I gave this speech at my high school graduation in June 2008 at Friends Center Meeting House in Philadelphia
The light of a firefly.
We have known since September, June would come, and with it bring forth the fireflies.
If a firefly could tell you what it has seen in its minute life then maybe we too would cease our parade toward completion, and turn to dance recklessly.
We too would throw caution; we too would rave through the sweltering dusks of summer. The talkative afternoon sun has set to evening; the fireflies emerge to watch us through our windows, peering at us, begging us to join them in the raucous celebration of night, for night belongs to the unfinished, the unpracticed, and the unlearned. Night belongs to the young.
Curious, step out into this night – as we all must. Venture your tender foot about town.
Have no hazard for the unknown; the firefly is Youth’s guardian tonight.
They plead for us to join their party, to shine for an instant, slam your eyes shut and gasp a prayer that you too will flash across the sky. Glorious and temporary, fearing not the winter to come.
Follow them; they will lead us to others like ourselves, others just as raw, youth converging in the night.
Congregate. The others too are unseasoned, blemished, and waiting. They are your unripe kin. Tonight and together, we are guests to the firefly’s promenade, we flourish our naiveté, abandon hesitation, mingle, collapse, and push. This is a new place, but you are safe, you were expected.
We can only shine for an instant, then we too must retire. The dance-floor will empty, you and I will part at this door, friends will hear callings, you too will be swept away. The younger will replace us, pulling our hands apart. Autumn is ahead; the fireflies will flee the falling leaves. It is time to leave the congregation.
We have been seen, we have been seen alit in our lives. The fireflies remember the first day you didn’t want to hold hands crossing the street, adored the crumbles of love your life shared, and consoled the feelings you felt behind. They welcome the new friendships you will sow, savor your coming breathes of laughter, and lay patiently for the choices you will make.
We like the firefly will have radiance in our lives, it will one day flicker and fade, yet should we weep for that loss, we must allow ourselves to smile for you had such grace upon us. Let us celebrate together for our goals are now just steps along the way, the curtain call is now the opening.
From the crowded closet of your teenage memories recall what the fireflies said to you before they fled. Remember what they whispered to you, cuddling against your ear, “In whatever you may endeavor, just try”