Christ Presbyterian Academy
Abigail Walker Delivers Salutatorian Speech

One of the highest academic honors at CPA is the Salutatorian. Abigail Walker earned this distinction for the Class of 2024 and delivered heartfelt remarks at Commencement. Abigail's Salutatorian speech is included for your reading. 

Good afternoon! I don’t believe I’ve spoken in front of this many people before, it’s been a daunting task to write a speech for such an important moment in all of our lives. This year has held so much emotion, and I hope to encapsulate as much of it as I can. When I walked out of sports practice for the last time, watched the sun rise on the last first day of school, or applied to my final college, it didn't quite hit like I thought it would. It just feels surreal. And now I’m standing here, after agonizing over due dates and trying to control my senior slide, after lunches off campus with my favorite people, after senior trip and exams, and we’re about to have our last moments together. It hit too fast and not fast enough.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time traveling with my family in the summers, and back in middle school, while I loved the places we went, by the end I was ready to go home. One summer, in Colorado, I watched the sunset with my sister and we talked about what we were excited for in the next year, if only we could get back to Nashville. I wished away the time I had out there. The next year, I didn’t want to leave Colorado, and the flight home seemed much too soon. I have found that if you try to hang on to a moment, as if it were a firefly you caught when you were little, you could hold it too tight and break it, and you’ll never know what it could have been if you just enjoyed its light as it floated by. On the contrary, if you wish all the bad moments away, you might end up missing the good moments that are scattered between. I have managed to do both this year, far too many times. You’d think I’d learn eventually.

Last fall, I went to a concert with friends. Noah Kahan played "Maine", the song I’d most wanted to hear. I stood there for the entire performance, thinking about how much I’d miss the moment once it inevitably passed and trying to hold on to each word he sang, and would you believe it? It was gone as fast as I worried it would go. I wrote this speech alone in my room two weeks ago, knowing that soon I’d be looking at every one of you and thinking “if I could only hold this moment here a little bit longer, I could memorize the way I can see each of you and feel the joy of accomplishment and the love for this class...” and in just a moment, it’ll be gone. After having this experience enough times, I’ve realized that these kinds of moments, the ones we never want to let go of, will keep happening, and that’s why life is so beautiful.

Outside of school, I spend most of my time thinking in Percy Warner Park. One rainy day, I wrote a poem as I biked the same 1.6 mile loop on repeat for two hours. I wrote about the feeling of truly enjoying a moment, one that isn’t particularly formative, just beautiful in a simple way. It’s not crushing the pretty bug, but not swatting it away from your face. It’s the perfect balance between the two. I felt it that day, while the rain soaked my clothes, the birds squawked in the trees and I caught little glimpses of sky reflected in puddles that I splashed through seconds later. That is what I hope this moment is, for all the seniors and all our families and our teachers. I hope you’re not wishing my speech away, and I hope you’re not wishing your senior year back. Let it pass as it is intended to.

I don’t always trust myself with speaking the right words, and often I’ve found that other people say what I am attempting to, but in a more eloquent way. In that spirit, I’d like to bring up a passage from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” Even the times we wish away are as important as the times we want to hold on to.

So, how do we embrace these last moments well? Well, I hope you allow yourself to be wherever you are today, in every way possible. I hope you give yourself the grace to laugh at the memories and cry at the leaving, and the grace to feel less intensely than you expect to. And as you do, I hope you enjoy it, but don’t hold on too tight. I love you all, we’re gonna go far. Thank you.