The Best of the Class of 2018’s Graduation Speeches

By Henry Chisholm
Development Associate

Em Perry used their graduation speech to talk about loving those that harm you and being direct in your fight against injustice.

Graduation was about a month ago, and we are still inspired by the impactful, powerful speeches the Class of 2018 gave. Below is a recap of best of the Class of 2018’s graduation speeches from Valedictorian Em Perry, Hope Dymond and Joan Gillette Award winner Elijah Voss.

Perry used their speech to talk about having an open mind, loving those who aren’t so easy to love and the importance of honesty. They opened talking about their road to Common Ground.  

“I went to a 2,000 student, overwhelmingly conservative school for my freshman and sophomore year, and I was that one out trans kid who would eat lunch on the stairs. As soon as I heard about Common Ground, it felt like a saving grace. For the first time in my life, I felt listened to, and the justice in being listened to is one that I will never forget.”

Perry talked about a poem, Wendell Berry’s Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,  they read in Jeremy Stone’s Environmental History class. The poem was about loving those that hurt you and opening your heart, minds and ears to those you disagree with. The poem had an impact on Perry.

“As a trans person, who has first-hand seen the harm that child abuse and rape can do on a personal level and in my guidance family, I know that all of these stories are mine, and that putting them up to a light or on a pedestal affects me just as much as the parties I am holding accountable. The question becomes, then, how do we find justice for everyone? I’ve been wondering this for the entirety of my senior year.”

Perry said love is one answer, but love alone is not enough. Honest discourse with those who harm and those you disagree with is imperative for any long-term change. They challenged their fellow graduates to show empathy, but also be direct in addressing injustice.

“There is a difference between vindication and accountability. You should fear being vindictive, but never fear holding people accountable for their actions. You do not have to do harm in exposing harm. However, there is no excuse for sugar-coating over injustice; that pain is still there, so lying to the party that has the most to learn from their wrongs does no justice to them nor their community.”


Hope Dymond used  advice from her grandfather.

Dymond used her speech to talk about being yourself.  To make the point, she wanted to open with a quote she came up with. She couldn’t think of anything, and thought finding one online would be counterproductive to the point she was trying to make, so she got creative. 


“I realized that if I quoted someone who was in my family, that’s technically not stealing. If my grandpa came up with some amazing piece of wisdom, 25 percent of my DNA comes from him so it’s 25 percent not plagiarism!”

She shouted her grandfather out, too!

“There’s a bald man somewhere in the multipurpose room, in my family we joke that his head is so shiny he can signal morse code with it. So you can probably spot him if you just look for the shining light. I’m going to share with you some of the bald man’s wisdom.”

She talked about her struggles at a job with the Urban Resources Initiative. Dymond said her grandfather understood the dilemma. He told her about how he would talk and be open at one construction site where he used to work, but stayed to himself at another. Her grandfather gave her this piece of advice when she doesn’t feel like she can fully be herself in certain settings.

“Which version of yourself are you going to be?”

Dymond also challenged her fellow graduates. In addition to Perry’s message of being empathetic, honest and direct, Dymond asked her friends to go forward being themselves.

“What I’m asking you all to do, class of 2018, is realize that we must value each and every version of ourselves, even the versions that require a trip to farmer Joe (for disciplinary reasons). Remember though, that you’re not starting off with a clean slate. You have all these different versions, all these accomplishments, failures, memories, from Common Ground, and from here you can only grow. Give yourself permission to be all of yourselves at once, and the one that is best.”

A message hopefully all students will take to heart going forward.


Eli Voss used his speech to talk about how CG helped him mature in and out of the classroom.

Voss talked about how CG played a role in his maturation. Once a shy young man, reluctant to participate in class, Voss grew into a leader at CG. Not only was he a role model to his friends and peers in the classroom, but he got it done on the basketball court, too, as he led CG to a championship.

He said selflessness helped him grow into the man he is today.

“It’s due to my loss of self doubt and increase of self confidence and motivation. I don’t help because I have to. I help because I want to. Motivating others motivates me. I don’t give things to others in search for reward or payment. I don’t seek recognition or fame from peers or staff members. At the end of the day, I just want to be helpful to others because it ultimately helps me.”

Eli, Hope and Em helped those in their time at CG. The trio not only helped their fellow students, but they’ve impacted and helped teachers and staff from the moment they stepped on campus to when they stepped on stage and spoke at graduation. Good luck to all three and The Class of 2018!


Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.