Diego Lopez ’22, who will continue his education at Vanderbilt University, delivered the Valedictory Address at Xavier’s 180th Commencement.
Here is the text of Lopez’s speech:
Good evening, Mr. Raslowsky, Ms. Smith, Mr. Enright, Dr. Cornacchia, administrators, faculty, staff, friends, family, and my fellow Sons of Xavier. I am honored to have this opportunity to represent my class as the 2022 Valedictorian.
I remember the day I first walked into campus to begin my freshman year. I was mesmerized by the size of the school, and I quaked with nervousness to meet my teachers and classmates. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in this environment. In truth, Xavier wasn’t the first place I imagined I would wind up for high school. Although I had enjoyed my time at Xavier’s Open House, it was actually external factors that influenced my decision. I had had my sights set on attending a different school, and when I got the news that I was not accepted there, I was devastated. Little did I know that this would turn out to be one of the luckiest days of my life.
Before Xavier, I attended Saint Ignatius of Loyola School on the Upper East Side. Like any good Jesuit-educated young man, once the path that I thought might be mine was closed off, I engaged in a process of discernment about my future. Lofty as that sounds, what that consisted of was weighing the merits of the two most popular choices for young men in my middle school graduating class: Xavier and Fordham Prep. My brother was at Fordham, so the decision ended up being pretty easy. What better way to stress out my parents than with an interfamilial school rivalry.
What began in an effort at self-individuation through provocation ended up being something far nobler than that. I would come to find that choosing Xavier was not only the best decision I could have made, but was in many ways providential. Going to Xavier has been essential in my becoming who I am now and shaping who I will be in the future. The people I’ve met, the relationships I’ve formed, and the community I’ve been privileged to engage with have prepared me not just for the next stage of my educational experience, but for the rest of my life.
In one of those more reflective moments I’ve had time for, in recent weeks, I was stunned to realize that had life gone differently, I would have missed out on all of the precious memories I’ve accumulated at Xavier. It is evident that sometimes life and God have a better plan for us than the one we have in mind for ourselves.
It’s not uncommon for us to have goals and aspirations to achieve a particular end in the manner of our choosing. Yet, we must never ignore the possibility, nor the existence, of an alternate route that may at first find us broken before making us whole. Over the past two and a half years, we have all dealt with the presence of COVID-19 in our lives, and many of us have suffered great losses. The faith we put in God in moments like these, to guide us along the path to peace, will define more than just our immediate recoveries; it will shape who we become as people thereafter.
Most of you will no doubt recall, though perhaps the particulars of the last few days of classes might be lost in the haze of excitement over the future, that one of the last things we did together was sign each other’s yearbooks in the Quad. As I was preparing these remarks, I realized that I hadn’t quite looked at the messages that had been written at the back of that hopeful volume. It seems that I was so concerned with collecting everyone’s autograph, as insurance in case they became famous of course, that I didn’t acknowledge the sheer number of inside jokes and thoughtful messages that my classmates had written for me. When I read through them, I saw what Xavier is all about: creating real friendships that can last a lifetime.
In the spirit of recalling the good memories I had spent with my classmates, I began looking at the Class of 2022’s freshman yearbook: Ms. Durand and Mr. Aprea shaving their heads for St. Baldrick’s Day; Patrick Mahaney, in full JROTC uniform, holding onto the “Blue Night Band” poster while marching in a parade; and many others. It doesn’t take long to realize that the past four years have gone by in a flash.
So I want to finish my address by recounting a quick memory that I believe almost all of you were present for. It was actually at our freshman orientation in September 2018 and involves something mentioned by Mr. Lovallo. Mr. Lovallo, four years ago, you asked us to look to our left and then to our right. At other institutions, at other moments in history, that sort of remark might have been a prelude to an anticipatory lesson about how one of those guys wouldn’t be there at graduation. Mr. Lovallo switched the message up that day, toward something far more loving. He said that it was very likely one of those people was going to end up being the best man at our weddings. Although I don’t think that marriage is in the books for me for some time, I do suspect that one day, Mr. Lovallo will probably be proven right.
Xavier didn’t just raise us and welcome us throughout our stay, it propelled us forward with good minds, good hearts, and the best friends and community we could have asked for. Thank you for the gift of your time. Class of 2022, we did it!