part of this
graduating class. I fondly look back at all the achievements we have
accomplished together. And look forward to all we have yet to accomplish. We
may have entered this place as 730 separate strangers, but we have emerged
as 730 friends and classmates each with a bright future ahead of us. It is
up to us to live our lives to the fullest and be the change we wish to see
in the world.
We will never forget the incredible journey through high school we've
traversed together with the help of our teachers, administrators, and proud
parents; however, this journey is coming to a close. We now begin an new
journey in life, a journey in which we go out and better the world. And
after getting to know the most of you these past four years, I'm sure that
Congratulations, Class of 2008, and good luck wherever your journey in life
In a presidential race with a former First Lady and a son of admiralty who
married into a vast beer fortune, it's the black guy who has to prove he's