Ray Cook, 2019 Graduation Speech
The 5th graders already know who I am but I thought I would give a little background to the parents wondering who this stranger speaking at their kids graduation is. My name is Ray Cook and I am a Fay graduate, class of 2012. I went to middle school at St. Francis Episcopal Day School, not too far from here actually. Soon I will be a graduate from Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, and in the fall I will begin studying aerospace engineering at Texas A&M in College Station with a position in a professors lab doing undergrad research starting my first day of school. I also just recently received my private pilots' license and will continue to follow my passion for flying throughout college and hopefully the rest of my life.
But here is my story as to how I got to where I am… I came to Fay in First Grade and didn’t have the easiest time fitting in with the kids who had been going to school with each other for their entire lives. The big trend of the time was UT Austin, yes I know, quite ironic, but I wanted to do everything I could to try to fit in with the other kids. I went and got the UT shorts, shirts, hats, and the burnt orange bracelets, blindly trying to change who I was to fit in, but it didn’t work as one could guess. Every day I would be thinking to myself on the morning ride to school “What can I do to blow my classmates away to think I am cool and to let me finally be their friend?” I was always wanting to fit in with the kids that I had NOTHING in common with, so I eventually lost who I was and lost track of who my real friends were. I had two really great friends who stuck up for me and I shared quite a bit in common with, despite them both being girls, but that wasn’t enough for me. I was fixated on the idea that the quantity of friends was more important than the quality of friends. I eventually realized, not all at once, but over many years that led me all the way to high school that not all the people you meet in school are going to be your whole world. It may seem like that as a young kid when those people are the only people you know, but there are thousands of people you will meet in your life. Even if it takes until you’re in college to find those real friends, they are out there looking for a friend like you too.
It took me until my freshman year of high school to finally find a group of people like that. We are all different and have our own talents and interests but we’d stick our necks out for each other. In fact, one morning my truck broke down on the way to school, so I called up one of my friends to come give me a jump. Sure enough, he left school, gave up his parking spot and made himself late for first period just to come to help me start my truck. It might seem like a simple thing to do, but I can tell you that giving up your parking spot in high school is a big deal because good luck finding another one when you get back.
These are the type of people you want in your life. They never stop to think what’s in it for me, they just show up with their big ole’ hearts ready to help. That’s a real friend. And yes I stole that from a Tracy Laurence country song. I could talk to about a hundred more things about the life y’all have ahead of you, but you’re going to be able to figure it all out, just like I am.
I want to leave y’all with this closing statement: Find yourself before you try to find where you fit in, don’t live your life trying to fit in with people you just don’t fit in with, learn to not have a problem with cutting negative people out of your life, nobody needs those type of people around them. My parents used to tell me, “Be yourself, find your passion and you will be happy in life." And they weren’t wrong.
It was an honor to be able to come back to Fay and be your 2019 graduation speaker, thank you all and good luck with the life you have ahead of you!