MHS Valedictorian: ‘There is a place for you’

Valedictorian Diana Harris speaks to her classmates during the 2023 commencement at Maricopa High School. [Victor Moreno]

At the Maricopa High School graduation, Valedictorian Diana Harris took to the stage and spoke to her fellow students. Here’s her speech:

Diana Harris [Victor Moreno]
At age 6, I participated in my first art competition at a little elementary school in Utah. With the great efforts of my supportive mother, I was inspired to give it a try.

The piece I submitted had three paper dolls holding hands while each doll represented my different ethnicities: Japanese, Ecuadorian, and German. One had a brightly colored kimono, one had a traditional Ecuadorian dress, and one had a casual European outfit, making each doll specifically adorned with different designs, colors, and accessories.

While the dolls were dressed differently, they still had my dark brown hair, brown eyes, and feminine qualities. At first glance, my artistic piece appeared a little clumsy with crooked cuts and shaking pen marks, but it represented a strong message… diversity.

Although some may view this as a simple project, I would argue that this art piece holds an essential message for the class of 2023. The special characteristics that I identify in myself through these cutout paper dolls should be expressed externally as well. Even though our little cutout paper dolls may have little dents or marks, they are the very things that connect us all.  

During my high school career, I never felt like the smartest, prettiest, or most talented person in the room. I always tended to compare myself to the students who learned the fastest; the girls who wore the trendiest clothes and hairstyles; and the dancers who had the best dance technique.

It became a bad habit of mine and altered the perception I had on my accomplishments. This frustrating habit tired me and created a barrier between me, my peers, and my family. About two months ago, my little sister Sofia and I were talking after a heated argument occurred where she shared how she felt so pressured to become like me.

My accomplishments convinced my little sister to believe that she was not enough because she was comparing herself to me. From that moment, I realized that “comparison” is a dark battle we all are facing together.

In fact, Theodore Roosevelt once said that “Comparison is the thief of Joy.” Sometimes we fail to recognize our beautiful talents, gifts, and traits because we consistently compare ourselves to others. It is a sad and honest truth of our generation, but I believe that there is a way to get rid of this “thief of Joy”.  

 I believe we all have something to learn from little Diana’s art piece. 

Why do we all need to be the same? Why would we compare ourselves to others or want to change who we are? If we all were the same, wouldn’t life be boring? Imagine if those paper dolls were all wearing the same thing. The art piece would have been boring and pointless. It wouldn’t hold any meaning. It was uniqueness that made it special.  

As your class Valedictorian, I want you all to remember that you are designed to be different. Somewhere in this world, there is a place for you. Your uniqueness brings value to the infinite chain of paper dolls. I ask that you all try to celebrate and respect our differences, so we can live peacefully and confidently in this crazy world.  

Let’s make it our lifelong mission to be like those paper dolls holding hands, celebrating who we are, and embracing what makes us unique.