Annie W. '21 was selected by the high school faculty to speak at her Class of 2021 graduation. We share her inspiring speech below! 

Hello faculty, parents, guests, and BASIS Independent McLean’s graduating Class of 2021.

We made it! We can now officially say that we’ve not only graduated high school, but are also surviving a worldwide pandemic.

I don’t want to focus on the struggles of the past and the present, but I do want to acknowledge the help that has brought us graduates here today. The help that comes from the amazing support system behind each of us. So, on behalf of my class, I want to thank our families, teachers, and my classmates, for your love and encouragement through the years, and especially through this pandemic. Each of you are a part of who and what we are today and forward.

Some of you, who were here in the “early” years of BASIS Independent McLean, may remember walking into Convene, an office building our school used to hold our first week of classes because our actual school wasn’t finished yet. I remember coming home that day completely confused. It was definitely not the way I imagined the first day of my eighth grade, but probably a lot of you weren’t expecting what would come to be at BIM.

To be frank, students and teachers came and went every year, along with the Heads of School. And although I expected a normal high school experience, I was told we would have no gym class, which I was honestly thankful for, and be put immediately into the AP curriculum. But despite that uncertainty, I made genuine friendships, not just with students, but with teachers, experiencing milestones in their lives along with them.

But most importantly, those same attentive and caring teachers taught me to love learning.

Something I thought would never happen. And all that made me realize the uncertainty was worth it and maybe even necessary to appreciate the risk we all took.

As I was writing this speech, many people gave me advice. One of them, being my wonderful father, suggested I do a flash mob dance to BTS’s “Dynamite” to finish off the speech with a bang. He doesn’t know this, but I did consider the idea for a split second, but I took into account my lack of dance skills, so that will not happen.

So instead, I decided to do a quick recap of our last four, and for some of us, five years, together and share with you all several things I learned from my time at BASIS Independent McLean.

One of the first things I learned was to embrace change because sometimes change can be good.

Try something new, you may love it, as I had to do when my parents decided to enroll me at a very different school. At BASIS Independent McLean, I learned to appreciate people who were different from me. Instead of being afraid of change, I realized that they had a lot more in common with me than I thought.

We’ve all lived such comfortable lives, but in college, for the first time, we’ll be by ourselves, navigating a completely new world to find out who we truly are, apart from the life you had before, under the wing of your parents. Get comfortable making yourself uncomfortable.

Second, be true to yourself. We live in a pressure cooker of a digital culture that constantly reminds us of what we are not and what we should be.

I spent a lot of time trying to become someone I was not. But what I learned is that being myself, whether it be female, Asian, or just Annie, is the sole source of my joy and even power. Look within yourself to find what makes you, you, as cheesy as it sounds, and trust in that. Find people who are supportive of who you are and where you come from and that will strengthen you more than any awards, grades, recognition, or likes.

Because we will stumble at times, take the wrong turns, but if we remember who we are, where we came from, and who is standing with us, then we will be perfectly fine.

Third, practice kindness and have a strong sense of justice. The pandemic this year showed how kind and helpful people are in a time of crisis, but it has also revealed parts of us that are ugly. Our generation has seen and witnessed horrific events along with living through the pandemic, but we have also started doing something about it. Having and exercising a sense of justice doesn't mean that you have to be in a place of power, but it can be through something as simple as being kind to a stranger or creating a piece of art.

And finally, above all, see the beauty in everyday things and have them become a part of who you are and the stories that you will tell about yourself and others in the world. Each of us will do amazing things in the future even though we are a humble class of only 33 people. Believe it or not, we have the smartest, creative, and most importantly, kindest people.

Our class will produce future writers, doctors, CEOs, musicians, and athletes and whatever else we decide to become. But I hope the memories we created here at BASIS Independent McLean of how we grew and became who we are today will stay with us forever. Even after our time at BASIS Independent McLean, we must continue to tell stories about what we love, who we love, what we miss, and what we lost, remembering the beauty of this fragile planet we call our home.

I, personally, have no idea how I’ll do that, but that’s okay. And it’s okay if you don’t either. Just follow what you love and something amazing will happen.

Because we will, as BTS said, “light it up like dynamite”.

Thank you.

“Dynamite” by BTS plays.