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High School Valedictorian Delivers Graduation Speech Hours After Dad’s Funeral

High school class valedictorian Alem Hadzic had a much different graduation day on May 16 than the one he’d worked so hard for throughout his education career. 

The 18-year-old Early College High School valedictorian took the stage at his graduation ceremony to deliver his speech—just hours after his father’s funeral.

“People were coming over to wish me luck and I was kind of blowing them off,” Hadzic told TODAY. “In my head, I was thinking, ‘Can I do this?’”

Only a few of his close friends even knew his father had passed away just one day prior, leaving the graduation audience shocked when he revealed the events of his day. 

“My father died yesterday, May 15, 2024, and I attended his funeral today, right before graduation,” Hadzic said in his speech, per a video posted on Facebook. “That’s why my shoes are muddy and my arms are shaking, because I had to carry him into his grave and bury him.”

The 18-year-old’s words were met with gasps from the audience as he revealed that his father’s funeral had taken place just hours before he landed at the podium in front of them. 

A Private Battle 

Hadzic’s father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during his senior year. The 52-year-old died just one day before his son’s high school graduation. 

“I can’t stand up here and pretend I want to be doing this speech right now but I can’t throw something away that he worked so hard for me to achieve,” he continued.

Hadzic, who will attend the University of Texas Austin in the fall to study chemical engineering, shared in his speech that he plans to make his late father proud. 

“I am going to spend every hour of every day working as hard as I can to achieve all my goals because that’s what he wanted,” he said. 

Emotionally he added, “I’m going to do it for him.”

Hadzic ended his speech by encouraging the audience to turn to their loved ones and say they would do the same for them, before walking over to accept his diploma. 

He received a standing ovation. 

Alem Hadzic says he had his speech written out, but he went rogue when speaking about his dad.

“I had a new influx of emotions and I couldn’t just read off a script,” he said in an interview. “I had to talk about my experience, and I had to talk from the heart.”

Since delivering his speech on May 16, Alem Hadzic has received an outpouring of love and support from people around the country. 

“It’s so comforting. Strangers are sharing their experiences with me so that I don’t feel so alone,” he says. “I’m responding to every single person.”

You can watch Hadzic’s full speech below:

Bri Lamm
Bri Lamm
Bri is an outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure. She lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese in between capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras.

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After facing relentless bullying and harassment over the past school year, 12-year-old Flora Martinez ended her life on May 7. Now, her parents are demanding change from schools and administrators after the bullying persisted, even once she was gone.

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