A deep love of learning: Valedictorian speech from Nevada Union High School (PHOTO GALLERY) | TheUnion.com

A deep love of learning: Valedictorian speech from Nevada Union High School (PHOTO GALLERY)

Ryan Brott
Nevada Union High School

Editor's note: Graduation season has begun, and The Union will run photos and text from planned student speeches from many of the high schools in the area. This is from Saturday's Nevada Union High School graduation.

Good morning, everyone.

My name is Ryan Brott, and I'm honored to represent the class of 2018 here today. Before I begin, I'd like to thank the Nevada Union administration and teachers; all of my family and friends in attendance, especially my parents; and fellow graduates for facilitating my education and supporting me all these years.

I'm humbled to have the opportunity to speak to all of you on this momentous occasion.

I've thought a lot about what to say today. There are several options: I could reminisce about the past four years, extol the greatness of growing up in Nevada County or discuss any number of common themes. However, I've decided to talk instead about why I believe I'm standing before you today.

For one, I attribute much of my academic success to my internal drive and motivation. I am never content with boredom or doing nothing for extended periods of time; I feel most comfortable when I'm working. And for a while, I thought this was just an intrinsic trait that I was born with — after all, motivation is generally considered nature, not nurture.

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However, upon further reflection, I think that my drive actually stems from something more fundamental: my deep love of learning.

As a child, like everyone, I was always naturally curious and fascinated by everything around me; there was nothing that I didn't want to touch, experience, or, to my parents' dismay, put in my mouth. My preschool obsession with trucks and trains gave way to Legos as I began kindergarten.

Then in elementary school, my curiosity shifted to chemistry and physics before finally settling on computer science. Although the target of my learning changed and became more focused as I grew up, my core fascination with the world never disappeared nor diminished.

Yet for many people, this natural curiosity mysteriously fades or becomes dormant. Maybe it gets tainted by an association with school or maybe it's just replaced by other seemingly more important activities.

In any case, I strongly encourage you to rediscover your curiosity for something that excites you. Become an active learner that works outside of the classroom, and I think you'll be surprised by how satisfying and rewarding it feels.

Secondly, another crucial factor in my achievement is my desire to achieve excellence. As students, we're all too well acquainted with the conventional scholastic measure of excellence: grades. But when I refer to excellence in this context, I don't just mean it in the sense of getting A's. It applies to all different aspects of life, and it's judged on a personal basis.

It's not about constantly trying to get a higher score than your classmate but rather making your best effort and continually trying to improve.

Many young people feel the desire to change the world or solve some global issue. And while I don't want to temper this idealism, not everyone will be an ambassador to the United Nations or a U.S. senator. Not everyone will cure cancer or solve climate change.

However, we can all still contribute to society and be fulfilled through the pursuit of excellence in our lives. By striving to be the best possible version of ourselves, we'll collectively create the best possible version of our society.

Unfortunately, our generation has been the target of criticism and dismissal from the general public. To them, we seem like apathetic, social media-obsessed slackers eager to dismantle the society our predecessors have carefully constructed. However, I think we all know the truth of the matter: today's youth are capable of everything our parents and grandparents were. But now there are more distractions than ever before, tempting us away from achieving success and realizing our full potential.

While I don't propose cutting Snapchat and Instagram out of your lives completely, it's imperative to find a proper balance between your smartphone and the rest of your life. As enjoyable as it is to endlessly scroll through posts and stories, it won't bring meaning and purpose to your life.

By staying curious, always learning, and pursuing personal excellence, I hope that all of you will lead gratifying and successful lives.

Congratulations on graduating high school — this is the first step.

Ryan Brott is the 2018 valedictorian of Nevada Union High School.

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