Sen. Kaine shares Alexandria student’s graduation message to class of 2020


Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) launched his “Everybody’s a Graduation Speaker” contest and asked the country’s seniors to submit a speech they’d like to deliver at graduation.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — Last month, Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) launched his “Everybody’s a Graduation Speaker” contest and asked the country’s seniors to submit a speech they’d like to deliver at graduation.

One of them was T.C. Williams High School graduating senior Mathieu Zahlan. Senator Kaine shared Mathieu’s video on his Facebook page this week and commended him for encouraging the class of 2020 to be leaders. Mathieu’s mom was the one who suggested he submit a speech, and he gave her a special shout out toward the end of the video. 

Mathieu’s speech was inspired by many posts he saw on social media from high school seniors who were sad to miss out on their prom, their senior season in their sport, and graduation. “I just wanted to open their eyes to the pandemic and how people are suffering and also I wanted to share with them the true meaning of a graduation, which is a celebration,” he said. 

Zahlan will be attending Concord College in Montreal, Canada this fall to study political science and to play on the school’s soccer team. Mathieu’s advice to underclassmen is to never take a year of high school for granted and to see your friends as much as possible. 

Read Zahlan’s full speech:

To the administration, faculty, parents, and friends,

Our final school days ended rather unexpectedly. We didn’t have a chance to say how we will miss each other and to wish us all great decision making and a beautiful life full of adventure. Sure we are connected on social media, but it is not the same, and I hope that we reconnect soon. 

We are now entering a new chapter in our lives, one that is more exciting and that is going to test everything that we’ve accomplished so far.

Senator Kaine, thank you for giving us the amazing opportunity to raise our voices and speak our gratitude, hopes and dreams. We are the upcoming heroes. We understand that our lives can be impacted and change in no time, and we are prepared to accept challenges no matter how big they are! 

We are not worried about not walking on stage at a graduation ceremony and dressing up for Prom because we (the class of 2020) are anything but ordinary.  We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the lives of millions of people of all ages around the world. People are suffering physically and emotionally whether they are sick with the virus, or lost a loved one. We also understand that millions are struggling financially and we pray that God gives these people a peace in their hearts that surpasses all understanding. 

There’s a French saying that says “après la pluie le beau temps” which translates into “after the rain, the good weather.” That’s right! We believe in our hearts that we will be the shining light during this horrible pandemic because we are anything but ordinary!

We are the quaran-teenagers of 2020, we leave our childhood behind us now, and we step into a new chapter in our lives. We are on a mission to expand our knowledge, create and innovate for a better future. 

Missionary quran-teenagers of the class of 2020, I invite you all to put your best talent into what you love. I invite you to live fiercely. To explore great things and to lend a helping hand.  Do not be afraid to make mistakes, just learn how to handle them. In his book “Setting the Table”, Danny Meyer, owner of Shake Shack said, “the road to success is paved with mistakes well handled”. Never be afraid to go the extra mile because you will learn from failure and you’ll grow as a bigger person. 

I want to take this opportunity to give thanks to my role model, the most hardworking person I have met, my mom. She has been there for me through thick and thin, and has nurtured me and my brother during moments that a lot of people would’ve quit on.  Years ago, when I was in elementary school, my teacher told my mom that I was very clever, but that I didn’t give the best of me. Ever since that day my mom printed a note that she glued to the entrance door of our house that reads, “I will give the best of me”. It is a daily reminder to give my all every day that I step out that door. 

I also want to thank my exceptional little brother, who has given me endless support and who I am so proud of!

On behalf of the class of 2020, I would like to express our deepest gratitude to our teachers, mentors, coaches, principals and the entire faculty. You  have supported each day we stepped foot into our school building and into your classrooms, library, gym, cafeteria, and health clinic.

We are the class of 2020 and we are no ordinary class. We will show you. We will make the world a better place for future generations. We are ready to spread our wings and to fly! Class of 2020, we ARE exceptional!


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