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Darien's Nicolai Ostberg Swings For The Fences In Valedictorian Address

The Class of 2015 at Darien High School
The Class of 2015 at Darien High School Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

DARIEN, Conn. -- Here is the full text of the speech delivered Tuesday by valedictorian Nicolai Ostberg at the Darien High School graduation:

Good afternoon. As many of you may know, I’m from a family of four boys who enjoy a very healthy sibling rivalry. So before I begin, a special shout out to my best friend and twin brother Alex. Alex, you may have a faster mile time than me, a lot faster, but I’m at the podium today!

Speaking of athletics, imagine one of the town’s Little League baseball fields. Focus in on the young player coming out of the dugout. He’s walking tentatively to the batter's box, his coach encouraging him from the sideline. He settles in, a little apprehensive, bat up, hands back, staring at the pitcher in front of him.

I bring up Little League not because I was a good baseball player. In fact, I was a pretty terrible baseball player - I might hold the record for the most strikeouts in a season. Rather, I bring up Little League because this was where I learned a very important lesson from an amazing coach and close family friend, Rick Stewart. ?

I was coached by Rick for seven years, and during that time, Rick watched as I grew from a first-grader who couldn’t catch the ball ... to an eighth-grader who still couldn’t catch the ball.

But it was at bat where I was the most nervous. Early on, I was a lot more comfortable just standing in the batter’s box, hoping to get a walk to first base. I was afraid of swinging at the wrong pitch. But Rick wanted to change that. He knew I would never become a better baseball player if I did not take a swing.

So before it was my turn at bat, he’d tell me these eight words: “Good things happen when you swing the bat.” Every time, the same message: “Good things happen when you swing the bat.”

I’ve had those words framed on my desk and I’ve been looking at them for the past four years. I’ve always wondered if Rick intended this simple baseball lesson to be a deeper lesson about life. I’m not sure.

But what I’ve learned is that by swinging the bat, I was taking action rather than waiting for ball four to get a walk. What was a simple baseball lesson has become much more meaningful to me. Looking back on it now, he taught me to appreciate the value of taking action, knowing that if I got on base, it would be on my own accord. ?

In the class sitting in front of me right now, we have all, each in our own unique way, taken advantage of the many opportunities here at Darien High School - countless examples of each of us swinging the bat. We have taken risks and tried new things. We’ve actively sought out new opportunities, and learned to better recognize the ones that have materialized before us; we’ve explored new avenues, and through it all capitalized on what we found.

So now we are beginning a new phase of our lives, filled with new opportunities. And if you don’t remember any of my words today, I hope you remember Rick’s words: “Good things happen when you swing the bat.”

They can serve as our compass as we embark on this next journey, wherever we may go. Because it is the fear of failure that at times prevents us from advancing, the fear of swinging at the wrong pitch. If you’re not afraid to fail, not afraid to swing at the wrong pitch, even though you may miss, I’ll believe you’ll be happier for it.

Before I leave this podium again I’d like to share a quote by Theodore Roosevelt. Incidentally, I have seen these words on my mother’s desk my whole life: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in that gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Now let’s think back to that Little League field. Now you’re in the batter’s box, the bat clenched in your hands and the ball racing toward you. Take Rick’s advice. Swing away! Don't wait for the perfect opportunity – because “Good things happen when you swing the bat!”

Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2015.

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