40th Reunion Speech (archived)

Welcome fellow time travelers…

Once again it is my pleasure to welcome you to our class reunion. By sheer will power we’ve turned back the clock to 1971 for an evening to reunite and reminisce on our brief but wonderful time together at Gateway High.

Last week I dug out my old Portavians. And as I spent several giddy hours reliving those times, I began to reflect on the experience and some of the things I learned from attending Gateway and I wanted to share a few of them with you tonight.

I learned that in life, there is no such thing as algebra.

And sex is the only thing we learned in high school that we still use.

I learned that memories fade, but insecurities last a lifetime.

I learned that life is full of surprises. Just say “never” and you’ll see.

I learned the importance of being yourself and that there is value in nurturing one’s own personal weirdness. High school encourages us to try and be like others, to try and fit in. In that lies the risk of losing your individuality, your uniqueness. One example of someone who embraced his personal weirdness was not a student, but a teacher. I think everyone knows who I’m talking about… Mr. Boory. Our memory of him and his class makes you smile because of his eccentricities. Everyone remembers when he cut off his tie with a scissors after it got stuck in his desk drawer or his famous rendition of “The Night Before Christmas”. All year we waited for this event, because it was completely out of the ordinary, a departure from the hum drum of class as usual. And he cultivated this crazy persona because he knew it was an effective teaching tool. He had our attention. And everyone tried to cut their class to sit in on his. He was enormously popular as well as being a successful educator. The lesson I took from Mr. Boory is… If you’re strange enough, they will come.

And since we’re talking about teachers, I learned never to piss off Mr. Furrie.

I’ve learned not to envy anyone – ever.

I learned to accept the inevitable, to accept change and even be comfortable with aging. We can’t do the things we used to do when we were young or should we even try. So, relax. For many of us now “Happy Hour” is a nap.

I learned that I didn’t need to learn everything that I learned in high school – but I’m damn glad I took industrial arts. Because there are certain basic, practical things we need to know how to do in life, like knowing which wires in your house will kill you if you touch them. And how to patch your wall so can get your deposit back from your landlord.

The most important thing I learned from high school is that good friends can last forever. I’ve reconnected with people this weekend that I’ve known since nursery school. Remarkable. We’ve all made good friends after leaving Gateway, but the friends you make in school are special. They are time tested, they are real. A “good” friend is someone who will help you move. A “real” friend is someone who will help you move a body. The people in this room know each other in a way that nobody else in the world knows us. We were together every day, all day, year after year. We shared a special place in a special time. We’ve known each before we became the people we were to become, before our spouses, our children, our co-workers. And because of that fact, our classmates are irreplaceable in each other’s lives.

And tonight we have the opportunity, not only to reunite with old friends, but to perhaps make new ones. We had a very large, diverse class with many cliques; the sucks, the anti-sucks, the jocks, the nerds, the heads. We didn’t have the time or maybe didn’t even want to get to know everyone in our class. In some ways we were a class divided. But tonight were a class reunited. Please make sure you say hello to everyone you see before you leave. You never know, you may be making a new high school friend. It could be someone you passed in the hall a million times but never made the effort. You might even find true love this evening. It’s possible… “Hi, Mary, I’m John. I sat next to you in home room… You what?? You had a crush on me?? I never knew… Would you like to dance?” Anything’s possible and the night is young.

I promised that this speech would be mercifully short, so I’ll conclude by saying how happy, how honored I am to be here with you tonight. Here it is, forty years later and we’re together again in a different time. And it’s hard to say if these are the best or the worst of times, but it is the only time we have. The old motto says “to live each day as if it were your last.” I try hard to do that. That’s why I don’t have any clean clothes because who wants to laundry on the last day of your life?

So let’s get on with this celebration. I thank you for coming and I wish you all the best for the future. Let’s raise a glass or light a joint and toast together… “To all of us, the class of 71’”

Cheers, go Gators and thank you.

Stu Wolpert, Class President