Here’s Chloe Zhou’s valedictory address at the 2016 Darien High School graduation ceremony on Thursday, as prepared:
I’d like to thank Mrs. Dunn and the administration, my dear friend Sarishka for her introduction, and my friends in the audience. I’d like to thank the narcs for keeping us straight, the cafeteria for serving giant cookies, and our Blue Wave sports teams for making it so I get looks of fear and disgust whenever I’m in New Canaan.
And, of course, I’d like to thank my teachers, especially those who’ve been truly inspiring, and my amazing family. Thank you, Mom, Dad, Kai, Luka.
Congratulations to the Class of 2016! Congrats to us, the nerds and athletes, artsy people and athletes, and athletes and athletes of Darien High School!
Now, I’m up here because I’m a nerd, so I’m going to talk about number theory …!
In number theory, there are different groups of numbers. You have even and odd numbers, of course. You have prime numbers. Then you have stranger groups like abundant and triangular numbers.
You have happy and unhappy numbers — these are actual mathematical concepts, by the way! Happy, unhappy — all the types of numbers I’m going to talk about — are real, mathematical things.
There are numbers that are mathematically classified as interesting. There are some numbers we call perfect and others we call … deficient.
There are numbers that are rational and others that are completely irrational, and no one really knows how to deal with them. There are square numbers that are just so by-the-book and boring, and polite numbers that can also be boring, but you have to be nice to them because they’re polite.
There are lucky and powerful and untouchable numbers that just seem to have everything; there are numbers that are amicable, and sociable, and friendly …
Then you have the solitary numbers. Much like people, solitary numbers are the ones that aren’t friendly. And again, I swear this is all really a mathematical thing —sociable, friendly, solitary numbers … they actually exist.
“Don’t be afraid to open up and reach out. […] There are no groups, only people.”
If I were a number, for a long time I’d be classified as solitary. When I saw the sociable, friendly people around me, I couldn’t look them in the eye and start a conversation. I would get nervous, because I felt like I didn’t belong with the others — I didn’t fit in with their groups.
But here’s the thing. All that number theory, the groups of numbers I was talking about? Well, it turns out that, aside from in computer science, number theory has basically no real life applications — even fewer applications than pre-calculus! That means all the groups, all the classifications, are pointless. In real life, numbers are just numbers.
People are exactly the same! Numbers are just numbers; people are just people. So my message is something I’ve been convincing myself these past years: Don’t be afraid to open up and reach out. Speak honestly to your friends, your teachers, your mom; speak earnestly to new people you meet. Say hi to everyone you know and spare each other the awkward “Do I say hi?” game.
Don’t get me wrong — I sometimes struggle to follow my own advice. I’m still sorta solitary: I take forever to respond to texts, and some of my best friends are people I can sit next to without saying a word. But now I know that when it comes to it, I can be sociable and friendly as well, because there are no groups, only people.
Now, I’m going to close this speech with a deeply profound quote …! In the words of … somebody from United States history, “We are all republicans, we are all federalists,” we are all nerds, we are all athletes, we are all artsy. So we all should be able to communicate, and to communicate sincerely.