Valedictorian: “The best place in the world is right here, right now.”

Advice for the graduating seniors on having big dreams and living in the moment.



Helen Kim poses for her senior class picture.

The best place in the world is right here, right now. 

I was raised to recognize that the best place is always right here and right now. So I want to invite everyone here to be present in this moment. Focus and savor this immense accomplishment that we’re celebrating. We’re graduating!


It’s crazy to imagine the countless experiences, sacrifices, decisions that brought us to today. No impossible circumstance kept us from success, but it was our internal response to any given external situation that earned us a seat here. And so, as we reflect on what’s behind us and anticipate the future we’ll soon have the opportunity to live, let us remember that our narrative to come, despite life’s unpredictable nature, is ours to paint, as long as we understand the importance of our decisions.  


What I really value about my high school experience is that I spent it with people: my friends, my peers, my mentors and teachers, my family, who didn’t demand perfection from me. Instead, I was given room to make mistakes and poor decisions. And I’m sure that was the case for you too. We were taught that one bad test didn’t fail our entire grade. One drink with extra boba from Donut King didn’t empty our wallets. And on the flip side. One good practice didn’t win the big game. One short conversation didn’t build a meaningful relationship. 


It’s the accumulation of trillions of mundane decisions that forms the version of who we are. Sure, striving to make the perfect choice at every decision is impractical, but to be successful in both our professional and personal lives, we must seek to make the better decision at most choices. I’ll say that again, the better decision at most choices.


Now, in order to make the better decision, we can’t rely on motivation solely because motivation is fickle. It’s a fluctuating factor. Instead, it’s important to have a larger goal and a larger truth that you stand for. I’ve been fortunate to have amazing mentors (a lot of them are here today) who constantly push me to have big goals and to some people, it may look like I’m working towards and dreaming of lofty ideals. But, I want to argue that it’s necessary to set the bar high to get anywhere close to it. Also, I realize that most ideals aren’t lofty at all, as long as somebody makes that decision to change and to inspire change.


For example, I’ve worked hard to earn the title of Valedictorian. It was quite the hefty goal given circumstances and honestly, I still can’t believe it. But the important thing is not that I hold the title, because an exterior achievement should never be the endgame, but it’s the many lessons and improvements that I’ve gained on the way that are truly invaluable. So, even if I weren’t to be the valedictorian, I’d be an equally mature and grown person because of the goal I held.


Given this, I want to challenge you to do a cheesy thing called dreaming. Best believe Class of 2021, we are the future and it’s our aspirations that shape the world around us. Looking out from here, I can proudly say that the graduates today are amazing, to say the least. Each of you are smart, talented, empathetic, and carry enormous potential to improve and impact your communities. So please honor those unique talents and never let anyone, especially yourself, hold you back from creating change. 


The best place in the world is right here, right now. 

As important as it is to work towards your future goals, remember to make decisions that bring you joy today. When we focus on everything that we don’t have yet, we will never have enough. Instead, let us be the generation that chooses to see that this world is abundant with blessings and abundant with hope because the best place to be is right here and right now. 


Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2021.