Theodore Chalfen, a gay teenager from Boulder, Colo., thanked his fellow classmates from the lectern of his high school graduation this week. "The kindness and understanding you all have shown me over the past four years speaks volumes about you as human beings. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be myself," he said.
Chalfen recounted the difficult decision he made before entering high school; that he would be honest about his sexual orientation with anyone who asked. The "horror stories" he heard experienced by others along with fears of being ostracized or bullied did not deter his choice. Instead, Chalfen said, "The response I have received, by and large, has been stunning."
The new grad continued, "The amount of people who actually seemed happy to hear that I was gay, outnumbered those who didn't care. And those who didn't care far outnumbered the small group who reacted negatively. That says an awful lot more about this class of Fairview High School than it does about me."
Chalfen started to continue his speech, but the crowd broke out in spontaneous applause. The young man then went on to thank the parents in the crowd for teaching their children tolerance. "You brought your kids up the right way, and they are forever indebted to you for it," he said.
He also cautioned those who had been less than kind to him throughout his high school career saying, "Like it or not, we're all in this together." Chalfen continued, "This generation is never going to accomplish the things I know it to be capable of unless we stop thinking of each other in terms of us and them."
The teenager's wisdom was echoed by another speaker at the graduation. The Daily Camera of Boulder reported: "At Fairview's ceremony, [Chalfen's fellow classmate] Jackson Wojciechowski took off his shoes to display his striped socks and went on to use socks as a metaphor for high school in a lighthearted speech that equated socks with holes with a bad grade, missing a penalty kick or losing a friend. 'Don't change your socks for anyone but yourself,'" he said.
Theodore Chalfen received his diploma this week along with nearly 450 seniors in Fairview High School's class of 2013.