I was honored to introduce the Valley Torah High School – Boys Campus Salutatorian at the 2015 graduation. I thought I would share the speech as he is an amazing kid and worth sharing.
Congratulations to the graduating class of 2015.
The Salutatorian is an award given to a student who excels academically. However, we must understand to achieve academic excellence over four years of high school there are many forces at work. The student must be hard-working, studious, determined and intelligent. Our salutatorian is all of these things. Yet, these accolades are certainly not the only things that define him. What defines him is how he earned these accolades and what make this young man so unique.
There is a Mishna in the third perek of Pirkei Avot where Rabbi Akiva states that silence is a safeguard to wisdom.
There are many commentaries on what this means. The simple understanding is the wise know what they know and have no need to convince others of that by blurting it all out. It also means that the wise truly listen, learn and absorb their teachings. As Dr. Steven Covey, the author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective people, similarly says, one of the primary habits of great leaders is that they first seek to understand then to be understood. Another explanation of this Mishna is one of high character where we do not respond to our opposition who insults or attempts to degrade us lest we lower ourselves to their level. By remaining silent in all these situations we preserve our wisdom.
Our Salutatorian exemplifies all of those things as he safeguards his wisdom with his silence. He is an individual that does not waste words and is beautifully unassuming. Yet, it did not surprise me when one of his teachers described him as brilliant. A friend of his told me that he is the type of student that if he fell asleep in class, which of course he never does, he would wake up at the end of the class and be an expert in everything that was taught. However, he does not flaunt it. He is a anuv, modest person, who is a force to be reckoned with. I am confident that he will continue on to great academic success, personal success and quietly and powerfully change the world.
I am honored to call up this years Salutatorian, Mr. Aaron Barkador.