Honorarian Andrew Kane's speech, given at the Oconee County High School graduation on May 22, talked about the importance of friendship.

The morning of graduation I wake up, take a shower, put on my clothes and step downstairs to eat a big bowl of cereal, the same breakfast I’ve had for most of the past twelve years.  My grandparents greet me first, congratulating me with some of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen in my life.  Two tears trickle down my grandmother’s cheeks as she whispers how proud she is.  I finish my cereal, go upstairs and put on my gown. I descend once again to find my parents and sister, as I’m sure many of your parents and siblings were doing, taking pictures of me.  They couldn’t be happier.  As I say goodbye and drive off, I can think only one, simple thought: “Man…I could really go for some Mexican food right now!”

, congratulations!  Four years of studying ,worrying, procrastinating and ultimately succeeding have finally paid off.  Four years of hard work culminates today: graduation.  This is a moment worth savoring. 

But we must ask ourselves, what was the most important thing we got out of high school?  Some might say geometric proofs or a proper understanding of the French Revolution top their list.  Others might consider the ability to sleep with their eyes open or write a research paper two hours before its due pretty significant achievements.  I know at least one person who’s learned that wax is not the best fuel for torches.

But I don’t think any of those is the most important thing we learned.  As one who is known for obsessive personal ambition, I think the most important lesson by far is this: happiness and fulfillment depend more on our relationships with each other than any personal achievement. As an anonymous person once said, “Compared to friendship, gold is dirt.”

Take a steak fajita, for instance.  A flat tortilla might have a bit of flavor to it, but it’s nothing compared to a flat tortilla enveloping a piece of tender, juicy steak.  This pair has some tang to it, more than it would if its ingredients were separated –but it needs something more, something only sautéed, sizzling green peppers can provide.  Now we’ve got a meal, the steak tortilla and green peppers bringing out the real flavor in each other.  But we can make it even better if we’re inclusive and add more ingredients.  Toss in lettuce, tomato, sour cream, hot sauce and guacamole and now we’ve got a dish much tastier than the sum of its ingredients.

Mixing people together is the same way.  You might be the spiciest Tabasco sauce north of the Rio Grande, but that really doesn’t matter without steak to compliment.  People need each other to bring out their potential and really shine.

As I learned in middle school, focusing solely on grades and a reputation as “the smart kid with the fro” is actually a surefire way to suppress your intelligence and stop yourself short of what you’re capable of.  In 7th and 8th grade I was more socially isolated and more obsessed with pure academic success than at any other time in my life.  Ironically, my narrow focus on academics gave me the worst grades in my entire K-12 career; I did so badly I barely scraped an 84 in Art. 

The lesson high school has taught me in this: Friendship is no less important than individual talent or intelligence.  As we enter a world that seems more disconnected and polarized by the day, take this moment to look around you.  Treasure the friends you see and already have, and, in the months and years ahead of you, reach out to make new ones wherever possible.  For us to be truly happy and make our lives worthwhile, we need more than just ourselves: we need each other.  We need to be an ingredient in the fajita of friendship.


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