As Garden City High School’s 299 graduates took their seats at the school stadium Saturday morning, a surprise guest had not yet arrived.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) entered the stadium about 20 minutes into the ceremony and quietly took a seat next to the Garden City district’s administrators and school board members.
Soon Schumer was introduced by Principal Nanine McLaughlin and took to the microphone to deliver a speech that not everyone knew was coming.
As Schumer called Garden City “one of the finest high schools, not just in New York state, but in our entire country,” he explained how valuable it is that the Class of 2013 was born into a world where technology is constantly growing and adapting.
“Technology is to your generation as water is to a fish; you’ve been swimming in it your whole lives,” he said.
According to McLaughlin, Schumer tries to attend as many high school commencements in the state as he can during graduation season. The principal found out a week ago -- the day the program went to the printers -- that Schumer would be attending the ceremony.
The school didn’t publicly announce that he was coming, but as graduation approached valedictorian Shannon Carman heard rumors that Schumer might attend.
“It was fine, actually, because it gave me more time to get ready for my speech,” said Carman, who will be attending Dartmouth College in the fall. She said she had a fear of public speaking and was glad to have some extra moments to calm her nerves.
“I’m usually very nervous when it comes to public speaking, but today was weird; I was nervous, but it wasn’t that bad,” Carman said.
In a sense, by getting through her speech Carman had heeded the lesson Schumer offered earlier.
“My advice to the Class of 2013 is very simple,” Schumer said. “Go for it.”