Senior Speeches: Audrey Hong

November 14, 2017

“Remember that when you smile or say hello, it could mean a lot more than you think. The world outside the arch is large, diverse, and sometimes dangerous. But we need to grow up and live in it to make things better.”

Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.

Throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.

Audrey Hong

“When I was eleven years old, my family had to move to Pakistan where my father had been posted as a diplomat. At the time, I was not even sure where Pakistan was. On top of that, I was not ready to leave my hometown in Korea. When we arrived in Pakistan, it was hot, humid, and … different. I cannot think of any other word than that: different, totally different. My dad told me Pakistan was beautiful but also dangerous. He reminded me often to be careful.

“I enrolled in an international school in the capital city of Islamabad. I was excited. It was my first chance to interact with students from all around the world and study in an American curriculum. However, when I first entered the school gates, I had to pass through a security check and be sniffed by dogs. That was when I realized the seriousness of the situation in Pakistan. However, even though it was much more dangerous than Korea, I always thought my family would be safe.

“One sunny, peaceful day, I was lying on a comfy couch with my classmates. Our teacher was reading to us, and I was deep into the story. We were in the middle of a scene where a witch fell off her broomstick when, suddenly, there was a BOOM, and the ground started to shake. At first, I thought someone had done that on purpose to make the story seem more real. But the look on my classmate’s faces told me it was something else. I found out later that a bomb had gone off close to the school.

“I was in a panic. I just stood there in shock until one of my classmates called my name and dragged me toward the wall. She held my hand and told me not to worry, that it was going to be over soon. Another classmate held my other hand and gave me a soft smile. This kind of thing had happened to them before, and they knew what to do. I was soothed by their warmth. I felt surrounded by strong warriors. We held hands until the situation was over.

“After that event, I felt joined to my classmates by a strong bond. We were all supporting each other, being there whenever anyone needed, like a big family.

“Soon after, my dad told me that I had to leave Pakistan and go back to Korea with my sister and mom. I felt my whole world fall to pieces. I didn’t want to leave. Yes, it was dangerous, and we were always tense. However, I did not want to break the bond I had formed with my schoolmates and teachers. I felt like I was betraying them. I understand now why my father made that decision, but at the time I felt bitter.

“That experience in Pakistan is one of the most precious memories of my life. I loved being with children from all over the world and learning in a different culture. But the best thing was the warm, deep bond I formed with my classmates. I know we were brought together at least in part because of the dangers we faced every day. But I have never felt so connected to people who were more courageous or caring.

“Shattuck-St. Mary’s is a wonderful community as well, but I sometimes feel we could be more connected. It shouldn’t take a bomb going off or some other threat to make us more mindful of how precious our community really is. Remember that you can be a person who makes a difference for someone else. Remember that when you smile or say hello, it could mean a lot more than you think. The world outside the arch is large, diverse, and sometimes dangerous. But we need to grow up and live in it to make things better. Perhaps we can begin that work right now. Thank you.”

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