Staples High School's Class of 2013 valedictorian Madeline French Seidman exhorted fellow graduates to heed the words of actress Julie Andrews during the school's 126th commencement Friday afternoon.

"One of my favorite actresses Julie Andrews once said, `Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th,' " said Seidman, who plans to attend Williams College in the fall.

Andrews, Seidman noted, lost out for the leading role in the 1964 screen version of "My Fair Lady" to Audrey Hepburn, because film producers reportedly didn't think Andrews, who had played Eliza Doolittle on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony Award, was as photogenic as Hepburn. Consequently, Andrews was free to star in "Mary Poppins," for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress.

"As you leave Staples High School, I hope you will seek out people who inspire you, support you, question you and encourage you to be your best self," Seidman told the class of 463 graduates. "I truly believe that those are the kind of people who will bring you happiness."

Friends and family jammed the field house at Staples for the standing-room-only ceremony. Following a welcome from Staples Principal John Dodig, the Staples Senior Orphenians sang the "Star-Spangled Banner." After Seidman's speech, the Staples choir sang a rendition of Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

In his remarks to graduates, Dodig made reference to the commencement speech given last year by Wellesley High School teacher David McCullough Jr., son of the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, who told graduates at the Massachusetts high school that they weren't special, despite what parents, teachers and many others had been telling them throughout their lives. Video of McCullough's speech went viral, but Dodig said the message didn't apply to Staples graduates.

"You are special, in that you are leaving Staples with a level of education that is different and better than most high schools in America by virtue of the fact that you live here, attended schools in Westport, and took advantage of all that Staples High School has to offer," Dodig said.

"The way you have learned, the beautiful universal concepts you now understand, the reading, the writing, the math, the research and writing skills you have acquired, will serve you well in whatever you do beyond these walls."