Poet Laureate Speech
By McKenna Hendrickson
Scappoose Middle School
June 2, 2011
Don’t Sit it Out
I love to dance.
I love to dance, except when I let myself listen to the voices in the hallways at school that say, in so many ways, “you don’t look like a dancer.”
I’ve been big and tall and red haired for years, and I have learned a thing or two about trying to ignore unkind laughter.
And this is what I know: you have to take it as a dare, and then you have to take the dare.
You have to come back to school when school sends you home crying. You have to get up, put on your game face, fight with the doubt inside yourself, stand up straight even though you want to disappear and insist upon your right to public dignity. You have a right to that, and you have a right to more. You have a right to dance.
People will tell you to hide – to make yourself less visible. Don’t do it. Don’t listen when they say that you’re too big, you’re too small, you’re too slow; that you’re too cool, you’re too clumsy, too awkward, too loud, too much, or not enough. Even if the steps you make aren’t elegant, for a few minutes, you might find that everything makes sense.
Dancing is more than a string of movements. Dance is more than dance itself. It’s writing or building or cooking. It’s painting, collecting and singing. It’s clarinets and trombones and soccer and programming Java. It’s picking flowers and growing tomatoes, building computers, and solving equations. It’s jumping and spinning and leaping. It’s knowing that having a good heart is the most important thing. It’s having a voice.
This is what it is: it is awe, and it is wonder.
To dance is to tell a story. Tell your story. Find that dance that makes things right. Find the dance that pushes away the worries about peer pressure, being clumsy, and the SATs; about looking like a clown, homework, and untied shoes. Find the dance that sets aside fear about grades, getting a job, gossip and asking the right questions.
Classmates, parents, teachers, I hope you all dance. I hope you all recognize the right of every single person to be in the dance.
I hope you swim, think, and fly. I hope you sing, fall down and get up. I hope you think about what you say, run hard, laugh loud, and spin around in circles until you collapse in the grass.
I hope you have someone like my mom, who trusts me to be a decent person, who knows I’ll pull through the hard stuff, who reminds me that I am capable of great things, who gets me out of bed, pushes me out the door, dares me to prove my excellence, tells me that it’s all about the ride, and most all, says to me every single day, “you can dance.”
May you be so lucky. But if you aren’t, tell someone. And if you’re afraid of looking like a fool, I’ll dance with you. We’ll dance together until there are so many of us that everyone wants to join. Shut your eyes if you need too. Take a deep breath and leap into the song. Dance.