Monday, August 2, 2010

The Best High School Valedictorian Speech

I desperately wish if I could go back 3 years and deliver this kind of a speech, about things which now only I could understand..... This boy has done something great at the age of 18...

The Best High School Valedictorian Speech


The following speech was delivered by top of the class student Erica Goldson during the graduation ceremony at Coxsackie-Athens High School on June 25, 2010

Here I stand

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years . .” ?The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” ?Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.
Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn’t you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don’t do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not “to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States.”


The full passage reads: “The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever pretensions of politicians, pedagogues other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.”

To illustrate this idea, doesn’t it perturb you to learn about the idea of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn’t for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren’t we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don’t have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can’t run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let’s go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we’re smart enough to do so!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Behene De Mujhe Behene De.......

'Let me flow along' the Mani Ratnam's latest, Raavan.... which can't boast of an unexampled storyline (well, that's just for those who havn't heard of Ramayan.), yet worth every penny. Mani Ratnam is a great poet but he doesn't use a pen to write his poems, instead a camera. That's how beautiful the cinematography and  direction was. A stunning Aish in the backdrop of the virgin green forests of the God' own country isn't something I would ever want to miss. The nonstop rains may not have been liked by the actors, but on screen, it was just amazing. 

After a monotonous first half, the film takes-off well with the uncovering of the creation of a villain. The movie then proves how far have we come from roasting villains to feting anti-heroes. (A graphic novel 'Raavanayan' is enroute.) Commendable performances by Abhishek and Aish, not-so-great entry into Bollywood by the Tamil superstar Vikram, gimmicks by Govinda and last but not the least a subtle yet sublime score by the maestro ARR sums up it all. 

And for those who have not watched it yet, there is a little twist in the tale and a pretty solid climax. It may not be the best movie of the year, but I went with a much lower expectation--Kites and Rajneeti were absolute disappointments as per the hype--and it turned out to be a good movie. Its more of an art film than a commercial flick. A superb treat to your eyes.

Saturday, March 27, 2010



This new version of the Mahbharata is set in fantastic, mythic time, at the end of the Dwapara Yuga (Copper Age) and the beginning of the fallen, corrupt Kali Yuga, the Age of Iron.

Although historically, the epic is generally thought to refer to events occurring as recently as 9 BC and as long ago as 15 BC (depending on which account you favour), I’d like to place the action much further back into a more fantastical Indian past so that we can take full advantage of the possibilities for action and spectacle on a scale rarely scene. This is like a psychedelic The Lord of the Rings with Star Wars technology.


In this cosmic, symbolic version of events, Bharat is the primordial landmass – the single continent, also known as Pangaea, said to exist before continental drift created the shapes we’re now familiar with. As we’ll learn here, it wasn’t continental drift that split mighty Pangaea but the descendants of King Bharata.

Bharat is home to the mighty kingdoms of the Kauravas, who come to represent the world of blind, ignorant matter, and the Pandavas, who stand in for the world of spirit and understanding and personify the clash between the impulse to participate in the restless material sphere and the impulse to transcend it.

On the ninth day of the 18 Days War, the geology of Bharat is split apart by the ferocity of the conflict, the Flood occurs, and the dreaded Iron Age we currently live in begins.

This is not a strictly accurate historical portrayal of events but a poetic, fantastic interpretation of the original text.


Given the nature of the medium and the kaleidoscopic possibilities of the original narrative, my intention is not to tell the story in strict chronological order (beginning with Shantanu and progressing through the various stories towards the war) instead I’d like to approach the text not in a linear fashion but as a 3-dimensional structure to which we can continually add new modular episodes which will eventually build up into an incredible mosaic of the War and the events surrounding it. In this way the story will grow in power and interconnectivity as we build it up piece by piece, episode by episode.

As I see it, the whole of the Mahabharata, and indeed the whole of Hindu thought and ultimately of all contemplative thought, expands outwards like the Big Bang from one timeless Singularity – the moment when Krishna stops time to deliver the terrible wisdom of the Gita and reveal to Arjuna his – and our own - place in the cosmos. Here is the ‘crack’ in time, the crack between Ages and the crack in every human heart through which the light of A New Way To Think can come.

Poised between massive opposing forces, from the Singularity of Krishna’s message, we expand outwards into duality and the War that comes to represent all opposing dualities in the cosmos beyond the Singularity. This is a story with a timeless resonance.

Around this Singularity (the Gita), the narrative expands like the universe from the Big Bang, as a vivid demonstration of Krishna’s words, showing us in powerful actions and consequences the human truth of the Charioteer’s intellectual arguments.

From the undiluted Divine, via conceptual thought, we enter the material world, History and the Epic dimension. Further from the radiant core of the Singularity, the mighty heroes and titanic warrior kings display more human and fewer semi-divine qualities. Their background stories reveal recognisable human dramas, ambitions and follies.

So…I’d like to BEGIN with Arjuna laying down his arms on the battlefield, prior to his experience with Krishna – which we see only glimpses of, allowing us to more fully explore it later in a series of increasingly meaningful future episodes. Here we see only the consequences of the message as the king/hero Arjuna returns from timelessness and launches his armies against the Kauravas.

This way we can get a glimpse of the cool stuff up front – crashing vimanas, atomic god weapons, incredible battles where millions die – we get to see the heroes and their adversaries at their most epic, with super-real battle scenes, ‘Saving Private Ryan’-style, that really show the shocking effects of this Epoch-ending struggle.

As the clash of titans gets underway, we can then cut away in our next episode to flash back to the ‘secret origins’ of characters we’ve met on the field of battle – suddenly we’re seeing the human beneath the veneer of glory. With each new character we meet and come to identify with, the War, which at first seemed no more than spectacle, becomes more and more charged with emotion and meaning as we watch them march towards destinies we know must come. By the time we reach the 18th Day and have witnessed all the stories of the players involved, our hearts should be broken and healed and broken again.

I think this type of ‘holographic’ structure allows us to plug new stories into the ongoing 18 DAYS War. We can cut away from a monumental Bhisma on the battlefield, for instance, to discover the story of the man behind the myth and watch as his karma leads him inexorably back to the main event.

We open with the War and then begin to answer the question – how did it come to this? And how will it end? With so much material at our disposal I can see a lot of fun to be had answering those questions while widening the scope of the 18 DAYS universe to meet new characters or see old favourites in a new light.


The age of our planet is estimated at 6 billion years. The dinosaurs reputedly died out 65 million years ago and the first homo sapiens are believed to have appeared 48, 000 years ago. In the last 2000 years of history, human cultures have advanced from blacksmith’s forges to atomic power. My conceit here is that the great kingdoms of Bharat during the Golden, Silver and Copper Ages had plenty of time to flower to their technological peak and then disappear.

I’m setting the date for this version somewhere around 10, 000 BC before the various Floods of world tradition and at the beginning of the current Kali Yuga (which, charitably, I will suggest is coming to its own conclusion, hence the particular relevance of the Mahabharata to our own Age). But these events may have occurred before even that antique date, in the previous Dwapara Age before fallen, brutish ‘homo sapiens’ rebuilt their world from the ruins.

We needn’t ever specify a date for this. In truth, it takes place in the mythic, poetic realm, in the theatre of the mind.

So, if we can go from flint daggers to Uzis in a few thousand years, what might the smarter, fitter, more magnificent men and women of the Dwapara Yuga achieved in their own time ?

Our world of Bharat is a place of incredible art and technology. A wondrous earthly kingdom of sages, warriors, noble men and women. This incredible culture has mastered higher forms of yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic practice. They’re stronger, faster, fitter and smarter than we are but still prey to so many of the same emotional foibles that lead us all into disaster.

The armour and vehicles they use look like the kind of thing you’d expect from a culture more glorious than anything we in the degraded Kali Yuga could aspire to. They have better armour than we do, they have better ‘computers’, they have battlefield ‘god weapons’ that make our military forces look like children slinging mud, they have war-animals bred for purity of purpose and completely without fear. They are masters of genetics, and count among their number philosophers, supermen, and perfect, unstoppable warriors capable of killing thousands at a time.

They live in immense dream palaces on soaring mountain tops. They fly unbelievable vimana flying machines – like flying saucers designed and built by artisans.

Use familiar historical styles and fashions that we associate with traditional depictions of the Mahabharata and then mutate those traditional influences into a much more shiny, reflective, decorative look. Like Jack Kirby doing the Hindu gods. I see this as sleek and sexy. The men and women have the lean elegance of Afghan hounds and are poised, erect, proud and almost arrogant.
The weapons and clothing have a cyber-y science fiction edge as if designed by master craftsmen with painstaking attention to detail. Nothing is merely functional – every made thing shows the pride and genius of its maker. Armour is sleek chrome, or electrum alloys of silver and gold, set with flashing jewels and intricate engravings – many of which store energy or relay transmissions etc. The ladder of lights on the spinal braces of the armour balance and regulate charka health.

When fully-suited, super-warriors like DRONA are more formidable than the Master Chief and far more magnificent – their bulky battle armour too is wrought with incredible inlays and glass panels, fuel pipes and built in wrist cannons etc.

Animals come similarly equipped – magnificent stallions wear incredible hinged battle carapaces with head-mounted, swivelling laser targeting guns. The elephants are noble giant mastodons with painted, decorated and fully-armoured gun turrets on their backs. They also wear plated armour, with big shoulder cannons, and gas masks too!

Suited up, the heroes of 18 DAYS and their war-beasts all look like incredible bejewelled glass and engraved chrome cyborgs – supercool flesh/technology hybrids.

I’ve taken literally some of the descriptions of vimanas and especially the effects of divine astras, or god-weapons.

…a single projectile
Charged with the power of the universe
An incandescent column of smoke and flame
As bright as a thousand suns
Rose in all its splendour…

…an unknown weapon,
An iron thunderbolt,
A gigantic messenger of death…

Some of these descriptions are so convincingly reminiscent of the precise effects of tactical atomic weapons and laser beams it seems a shame not to take them at face value and imagine a culture with access to its own versions of such weaponry.

Watch the Teaser Here:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

From ‘’ ~ For those who born in 1985!!!

In 1985, the world was a different place.

There was no Google yet. Or Yahoo.

In 1985, the year of your birth, the top selling movie was Back to the Future. (I had never noticed that yet. However, it has always been one of my most favourite movies. ) People buying the popcorn in the cinema lobby had glazing eyes when looking at the poster.


Remember, that was before there were DVDs (before Blurays too). People were indeed watching movies in the cinema, and not downloading them online (That’s really hard for me to imagine. Not that I don’t enjoy going to the cinema. Downloading and collecting movies has become inevitable part of my life.) Imagine the packed seats, the laughter, the excitement, the novelty. And mostly all of that without 3D computer effects. (Hmmm... Who would have thought James Cameroon would come up with something as resplendent as ‘AVATAR’!!!)

Do you know who won the Oscars that year? The academy award for the best movie went to Out of Africa. The Oscar for best foreign movie that year went to The Official Story. The top actor was William Hurt for his role as Luis Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman. The top actress was Geraldine Page for her role as Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful. The best director? Sydney Pollack for Out of Africa.

In the year 1985, the time when you arrived on this planet, books were still popularly read on paper, not on digital devices. (I still love reading on paper. But I hardly turn my face of the computer screen to do that though.) Trees were felled to get the word out. The number one US bestseller of the time was The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel. Oh, that's many years ago. Have you read that book? Have you heard of it? Look at the cover! (I think, I should get my hands on this one soon.)


In 1985... Tancredo Neves is elected president of Brazil by the Congress, ending the 21-year military rule. In Hollywood, California, the charity single "We Are the World" is recorded by USA for Africa. The American act includes Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper and Diana Ross. Nelson Mandela rejects an offer of freedom from the South African government. Minolta releases world's first autofocus single-lens reflex camera. Mikhail Gorbachev becomes General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party and de facto leader of the Soviet Union. Norwich City wins the English League Cup at Wembley Stadium, beating Sunderland 1-0 in the final. WrestleMania debuts at Madison Square Garden. In Auburn, Washington, police defuse a Unabomber bomb sent to Boeing. The Walt Disney World Resort Monorail Gold catches fire on the EPCOT beam around 9:00 p.m., due to friction from a flat tire. U.S. Route 66 is officially decommissioned. The Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior is bombed and sunk in Auckland harbour by French DGSE agents. Commodore launches the Amiga personal computer at the Lincoln Center in New York. The Free Software Foundation is founded in Massachusetts, USA. A total solar eclipse occurs over Antarctica. U.S. President Ronald Reagan sells the rights to his autobiography to Random House for a record US$3 million. The Tommy Hilfiger brand is established. The computer game Tetris is released. DNA is first used in a criminal case. The video game of the day was Super Mario Bros.

That was the world you were born into. Since then, you and others have changed it. (Oh! That makes me realize how useless I have been all these years to the world. I wish I could bring some change to this world. Seeing what many others have done to change the world to give us this world that I now live in and enjoying, how can I pay it all back…. or more correctly ‘pay-it-forward’.)

The Nobel prize for Literature that year went to Claude Simon. The Nobel Peace prize went to International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The Nobel prize for physics went to Klaus von Klitzing from West Germany for the discovery of the quantized Hall effect. The sensation this created was big. But it didn't stop the planets from spinning, on and on, year by year. Years in which you would grow bigger, older, smarter, and, if you were lucky, sometimes wiser. Years in which you also lost some things. Possessions got misplaced. Memories faded. Friends parted ways. The best friends, you tried to hold on. This is what counts in life, isn't it?

The 1980s were indeed a special decade. The Soviet-Afghan war goes on. Eastern Europe sees the collapse of communism. Policies like Perestroika and Glasnost in the Soviet Union lead to a wave of reforms. Protests are crushed down on Tiananmen Square in China. Ethiopa witnesses widespread famine. Nicolae Ceausescu is overthrown. The AIDS pandemic begins. The role of women in the workplace increased greatly. MTV is launched in the US. There is opposition against Apartheid in South Africa as well as worldwide. Heavy Metal and Hard Rock bands are extremely popular. The rise of Techno music begins. Originally primarily played on campus radio stations, College Rock enters the scene with bands like the Pixies, REM and Sonic Youth. The Hip Hop scene continues to evolve. Teletext is introduced. Gay rights become more widely accepted in the world. Opposition to nuclear power plants grows. The A-Team and Seinfeld are popular on TV. US basketball player Michael Jordan bursts on the scene. Super Mario Bros, Zelda's Link, and Pac-Man gain fame in video games. People wear leggings, shoulder pads and Ray-Ban sunglasses.

Do you know what was on the cover of Life that year?


Do you remember the movie that was all the rage when you were 15? What Women Want. Do you still remember the songs playing on the radio when you were 15? Maybe it was What a Girl Wants by Christina Aguilera. Were you in love? Who were you in love with, do you remember?

In 1985, 15 years earlier, a long time ago, the year when you were born, the song Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears topped the US charts. Do you know the lyrics? Do you know the tune? Sing along.

Welcome to your life
There's no turning back
Even while WE sleep
We will find you
Acting on your best behaviour
Turn your back on mother nature
Everybody wants to rule the world

There's a kid outside, shouting, playing. It doesn't care about time. It doesn't know about time. It shouts and it plays and thinks time is forever. You were once that kid.

When you were 9, the movie The Santa Clause was playing. When you were 8, there was Dennis the Menace. When you were 7, there was a Disney movie out called Aladdin. Does this ring a bell?


6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... it's 1985. There's TV noise coming from the second floor. Someone turned up the volume way too high. The sun is burning from above. These were different times. The show playing on TV is ThunderCats. The sun goes down. Someone switches channels. There's Larry King Live on now. That's the world you were born in.

Progress, year after year. Do you wonder where the world is heading towards? The technology available today would have blown your mind in 1985. Do you know what was invented in the year you were born? The Graphing Calculator. The Polymerase Chain Reaction. DNA Fingerprinting.

If heaven was a town, it would be my town
Oh on a summer day in 1985
And everything I wanted is out there waiting
And everyone I loved is still alive

That's from the song If Heaven by Andy Griggs.

In 1985, a new character entered the world of comic books: Strong Guy. Bang! Boom! But that's just fiction, right? In the real world, in 1985, Jack Osbourne was born. And Michelle Trachtenberg. Michael Phelps, too. And you, of course. Everyone an individual. Everyone special. Everyone taking a different path through life.

It's 2010.

The world is a different place.

What path have you taken? (What path will I take?)