Ed Stifter '19 Valedictorian Speech

Full text of 2019 valedictorian Ed Stifter who will attend the University of Notre Dame:

Ed_StifterIt’s hard to believe that the end is finally here. As a class, we’ve had some awesome successes. There are two banners for girls’ volleyball hanging right above me that weren’t there on our first day in this gym four short years ago. We had a great playoff run for football, and the band has marched down the hallway during homeroom to celebrate clubs and teams going to state more times than I can count. Our beloved English teacher Mr. Morowczynski can be directly quoted as calling us the best class of seniors he’s ever seen, and anyone who’s had him knows he is not quick to give compliments like that. We certainly wouldn’t have been able to do any of these great things without the support of our families, friends, teachers, coaches, and administrators, and I think I speak for the whole Class of 2019 when I extend our heartfelt thanks for all of the things you’ve done.

Unfortunately for everyone who thought I was done, (or anyone who bet the under) I wasn’t asked to write a speech for the Oscars, so I’m going to keep talking. Everything I’ve heard about valedictorian speeches is that they should be original, and that they should be a good send-off, so I’ll do my best. (I actually wrote this next part before learning that people bet on the length of my speech, so it turned out to be pretty relevant)

I’ll begin with a proposition that may sound weird to some of you: everyone should start gambling. You’re probably thinking “why would he say that?” They say that you’re more likely to get struck by lightning on your way to buying a lottery ticket than you are to win the jackpot with that ticket. It’s true. It’s also true that the house has an edge in every game you play at the casino, and bookies rarely lose money. Professional gamblers are incredibly scarce precisely because of how hard it is to have consistent success with gambling. If anyone here watches Jeopardy! then they know about the professional gambler/genius named James Holzhauer, who’s on an incredible run right now. He’s making it professionally. The fact still remains that most gamblers lose, and they lose a lot. So why do I advise any average person does what only a genius is capable of, and expect to replicate his success, when the odds suggest overwhelmingly that they will fail? The answer is that I don’t, and gambling on sports, horses, cards, the lottery, (the length of speeches), and any other thing you have no control over is stupid.

The kind of gambling I’m talking about is the kind that works almost universally: betting on yourself. We’ve all heard the success stories: Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to found Microsoft; Steve Jobs dropped out of college to start Apple. A lesser-known story is that of Frederick Smith, founder of FedEx. He took the last $5,000 his company had and flew to Vegas to gamble it all in hopes of saving FedEx, and he turned it into $27,000. The point I’m trying to make here is that these people saw ways that they could be successful, and they weren’t afraid to take risks to get there. Their bets were on themselves. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t advise that you drop out of school or gamble company money. I’m just using those examples to illustrate my point that the best bets are on yourself, on your ideas, and on your abilities (and if your name is Frederick then maybe your blackjack skill). Each of us has already bet on ourselves by choosing a college or a job for after graduation. By making these commitments, we’ve shown confidence in our own abilities, and we’ve put our money where our mouth is. (and, as we all know, for college it’s a LOT of money). Everybody sitting here today needs to keep that confidence in themselves so they’re willing to take chances. Maybe that risk is asking for a raise; maybe it’s starting a business; maybe it’s walking past Dean O’Neill with no ID – the possibilities are endless. Playing it safe is for your 401k and your first kid -- but not for right now. Now is the best time of your life to take chances and see how far you can go.

After tonight, you are pretty close to officially free: no more homework, no more classes all day-everyday, and in a few short months, no more listening to mom and dad’s rules. I encourage you all to take full advantage of that freedom.

Thank you.