Thank you everyone for coming out today. When I was thinking about this speech, I wanted to acknowledge what this community means to all of us.

In the fall, I went to a celebration of life for the father of one of the first friends I made when I moved to Martha’s Vineyard as a child. The father was a gifted painter, an avid gardener, and he made the best cup of tea. To me, he always seemed like a wise wizard, the sage of Chilmark perhaps.

As I stood at that celebration, with the sun setting over Tisbury Great Pond and an autumn breeze blowing through the cattails, something stirred within me. Here, at the end of a bumpy dirt road, the community that makes the Vineyard special was so clearly evident. Sharing their memories around a potluck meal were many people from many different generations who make up the backbone of this island, all gathered to celebrate a man who fully represented an old Vineyard lifestyle with a love of nature and community.

Many classmates were there, their parents, our teachers, coaches, mentors — people who have kept an eye on us and guided us. Today, I see many of those same faces here, just as I see them in school, at the grocery store, and everywhere around the island.

Each day on Martha’s Vineyard means we are a part of a special, unique community. It is a community that supports us — a community that on Friday gave us over a million dollars in scholarships. It is also a community that sometimes annoys us — it is an Island after all, isolated by the surrounding waters.

But it is so much more.

The past few summers I have worked at the Covington restaurant in Edgartown. I am at least 10 years younger than most of my coworkers. The dishwasher is a boxer in his native Serbia. The prep cook from Guatemala talks to the hostess from Spain as she makes wood print stencils to decorate our aprons on the first day of service. At first, there were barriers of age and language, but quickly we became a family.

One night last summer, I took the last bus home after a late shift cooking at work. My phone was dead and instead of music I listened to the voices of my companions on this midnight commute. A woman talked on the phone in Spanish, two Brazilian men chatted quietly in Portuguese, and a Jamaican man, who shucks oysters at the restaurant across the street, waved to me as the bus pulled out.

That specific bus ride was a community unto itself, a diverse microcosm of the world taking place on the Island where we live. These types of moments, I have found, are quietly consequential. They take place every day and I am sure I am not the only one to experience them. They have shaped all of us because this is the place we will always call home.

Martha’s Vineyard is a small town and an international town. It is a place of intergenerational and cross-cultural relationships, with parents, co-workers, small children, the old men who watch the world from benches, and artists who paint our story each season.

As we look to our future, my hope is that while forging our own paths in the world, we never forget what we have been given, because it is a lot, and it has made us who we are today.

Thank you.

Hardy Eville is class salutatorian for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School class of 2022. This was his graduation speech, delivered at commencement ceremonies Sunday at the Tabernacle.