NORTH ANDOVER — Valedictorian Keval Gala challenged his fellow North Andover High School graduates to strive for both success and humility as they move into the grownup stage of their lives.
As an example of success combined with humility, he cited an athlete who’s not hugely popular in these parts – but is nevertheless a winner on the court and a considerable humanitarian.
“As we’re now four games into the NBA finals, I’ll say this: Just as superstar LeBron James never forgot his family or his hometown of Akron, Ohio, we too must practice humility in life after high school.”
Gala, who is headed to Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh to study engineering, expressed humility regarding his own accomplishment of earning the highest grade point average in his class.
Some of his friends, he said, suggested that he “go up to the podium, pause for dramatic effect and say, ‘I win.’ That’s it. End of speech.” That remark drew laughter from graduates, teachers, parents and friends seated in the high school gymnasium.
Yet that advice actually gave him an idea of how to approach his valedictory address.
“I want to start off tonight by doing the opposite of that. This may surprise you, but I wish to begin by saying that my own accomplishment was really nothing special. I consider myself extremely fortunate, what with all the help I received,” he said.
Success, he said, “does not look the same for everyone.” The best synonym for success, he suggested, is happiness.
Gala paid a heartfelt tribute to his mother, Chandrika Shah, at the end of his address. Speaking in Hindi, he said, “I love you more than life itself.”
Not surprisingly, Shah later told The Eagle-Tribune that she felt like she was “on top of the world.”