Anisha Kundu’s Commencement Speech 2021

It Takes a Village


It Takes a Village

Hello and welcome everybody! My name is Anisha Kundu and I use she/her pronouns. 

During the last few minutes of class on my first day of high school, my teacher handed every table broken pieces of rock. We had to guess what it was. It looked like part of a sidewalk or broken road, maybe a rock from Yosemite or even the moon. But, after everyone took a turn guessing, my teacher said it was part of something significant. These rocks were once joined together in the 1980s. They separated western and eastern Europe, and they separated the ideologies of the capitalist, democratic system of the West and the communist system of the East. The rocks that we were holding were from the Berlin Wall, which once divided the world. Although destroying the wall meant separating the stones, it was actually uniting East and West Berlin, eastern, and western Europe, and two sides of the world. If there is anything I have learned from high school, it is that we, as individuals, may just be separate rocks, but united with those in our lives, we can create a positive impact. 

To prepare for high school, I watched Mean Girls (in retrospect, that may have been a mistake). I learned that the cafeteria can be one of the most daunting places in high school. Clashing social groups and minimal spots at each table made me nervous before even entering the high school warzone. At the beginning of my freshman year, I decided to avoid our school cafeteria at all costs. Needing an area to regroup, my friends and I scouted out places around the building until we found our new hub: the hallway on the second floor in the C building–the C2s. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met in that hallway. The Earth science labs, history note packets, chemistry homework sets, and POWs became easier with the support of my peers. When none of us could figure out the problem together, we went to our teacher. Each morning I came to school early or stayed late, and my teachers guided me and my classmates through the work. And, when I came to school, someone was holding the traffic so I could cross the road or holding the door open so I could get into the building. For their continued support in high school, I thank my teachers, buildings and grounds staff, and peers. It takes a village. 

A big part of our high school experience may not have been in school either. It could be the art studio we were part of, the orchestra, a sports team. For me, it was fencing. My first significant fencing competition ever was the Pomme de Terre or Pomme for short. (The French scholars will tell me that the competition’s name is Potato, and I would say that they are correct). The organizers embrace the name: they hand out Cape Cod chips at check-in, have potato graphics on the t-shirts, and reward the winner of the competition with a coveted, limited edition, Mr. Potato Head toy. Although  I lost in the second round of direct eliminations, I was pumped because it was the first time that I had made it to the second round! But across the gym, I saw my coach fencing on the final strip so I rushed over to cheer him on. Flash forward and the score is suddenly 14-14 (the bout ends at 15). The opponent attacks, I hold my breath, my coach successfully parry reposts, I exhale. He won! After the bout ended, I went to watch some of my other teammates fence and my coach showed me the prized Mr. Potato Head. So of course, I examined it in awe and handed it back to him. But he handed it back and said, “it’s yours.” I refused at first since he earned it, not me, but he insisted that I keep it, so I thanked him for the toy. I still have that limited edition, Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man Mr. Potato head sitting on my trophy case. For the unique community, I thank my coaches, teammates, and the sport itself. It takes a village. 

I see many of my peers in the audience today. But behind my fellow graduates, I see familiar faces: our parents and guardians. Whether they drove us to the gym before school, woke up early to make us scrambled eggs and toast, or quizzed us for a test, our guardians had a significant impact on our lives. I am grateful to my family for encouraging me to take all the opportunities I had. At one point, I was actually convinced that I was not going to apply to a college program with an early deadline because I had found out about it late. My sister insisted that even though it was unlikely that I would get in, the possibility of getting in without applying was zero. She ended up persuading me to apply to the college program that I am planning to attend in the fall. For encouraging me in all my pursuits, I thank my family. It really does take a village. 

Now, on our last day of high school, we too are breaking apart into rocks to do great things as individuals. But I know my life in high school wouldn’t have been complete without the help of those around me. I can definitively say that some of my greatest accomplishments have been because of my friends, teachers, coaches, teammates, and family. So, finally, thank you to everyone who has made our graduation possible and molded us into the people we are. Congratulations graduates, and everyone who has helped us along the way!