A Proud Moment

The Time I Sang a Rendition of “Friday” in Front of 1000+ People

By James Harvey

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That bear hug; that smile; and those endless kisses and tears. I’ll never forget the day I received news about earning the Valedictorian award. Not only will I not forget about how proud I was, but also how proud my parents were after hearing the great news.

I wasn’t born with the intelligence of a genius — in fact I’m far from one. During 7th and 8th grade I simply took the classes that required the minimum amount of work to receive an A. And in 7th grade I met a couple of friends, who I now consider brothers that I’ve never had, that I instantly clicked with. Prior to meeting these guys, I’ve associated with people who also just wanted to get by the easy way. But these guys were different. Not only did they share the same interests that I had, but they seemed like intellectual guys — and I admired that. Undoubtedly, it rubbed off on me. 9th grade rolled along and I was enrolled in advanced subjects other than math for the first time because I had close friends who wanted to challenge themselves so I wanted to challenge myself too. I didn’t quite understand why I would want to do such a thing. I still had that innocent-mindset when you were young and you didn’t quite fully understand why you were in school except to make your parents proud, goof around with friends and become a competent human being. But this time it was different and I came into a realization about the purpose of education — it was to challenge yourself; it was to search for interests in your future endeavors; it was to prepare a 4-year resume so you could go to college and then make a decent living in society. I don’t know if I was late in the game to realize this last point especially but better late than ever I guess.

I came from a military family where neither of my parents completed college and yet we were making a decent living. Yeah, they mentioned college like most parents do but I didn’t know what that fully entailed, and they didn’t either. I never got a college-talk about what grades I needed, what courses to take, or anything else college-related. All I wanted to do was make them happy and getting good grades accomplished that.

The reward for guiding me towards the college choice goes to a great and motivating Pre-AP English teacher from Freshman year: Mrs. Sims. She was the biggest reason why I knew I wanted to go to college. People who took the class at the time could only complain about how ridiculous the workload was, or comment about how ridiculous memorizing a poem written by Edgar Allen Poe titled “The Raven” was. People who took her class warned me that she was mean and cruel and the class was unnecessarily difficult. Of course hearing gossip like that made me a little intimidated. I kept telling myself English was my worst subject and I sucked at it. I didn’t have scores from those placement exams that told you what level reading or writing you were at to contradict this thought about myself. So yeah, the class was hell for me. This was one of the first times that I put so much effort in academics and I definitely had my share of complaints to my parents about the workload. But my friends were sticking through it so I chose to as well. It may have been self-pride, but I couldn’t be thought of as a quitter and I definitely didn’t want to feel stupid around them.

The course went on, and my hard work was paying off. I was receiving high marks in an advanced course that wasn’t math related. I got praise for my English assignments, and it felt nice that she recognized my hard work even though I didn’t earn perfect scores. It felt nice to make someone else proud besides my parents. However, one day the majority of the class failed to meet her expectations on an assignment, including myself, and the class was being unusually more disruptive which prompted Mrs. Sims to sit us all down and give us a stern lecture. I wasn’t blessed with photogenic memory so I don’t remember most of what she said, but there was a metaphoric analogy about a getting on a yellow bus.

“Get it together and get on the yellow bus because it isn’t going to wait for you and it’ll just keep rolling on and leave you behind while it drives toward the road to success.”

The main takeaway I got from her lecture was this paraphrased quote. Probably due to repeating a silly impersonation of it with some friends at lunch which lasted for about a month. And soon after I realized she was actually loving and caring and only wanted the best for her students. Mrs. Sims was the only teacher who I was slightly intimidated by, yet she genuinely cared about me. She asked about my future plans; she gave me much-needed advice; and she mentioned college and how I’d be successful in any career I set my eyes on. Next semester came and I finally knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to work hard and challenge my mental capabilities so I could go to college and have a successful career. I probably wouldn’t have recognized that I wanted to go to a post-secondary education if it wasn’t for Mrs. Sim’s difficult workload, metaphoric lecture, and kindness. So thank you for being a life-changing catalyst Bev Sims.

From 10th-11th grade I continued to give 110% in my academics and made sure I constantly received the highest mark possible. At the end of the first semester of 10th grade I was ranked 36 out of 300+ students. I was already proud of this fact and so were my parents. My mom being her prideful-self said, “Imagine my son, Valedictorian. Keep up the good work, I love you”. I didn’t really think anything of it because I thought it was an unrealistic goal. In all honesty, my only goal was to work as hard as possible so I could be a strong applicant for colleges to consider.

As high school continued, so did my 100% effort-attitude. I received my report card after 1st semester Senior year and received a B+ in Physics which resulting in being ranked 3 out of my class. I was more than content with this fact. The course completely defeated me; I could never get a full grasp on the subject regardless of how much I studied so I was happy to walk away with a B+.

A month or so passes and I’m sitting in AP Statistics probably doing something productive until I got a note to head to the Principal’s office immediately. I sat down waiting in front of his office itching my head wondering, “What business could I possibly have with the Principal?” He called me in and we started with a casual conversation about my plans after high school and soon later he shared the unsuspecting news that I was being awarded the honor of being Valedictorian of my class!

“OH…MY…GOD!”
“IS THIS FOR REAAALLL?!”
“BUT HOW?! I DON’T UNDERSTAND!”
“WHY ME?!”

The above were the sort of things running through my mind as I left his office and returned to class. I sat in silence during the rest of my classes with a tiny smile of fulfillment on my face. I was told not to share it with any other students for another 2 weeks. So once 2:37 PM hit I bolted to my car and drove off speeding home so I could deliver the news to my parents. I can still clearly picture the face on my mother’s and father’s faces when I told them that I was #1: Never have I seen my parents so proud. Actually that may be a lie — I think the proudest moment I ever saw them was when I gave my class speech for graduation.

Oh man, coming up with the right speech was definitely a tough one. I didn’t know one thing about giving a proper speech. I watched plenty of other speeches hoping something would come to me but to no avail. This was the last time our class would be in the same vicinity and I wanted my speech to have something that couldn’t be easily forgotten. I wanted my speech to be thought of as a celebration, I wanted it to express my appreciation to everyone, and I wanted to inspire at least one person in the crowd. I ultimately decided that my speech had to be for my fellow class. I didn’t feel completely worthy of the award because I knew of friends who were more intellectual than me and it didn’t feel right to talk about my personal life story— it just wasn’t the place and time. So I sat on my computer one day just browsing through some YouTube videos and suddenly the imaginative light bulb flicked on after watching some hilarious parody remakes of “Friday” by Rebecca Black. I thought to myself, “I could do my own version of this song. It can’t be that hard plus I don’t think it’s possible to make the song worse”. So I just went with my gut feeling and followed through with this thought and it turned out to be a unique speech.

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Below is a copy of my valedictorian speech as well as a recording. I sound nervous because I most certainly was. To this day public speaking still gives me anxiety…

Hello, I’m James Harvey and I want to begin by saying how honored I am to be standing here today in front of classmates, friends, family and anyone else who was able to make it here today. Before I move on, I would greatly appreciate it if all of my classmates would cheer during my speech as they hear the words, class of 2011. Even though we are wearing these traditional, goofy outfits, this will be the last time where we will all be wearing blue and will be able to show our school spirit. Congratulations Olympic High School class of 2011 [pause], it looks like we finally made it!
I tried to think of a way to make my speech one to remember and I even resorted to the “p” word: plagiarism. But sadly, I couldn’t find one. But I figured if Rebecca Black could make a song with 156 million views about a day of the week, then maybe I can too.
7 AM waking up in the morning,
Gotta get fresh, gotta get my gown on
Gotta have my cap, gotta have my tassle
Gunna miss my friends, the time keeps goin’
Tickin’ on & on, everybody’s excited
Gotta get down to the pavilillion
Gotta find my speech, I see my friends
Sittin’ in these nice seats
Now I’m walking to the stage
Man I can’t believe it
I’m bout’ to graduate cuz’
It’s Saturday, Saturday
Graduatin’ on Saturday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to get their diplomas
Saturday, Saturday
Graduating on Saturday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to be done with high school.
Graduate, Graduate, (yeah)
Graduate, Graduate (yeah)
Let me hear it
Olympic class of 2011 [pause]
Singing in front of a thousand people can now be checked off my list.
If I could describe my high school experience in one word, it would be OOPS. Oops for never doing a senior prank to leave our mark. At least I don’t think we ever had one, and if we did then it must have been lame. Oops for procrastinating and wasting countless hours checking facebook, twitter, or any other social networking sites. Oops for forgetting everything I learned in school over the summer. And lastly, Oops for taking for granted the times when we were contumacious infinitesimal children and were able to wet themselves. I mean come on, being able to just pee on the spot, and having your parents clean it. Was that not cool?
Do you guys remember the first week of our senior year when those mysterious sexy men in those blue suits danced to a remix of California girls? Or remember when the softball team made it to state for the first time ever this year? Remember when we entered Olympic High School not knowing what to expect? These memories and much more is the gift of high school and will last forever. Throughout these high school years, I have met some of the most amazing friends. I want you all to look at the amazing people that are sitting around you, and reminisce the good times you’ve shared. Each of you has been given something special: a friendship. A friendship that helped you get through tough times, and a friendship that is full of memories. You know when you have a true friendship when about 8 of your friends give you the most painful wedgie ever, ripping your underwear in the process. And I’d like to give a thank you to those people for that painful, but unforgettable summer. But that’s what true friendship is all about, sharing not one, not two, but many of those memorable moments.
With that said, I’d like to give some quick thank you’s:
thank you Mom for always being there
Thank you Dad, for always being there.
Albert Ardiente, for always being there.
Halo, and call of duty, for always being there.
CJ Encomienda, for always being there.
Olympic High School staff, for always being there
& lastly, class of 2011 [pause], thank you for always being there.
Now here is the “boring” part where 90% of you tune out while I give some inspiring words. High School has shown us what we are, and has helped us develop into civilized males and females. So don’t let that high school experience go to waste, and don’t get lost in who you are, and what you want to make out of your life. Let’s face it, we’re about to face reality. But what is reality? Reality is what each individual experiences. Japan going through harsh times is reality. The tornadoes that devastated our country is reality. September 11, is reality. & Olympic High School class of 2011 graduating [pause] is reality.
No matter what the future may bring upon you, I want you to never give up on your dreams and what you’re passionate for, no matter how many times you fail, or when obstacles come your way. Don’t ever s be scared to strive for success. Do you know how many times Thomas Edison screwed up before making a light bulb? Or how many how many years it took to finally find Osama? No matter how many failures come your way, remember to just keep moving forward.
Lastly, as cliché as it sounds, don’t judge a book by its cover. Personally, I’ve fought through stereotypical obstacles, and broke through barriers to get to where I am today. I was harassed, and some even doubted my intellectual capabilities and thought I couldn’t make anything out of my life because of my skin color. People would see my ethnicity and find it necessary to talk in a “gangster” kind of way. No matter who you are, or what background you come from, you are all capable of doing something wondrous. Quoted from our senior motto: “whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
In these last moments of my speech, I ask, class of 2011 [pause], to raise your left hand as high as possible, and on the count of three, I want you all to touch your right leg with that arm. All right, ready? 1,2, 3. Now I can say I have all touched you with my speech. There’s a statistic that states that 70% remember the last part of a speech the most, so just to make sure you don’t forget, I will be singing my Saturday song one more time. Just kidding, that’s my senior prank. Thank you.

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If I had to list my top 10 experiences in my life this would definitely make the cut. Never in my life time did I imagine I’d sing/rap in front of 1000+ people. I would’ve never done this if it weren’t for this exact situation because I think we can agree I don’t have the voice of Bruno Mars. I was proud of myself and what I accomplished after 12 years of education and I know my parents and family were proud as well, if not more than me.

Maybe I was lucky to have certain events line up the way they did. But if there’s anything to take away from this story it’s that you can’t do everything alone. Think back to some highlighting-moments in your life and I highly doubt you can say you’ve done it completely solo. We all need someone to lean on and we all need our personal support system — it’s just how we are as humans.

To my friends, my family, and my teachers: thank you so much for all the support you all have given me. I hope I too made you guys proud because reaching that point in my life would not have been possible if it weren’t for you all. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to have my 8 minutes of fame and glory.

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My brothers: Thank you for being positive role models, mentors, friends, and most of all family.
My parents: Thank you for constantly showing me the love and support.

“Give credit where credit is due”. So here’s a special shout-out to my support system. Without you all by my side I’m not sure this would’ve been possible.

My 9th grade English Teacher (not the horse): Thank you so much for your kind words and wisdom. I was stuck sitting idle where two the paths diverged but you nudged me down the correct road for college and success.
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