NBHS Graduation: Salutatorian Manuel Rivas’s Commencement Speech

New Britain High School’s Class of 2018 Salutatorian Manuel Rivas, in his commencement speech at NBHS’s graduation ceremonies on June 19, 2018, encouraged his classmates to make a difference on some of the key issues of the day.

“Think about our world, our country, and, honestly, our president,” Rivas said. “From deportation and separation of families, climate change and inequality, to the almost constant mass shootings that have plagued American schools. Racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and gender inequality. We are going out into a world that is pandemonium. And it is our job, the next generation, as we go out into this disorderly world, to do something, to make a change.”

NBHS Salutatorian Manuel Rivas. CSDNB photo.

Rivas came to New Britain from Nicaragua when he was five years old. He spoke highly of his experience at the dual-language DiLoreto Elementary School and of the diversity of New Britain. “It is a melting pot,” he said. “It has allowed me to not only assimilate, but keep my roots as well.”

School administrators describe Rivas as a hard worker and an inspiration to his classmates.

Rivas was accepted at the University of Connecticut. He plans to attend New Britain’s Central Connecticut State University. Majoring in biology, he says that he intends to pursue a career as a Physician’s Assistant.

In his speech to the New Britain High School Class of 2018 on graduation day, he followed Valedictorian Gabriella Roy’s speech, saying,

Thank you, Gabby, for commencing our program with your impassioned speech.

As said before, my name is Manuel Rivas and it is with great honor that I stand here in front of you, the peers that I started high school with in the fall of 2014, four long years ago, as your 2018 class Salutatorian.

I would like to give a warm welcome to all Board of Education members, Mayor Erin Stewart, students, teachers, and parents.

I want to congratulate each and every one of you on this celebratory day for reaching this great milestone, one that I know was not easy. Our future prospects are smiling upon us on this delightfully sunny Tuesday morning. On this day we have anticipated since we stepped into those maroon and gold clad walls.

Class of 2018, I would like to utilize my time here to discuss the adversity we have and will continue to face, as well as the tenacity and faith it will take for us to continue our paths of success, no matter where we end up.

As you all know, our graduating class has experienced so much over these past four years. From a revolving door of principals, to getting used to the annoying new bell schedule, to the loss of a student.

All of us present here today in these maroon and gold gowns have climbed over hurdles and road blocks. Our journey here was complicated and chaotic, demanding and challenging, and even though each of our stories is different, our end result is the same – standing in line next to your best friend, the guy you sat across from in that English class sophomore year, the girl you went to elementary school with, your teammate, fellow club member, or even someone you’ve never actually talked to – all walking across this stage and walking off of it with a diploma in hand.

What adversity demonstrates is how strong we are as individuals. My struggles may have been different from yours. Some struggled with the social aspect of high school, problems at home, economic struggles, or keeping up their grades. Others juggled a job and school, taking care of their siblings, and many other things. If I were to name every struggle we’ve faced, I’d be here talking all day.

My greatest struggle was a constant feeling of low self-worth – something I battled throughout high school. But today, standing on this stage speaking to all of you, I feel a great sense of accomplishment, and all of you should, too.

But as you go on after high school, do not forget what you’ve learned and where you came from. Choose to be informed in this whirlwind world, and when you see something you don’t like, you must strive to change it.

Think about our world, our country, and, honestly, our president.

From deportation and separation of families, climate change and inequality, to the almost constant mass shootings that have plagued American schools. Racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and gender inequality. We are going out into a world that is pandemonium. And it is our job, the next generation, as we go out into this disorderly world, to do something, to make a change. To register to vote, and yes, actually vote, even if you’re going away for college – you can get an absentee ballot. To fulfill our destiny as the next generation of leaders.

Each of us has and will continue to follow different paths in life, facing troubles and obstacles, but at the end of the day, we will all be able to say the same thing – I graduated from New Britain High School.

Thank you.