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Darien High Salutatorian Amanda Sload Finds Wisdom In Winnie The Pooh

Darien High School graduation
Darien High School graduation Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

DARIEN, Conn. -- Here is the full text of the Salutatorian Address given Tuesday at Darien High School's graduation by Amanda Sload:

Good afternoon. I’m honored to have the opportunity to speak to you today. I’m in the band, so I’ve had the chance to play at the last few graduations. When I sat in the heat, listening to everyone speak, I always took for granted that the valedictorians and salutatorians had something valuable to say. Some insight, advice, a tidbit of useful knowledge.

I realized, though, once given the opportunity to speak in front of you, fellow members of the class of 2015, parents, loved ones, teachers, administrators, that the fact that I have good grades does not at all qualify me to give you life advice.

So instead I will share some life advice from someone who is indeed qualified to give it—A. A. Milne, author of "Winnie the Pooh."

Here are seven bits of wisdom that can be learned from Winnie the Pooh. First, “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

Graduating from DHS is a big step and a big accomplishment, but we could not have made it without the help of many people. I could list a dozen teachers who have truly changed my life for the better.

I know you care deeply about us, and it shows, so thank you. It’s probably a good time to thank our parents… We would not be here without you, and I know that none of us recognize you enough.

Each of us has our own mentors as well. One of my mentors is my hockey coach. He has the biggest heart and pushes me to be better every day; I cannot thank him enough.

Finally, we should also thank each other. I am grateful to you all for being there for me when I needed it and even when I thought I didn’t.

So, although we’re here celebrating our great accomplishments, let’s remember to take a moment to express our gratitude to all the people who have helped us get here.

Second, while this is an important milestone in our lives, we still have to move forward and take chances. As Milne writes, “You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

We’re all going to have to face new, potentially scary, situations pretty soon. We have to confront these situations and opportunities, even if it’s uncomfortable, in order to find the success that we’re hoping for.

When I moved to Denmark, I played on a local Danish hockey team. Although the boys on the team took English in school, they weren’t comfortable speaking to me in it. So, I learned a few phrases of Danish, from school and from them, and tried them out. Some of the more useful phrases I learned were “I like cake” and “You are a very large hippopotamus." I can assure you that I made a fool of myself, but I made friends and I learned something; I learned that, many times, we won’t be in our element, we won’t be in our corner of the forest, but we can take any situation, no matter how new, how uncomfortable or scary, and turn it into a positive experience.

The third piece of advice that Milne gives us I believe speaks for itself, and may be helpful for us in the coming years: “A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.”

Fourth, a slightly more serious bit of insight: “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.” We’re going to meet a lot of new people. If we keep our minds open, we can learn so much from those around us. I’ve heard that even New Canaan kids are people, too, once you get to know them.

While being open minded can be difficult, and I don’t necessarily condone fraternizing with the enemy, going into the world with an open mind will do us all well. After all, we never know where our next friend will come from.

Fifth, Milne writes “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience - well, that comes from poor judgment.” Nobody expects us to be able to do everything perfectly. We’re going to make bad decision and mess up in new situations; we simply have to learn from our mistakes.

Sixth, Milne says: “To the uneducated an A is just three sticks.” When we were 4 years old, the letter A was simply three meaningless lines, but it’s impossible for us to unsee an A for what it is now. It’s ingrained in our minds. Education has changed our worlds and will continue to change them. We’ll learn things that we can’t even fathom right now. It has the power to transform who we are. Let it.

Seventh, and finally, he says, “Perhaps the best thing to do is to stop writing Introductions and get on with the book.” Accomplishing all that we have so far is wonderful, but we have a world of opportunities in front of us. This is just the beginning. It’s been an amazing beginning and a beginning of which to be proud. Now, we are lucky to have things to learn, mistakes to make, people to meet, and lives to change.

So let’s get on with it. Congratulations, Class of 2015.

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