Student Ike Lee who gave the salutatory address before a packed auditorium filled with family members, faculty and his fellow graduates dressed in their blue caps and gowns interjected plenty of humor into his remarks to liven the solemn and, at times, emotional atmosphere.
“In the event that this speech blows up and crashes, the cushions over your seats double as floatation devices,” Lee said garnering plenty of laughs from the crowd.
Lee told the graduates that they could now add themselves to the ranks of the 85 percent of Americans, who have obtained their high school diploma.
“That’s right, we now have a crushing advantage over 15 percent of this country’s workforce,” Lee said. “I’m talking about drop out losers like Tom Cruise, Jay-Z, Simon Cowell and that kid who plays Harry Potter in Harry Potter.”
Lee also spoke about one of his favorite pastimes, solving a Rubik’s Cube. He said ever since he learned how to beat the puzzle a few years ago he has kept the multi-colored block nearby during his years at Cardozo and it has become a metaphor for those times.
“As I worked for hours on end trying to decipher this thing, it challenged my patience and my ability to focus, and I learned to persevere despite only being able to get one small side,” Lee said. “Trust me, there were days when I wanted to throw this thing out the window because I was so frustrated.
“But instead of giving up, I kept trying to improve, looking for different ways to approach my challenge and eventually I learned the importance of being creative and thinking outside the cube,” Lee continued. “Knowing that I could triumph over something so complex gave me the confidence that we can all overcome other obstacles.”
PTA president Karen Musikka told students that they are well prepared for the future thanks to the “wonderful” education that they received at Cardozo. “As you go forth, remember our motto, ‘You are all shining examples of excellence, but always keep that big heart,’” she instructed.
Valedictorian Hillary Berkowitz said that for her and her fellow graduates, high school was about more than academics with many excelling both inside and outside the classroom.
“In the past four years, I have had the privilege of sitting next to a championship figure skater, a breakdancer, a tap dancer, a lacrosse player and multiple poets and a capella singers, just to name a few,” Berkowitz said. “You know who you are, and I am truly honored to have met you and to be standing before you today.”
She also said that one of the greatest aspects of being part of a school that is as large and diverse as Cardozo is that there is a club or team to suit every interest. “The opportunities to get involved are endless,” Berkowitz said, “ and when Cardozo students get involved, they mean business.”
In addition to the rousing speeches by both students and faculty, there were energetic musical performances, including one by the school band, whose medley of Journey classics had the crowd’s toes tapping.
The school’s principal Gerald Martori said he continues to grow along with his students and has enjoyed watching them in the classroom, playing on the athletic field and participating in shows, plays and concerts.
“You have learned a lot in your years at Cardozo, growing physically, emotionally and mentally,” Martori said. “You have the tools to succeed because of the hard work you have done.”