Autistic Boy Gives Powerful Graduation Speech, Inspires Us All
byKaitlin StanfordJul 22, 2013
This summer, the Internet brought us lots of amazing commencement speeches from a pretty impressive array of celebrities. There was Stephen Colbert's hilarious address to the University of Virginia, which began by asking the crowd to leave their cellphones on so they could freely tweet his words of brilliance. And then there was Bill Clinton's uplifting speech to Howard University, in which he spoke about the importance of working toward a better future with "open hands" instead of "closed fists."
But so far, our favorite graduation speech of 2013 belongs to Eli Rosenberg, a 6th grader with autism from Pinetree Elementary School. This past June, he stood in front of his classmates on graduation day and gave the speech of his life.
A video of the speech, which went viral this weekend, shows Eli walking to the podium with confidence, as his mom calls after him with a gentle reminder to smile. He then addresses the crowd with honest words, spoken right from the heart. Reflecting on his time at Pinetree Elementary, he talks about how hard he's worked to strengthen his social skills and make new friends, about how encouraging his classmates and teachers have been to him, and (most poignantly) about the beauty that can be found in all of our differences.
The most inspiring words from his speech come in the words of wisdom he offers the audience:
As we leave here today I have a challenge for all of you. We are all different. Not less, just different. We all have things we're good at, things we need to work on, and things we need help with. Whenever you see someone else who is different, instead of just judging them or being a bully, I challenge you to offer help and treat that person with the kindness you have shown me over the last six years. Remember, all of you can make a difference in someone's life. You've already made a difference in mine.
The video, which first appeared on HuffPost Good News, was shared by Eli's proud mom Shannon after seeing a post that asked readers, "Who inspires you to be a better person?" Shannon wrote in with two simple words: "My son," and attached the video of Eli's speech.