Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips

As the second highest academically ranked student in the James Caldwell High School Class of 2013, William Evers was selected to present the Salutatorian address at the June 20, 2013 Commencement. Credits: Carolyne Volpe Curley

Before I begin I would like to thank the administrators, teachers, and staff of James Caldwell High School. My high school experience could not have been as pleasant and worthwhile as it was without all of you. But now I turn my attention to the young men and women who I have come to know so well, the class of 2013.

If you'll indulge me, I'd like to take a moment to tell you all a story that relates a monumental event in my young life. I was 14 years old, a tiny, timid freshman in a sea of upperclassmen, when I first tried salt and vinegar potato chips.

From a very young age my heart belonged to sour cream and onion, and trying a different flavor was intimidating, and felt a bit like treason. However, all I had ever heard on the subject from others was that salt and vinegar potato chips were the best snack food they had ever tried, and that I was really missing out.

So lo and behold, one day my mom brought home a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. I had heard so much praise about the wonder of the flavor that I had shed my hesitance and was eager to try something new. I picked up my first chip from the bag, excited but uncertain, and took a bite. I was immediately amazed with what I tasted. I hated it; the flavor was abrasive and almost hurt my mouth to eat, and I was certain I would never eat another salt and vinegar chip again.

However, my family encouraged me to eat a few more, to give the chips a second chance, perhaps with lower expectations this time. After popping a few in my mouth, the taste was still unpleasant, but decidedly less so. Absentmindedly I began to eat more and more, until somehow I had become used to the unique flavor. All of a sudden the chips I had met with such distaste had become mildly addictive.

Well by this time I had switched on the TV and stopped paying attention to the chips at all. I was simply shoveling them in without a second thought and chewing and swallowing automatically while my mind was elsewhere. After going through the motions in this way for quite some time I happened to look down, and was shocked to find that I had already polished off over three quarters of the chips. Suddenly my outlook on the chips was completely reversed, and instead of forcing myself to try the chips or guzzling them down absentmindedly, I now had to preserve them, savor each one for all it was worth. I tried all kinds of strategies, licking the flavor off first, smaller bites, and limiting my bites per minute. But no amount of rationing could allow me to escape the fact that, like it or not, my chips were running out and all I could do was try to enjoy them while they lasted.

For me, my time at James Caldwell High School was that bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. I entered high school with overblown and unreachable expectations, and the increased workload and responsibilities that I found waiting for me when I arrived were off-putting. But my family encouraged me to keep trying, and thankfully, I eventually settled in.

Between January of my freshman year and the beginning of my senior year was my distracted period of thoughtless chip eating, in which I regretfully neglected to enjoy each day of high school, as I should have. I dreaded after school soccer practices on sleepy Mondays when I should have been excited to have the opportunity to play the sport I love. I daydreamed in classes when I should have been enjoying the quest for all of the knowledge I could possibly retain.

Not until my senior year did I realize how ephemeral youth is, and how foolish I had been not to savor it. I looked forward to daily practices and did my best to appreciate all of the information that my teachers had to convey. I made it my mission to soak up every bit of fun I could from these last few delicious chips, these final months of high school, but inevitably it has come to an end for all of us here today.

And so as we all go on to college, the workplace, or whatever pursuits our hearts have steered us to, my wish for all of us is that we will never become so distracted that we forget to savor every last chip in the bag that is our life. Thank you."

As the second highest academically ranked student in the James Caldwell High School Class of 2013, William Evers was selected to present the Salutatorian address at the June 20, 2013 Commencement. Evers is also a member of both the National Honor Society and the Academic Honor Society.

To see a short video of William's speech, along with a full retrospective of the James Caldwell High School graduation, see TAP's article:

A Commemorative Look at the James Caldwell Class of 2013

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