High school valedictorian delivers poignant graduation speech hours after father's funeral

“In my head, I was thinking, ‘Can I do this?’”

Courtesy Carrollton City Limits

High school class valedictorian Alem Hadzic was unusually somber before delivering his commencement speech on May 16.

“People were coming over to wish me luck and I was kind of blowing them off,” Hadzic, who lives in Texas, tells “In my head, I was thinking, ‘Can I do this?’”

Unbeknownst to his peers, Hadzic, 18, had just come from his father's funeral. Miralem Hadzic died of pancreatic cancer at age 52. 

Somehow, Hadzic's legs carried him to the podium. Then he delivered a powerful speech that has been seen and shared by thousands on social media.

“My father died yesterday, May 15, 2024, and I attended his funeral today, right before graduation,” Hadzic told the audience, his voice thick with emotion. “That’s why my shoes are muddy and my arms are shaking. I had to carry him to his grave and bury him."

Hadzic’s revelation was met with audible gasps. He had only told a few close friends that his dad had passed away.

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

Hadzic will study chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin in the fall. And 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 and I’m going to do it for him,” he added.

The Early College High School graduate received a standing ovation.

Alem Hadzic and his late father, Miralem Hadzic (Courtesy Alem Hadzic)

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 tells

A few weeks before his passing, Miralem called out for his son to come downstairs. He was watching basketball, and needed Hadzic to narrate the game.  

“He couldn’t see the screen and he asked me to tell him what was going on,” Hadzic recalls. “So I stayed there with him and I did just that.” 

It was particularly poignant for Hadzic. 

“One of my favorite memories from growing up is watching the Mavericks with my dad,” he says. "It was so comforting to be able to do that with him one last time."

Since Hadzic’s speech went viral, he has been inundated with emails from people across 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.”

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