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At Levittown school graduation, pol pounds $50 to make point

Councilman Gary Hudes addresses the MacArthur High School

Councilman Gary Hudes addresses the MacArthur High School graduating class of 2016 during the school's 55th annual commencement ceremony held at the Mack Center on the Hofstra University campus on Saturday, June 18, 2016. Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

Gary Hudes drove a point home with a $50 bill at General Douglas MacArthur High School’s graduation ceremony Saturday at Hofstra University.

Or, one might say, he pounded it in.

In a short speech about believing in one’s worth, Hudes — a councilman on the Hempstead Town Board — crumpled, punched and stomped on a $50 bill, stopping at every point to ask a student in the front row, senior Anne Marie McNally, if it would still be appealing to her.

She still wanted it.

“There are going to be times where it’s going to feel like people are stepping all over you … and you have no value,” he said to the Levittown school’s Class of 2016 at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex. “You have to believe in the opportunities that are available to you.”

Hudes initially posed the question to the entire class, donning blue and white gowns, but he surprised everyone when he actually asked a student to stand up.

“I was just expecting him to ask, I didn’t think anyone was going to get chosen,” McNally said. McNally, a member of the National Honor Society, will be attending Molloy College in Rockville Centre to study speech pathology.

Hudes has been speaking at graduation ceremonies in the Levittown district for years.

But he said his main goal each year is to find a new angle that stands out from the traditional speeches.

“You need to be creative, grab their attention and talk to them about the reality,” he said. “You need to get over life’s speed bumps — that’s always my common thread.”

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