“That voice of yours was meant to be heard.” — L. Clift
The first week of my freshman year of high school I decided that I wanted to say a speech at graduation. Keep in mind, dear reader, that I had no idea what I wanted to say, just that I wanted to say something.
And because being valedictorian was quite simply not going to happen (because, duh, it was clearly going to be Sam Arbesman), I had to find an alternative way of getting to the podium. Once I learned that the class president also had a chance to share their wisdom on the stage at Williamsville South graduations, I decided that was my chance. Getting elected to do a lot of work for free was squarely in my wheelhouse.
Freshman year I was class VP, and then I continued that role through sophomore year. My junior year, I served as president. My plan was really working out…
Being a class officer was a role that I enjoyed making my own. I did all the normal things with the other class officials like planning fundraisers and volunteer activities and organizing the details of our homecoming float. But my favorite self-appointed task was decorating the display case in the hallway each month with a birthday calendar (I’d find each student on their birthday and give them a Charm Pop) and some seasonal decorations that I’d make by hand with friends (most of whom couldn’t have been less interested in student council but loved a good craft project) while watching movies on Friday nights. Each week I’d add a puzzles or quizzes in the display case that my classmates could win a prize for questing the right answer. So fun!
Most of the time, I really enjoyed the job. But anyone who has been in charge of planning and executing events for a group of people who have no idea how much work goes on behind the scenes knows that this kind of work is often thankless. I started to realize in the middle of my junior year that I wasn’t having fun anymore.
When election time came around in the spring, I threw my hat in the ring for senior class president anyway. I made campaign posters at the dining room table with my mom that were a picture of me with my finger up my nose that said “Pick a Winner! Carbone for Senior Class President!” And when I brought them to school, Mr. Deavers, the biology teacher and head of student government, looked at me very seriously and said: “Carbone, you are classier than this. Try again.”
That was quite simply the last straw. I made new (boring) posters and hatched a plan to use my time on stage at the student government elections to use my voice in a new way.
I wish I still had a copy of (or remembered) my speech, which I wrote with the help of my brother, Nick. I know that it started off as it should have, as everyone would have imagined, and then it took a turn and ended with removing my name from the ballot. The misfits, which was the majority of us, in the class of 2000 at Williamsville South High School, loved it. A few people even cheered.
A year and some months later at my graduation, I was only a little bit sad that I wasn’t up there saying the speech I’d been fantasying about. But if I’m being honest, I knew that I didn’t really have anything to say.
But today, I do. This morning I woke up at five to work on my pitch for Techstars Demo Day that’s coming up in a few weeks and realized how excited I am to get on stage. My three minutes are intended for highlights on Brilliantly, but part of me wants to get up there and finally say the graduation speech I never got to give.
If I wasn’t so committed to this company and to the amazing people who have been running the Techstars program, I would absolutely use my stage time to say something more powerful than what I’m memorizing right now.
But I’m going to stay in my lane and follow the rules because, frankly, three minutes isn’t enough. When I do eventually get my time to honestly use my voice, I’d like to have five minutes so I don’t have to rush.
Please and thank you.