Point: Should the valedictorian receive more recognition?

Becky Han, Staff Assistant

Valedictorian.  Defined according to the Oxford Dictionary as a “student, typically having the highest academic achievements of the class, who delivers the valedictory at a graduation ceremony.” Although the former part of the definition applies to the valedictorian at Schreiber High School, the latter part seems to have lost its meaning entirely at our school.

“I personally believe that appointing a speaker is defacing the purpose of the valedictorian, and instead of rewarding and praising the gifted student, we cast them off aside as if they were a token student with little to no praise,” said junior Ryan Woo.  “I believe that the valedictorian should be chosen to give the speech on behalf of his or her class and peers.”

In an academically-rigorous school such as Schreiber, it can be a daunting task to even keep up one’s grades, let alone excel and rise to the number one rank at the school after four brutal years in high school.  Trying to shine academically at such a competitive school while juggling several extra-curriculars is no easy task, and those who manage to do so should be praised for their resilience and drive to achieve greatness.  Being a high school student is not easy at all.  And it is for that reason that being a valedictorian is so praiseworthy because that person not only survived high school but also thrived.

Being a valedictorian is more than just a mere title that a high school slaps onto an exceptional student.  The title is synonymous with perseverance, intelligence, and above all else honor.  It is a prestigious title given to a person who has worked tirelessly for years to reach the point that they are at.  To those who achieve this status, they have attained a crowning achievement and pinnacle to cap their many years of sleepless nights staying up studying.

However, rewarding valedictorians for their accomplishments is not just a means to give that student a pat on the back for all their hard work.  By allowing the valedictorian to partake in the graduation speech rather than holding a contest, the school would be showcasing their best and brightest students to others.  By doing so, the school would be encouraging others to strive for greatness and maybe even surpass the valedictorians that have come before them.  It is through this cycle of constantly trying to push further that the school can challenge its students to never be content with where they are now but to charge forward, pleased with where they are going and who they will become.

“As a valedictorian it is the highest honor that can be bestowed on any student, but being nominated as one is not only an honor, but also an achievement,” said junior Matthew Chung.

Whether they would like to admit it or not, many people really do admire and look up to the graduating class’s valedictorian.  By showcasing them at graduation, the school would be presenting the valedictorian as a living testament that hard work really does pay off in the end.  When others see their fellow peers and friends recognized for their hard work, students realize that they too can accomplish their aspirations.

While some may argue that giving certain individuals more attention than others may foster a sense of resentment and competitiveness, the benefits of recognizing valedictorians far outweigh the costs.  Students will strive to constantly improve themselves.  With greater recognition that accompanies those who acquire the title, there is a greater incentive to work harder, albeit an inevitable degree of competition.  But competition in itself is not always bad. It is through competition that people are motivated to better themselves.  Such titles and awards also reflect the meritocracy already instituted in countless organizations in society today.  With honor and rewards given to those who work hard, innovation and a protestant work ethic is instilled within students.

The term “valedictorian” is derived from the Latin vale dicere, or “to say farewell.” As seniors are getting ready to graduate and move on to college and beyond, should we not give a proper farewell to the graduating class? And what better way to do that than allowing the valedictorian, the one who embodies the hard work and perseverance of all Schreiber’s graduating students, to say the final parting words.  The valedictorian should be given all the recognition he is entitled to receive.  Some may believe this to be unfair.  Yet as New York Senator William A. Marcy aptly put it in reference to Andrew Jackson’s win in the 1828 election, “to the victor belong the spoils.”