Billy Joel addresses Hicksville High School Class of 2017
While graduations are always special occasions, Hicksville High School’s commencement ceremony was a bit more exceptional than most, as Hicksville native and singer-songwriter Billy Joel returned to his hometown to address the Class of 2017.
Joel was supposed to be a member of the Class of 1967, but never graduated because he didn’t get his final English credit.
“I didn’t fail English, I just didn’t go,” said Joel, to laughter and applause from the crowd.
Joel noted that a teacher at Hicksville High School inspired him to become a musician. He received his diploma in 1992, and upon returning to his alma mater 50 years after he was supposed to graduate, he commented on the change in population.
“It’s a lot more diverse now,” Joel said. “It’s very heartening, because it means this country let your parents and grandparents in when they needed refuge.”
The musician encouraged the Class of 2017 to hold onto their idealism and sense of right and wrong.
“Right now you’re at the height of your idealism. As time goes on, you may become cynical and skeptical,” said Joel. “You can take that with you the rest of your life. I hope you remember that who you are today is important to who you are later in life. You’ll always know what the right thing is.”
Members of the high school Chamber singers and choral program performed Joel’s hit song, “The Longest Time,” as the Piano Man looked on, tapping his foot and snapping his fingers.
Principal Raymond Williams also spoke to the graduates—his first full class since starting at the high school four years ago—encouraging them to have grit and passion in their pursuit of success. Also addressing the class were valedictorian Awaiss Butt and salutatorian Sailesh Srinivas.