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Valedictorian giving graduation speech and graduate hugging another person.

Valedictorian Buries His Dad and Delivers Powerful Speech

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High School Valedictorian Delivers Powerful Speech — 45 Minutes After Burying His Father

It wasn't just graduation day for Alem. It was also the day he buried his father.

When high school valedictorian Alem Hadzic, 18, walked across the stage in his cap and gown and a pair of muddy shoes, he was ready to bid farewell to his fellow graduates.

No one knew that just forty-five minutes earlier, he had said the most heartbreaking goodbye of his life.

Teenager Buries His Dad and Graduates High School On the Same Day.

High school graduate Alem Hadzic delivering his valedictory speech.

High school graduate Alem Hadzic delivering his valedictory speech.

Carrolton Farmers Branch Independent School District

Alem's father, Miralem Hadzic, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January. Not wanting his classmates to treat him differently, the teen chose to keep it a secret for months.

Sadly, his father passed away on May 15, just one day before his high school graduation. Twenty-four hours after losing his dad, Alem helped carry him to his final resting place. And less than an hour later, he somehow managed to carry his grief across his high school stage.

While no one would have faulted Alem for skipping out on his grad ceremony, he knew he had to show up — not just for himself, but for his dad.

“I had to go to my dad’s funeral. I had to do it for him. But I also had to go to my graduation, and I also had to do that for him.”

Alem Hadzic via WFAA

Alem’s dad was an immigrant from Bosnia. He came to the U.S. and got a job delivering Domino's pizzas to build a better life for his kids so that they could succeed.

It worked. Alem was about to graduate at the top of his class.

As he took the podium to deliver his valedictory speech, only his closest friends knew the truth.

"I didn’t know if I could give my speech," he told WFAA. "I knew I had to, but I didn’t know if I could."

High Schooler Pays Tribute To His Late Father in Powerful Speech

He began his speech with words of encouragement for his classmates, reflecting on their shared journey and classroom experiences. Smiling and laughing, he joked about English class junior year and pulling all-nighters.

But a few minutes into his speech, he decided to ditch the script and speak from his heart instead. “I have one more thing to say, I want to see if I can get through this,” Alem said before sharing his devastating news.

“My father died yesterday, May 15, 2024, and I attended his funeral today, right before graduation,” Alem told a shocked audience. “That’s why my shoes are muddy and my arms are shaking because I had to carry him into his grave and bury him.”

His words were met with gasps from the crowd (and more than a few tears).

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

"So I'm going to go to college and work every hour of every day to achieve all my goals. Because that's what he wanted and I'm going to do it for him."

He concluded his raw and powerful speech by urging his classmates to do the same for their loved ones. It earned him a standing ovation.

But more than the thunderous applause was the overwhelming feeling of support Alem received on a day he needed it the most. It was something he wasn't expecting.

“I never felt more alone that day,” he said. “I never felt more alone than right before I had to give that speech. And that all changed when I looked in the audience. I saw a room full of people people crying, I saw people being moved by what I was saying."

After the ceremony, Alem continued to feel the love. Strangers asked to take pictures with him and told him how strong he was.

"It made me feel so good on such a dark day. It was really what I needed.”

Alem will be attending the University of Texas in Austin in the fall. He plans on pursuing a chemical engineering degree.

The Power of a Father's Love

What Alem did takes tremendous courage, resilience and strength. However, it doesn't just speak to his character, it's also a testament to the man who raised him.

A father who did whatever it took to make sure that his child could realize his dreams.

Alem's graduation day wasn't just his day; it was his dad's day too. And while he couldn't be there physically, his legacy lives on in the enduring impact of his life and teachings.

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