Faculty, staff, guests, students, class of 2014 welcome to the 173rd Williston Northampton Convocation,
My name is Maddy Stern and I am the president of the senior class. I’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone here at Williston, to the teachers and staff who’ve spent the past weeks preparing for our arrival, to the guests who have traveled to join us, to the senior class for giving me the opportunity to stand up here before everyone. And also I probably won’t be getting a ride to school tomorrow or the necessary Dunkin coffee if I don’t thank my family for everything they’ve done for me. Since this is my only opportunity to get up and address the entire school I’d like to take a picture of you all real quick. Thanks. Please like that when I Instagram it.
But now to the real reason I’m up here. This speech is something I have been thinking about for a long time and I knew that I would be talking to the entire student body, therefore I should write a speech everyone could relate to. So last spring I began asking people what made a “good” convocation speech. The two pieces of advice I continually received were, “be funny” and “please keep it short.” If you know me, I really like to talk and I’m not that funny, so after ruling my only two pieces of advice inapplicable I did what any well-educated student would do, I went to Wikipedia.
I discovered that convocation is a group of people formally assembled for a special occasion. Now knowing the definition of the occasion I was writing for, I Googled the most logical thing: “How to write to a Convocation Speech.” The first article detailed how address a group of graduating kindergarteners. There were literally no articles on how to write a convocation speech. I was lost.
Finally I found the 2013 Georgetown Convocation speech and learned the importance of large hand gestures and using the words “poetic” and “life-changing.” But I also heard echoes of a piece of advice Abigail Rogers-Berner sent me in response to my mid-summer “I have no idea what to say to 700 people” panic email, “Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” I liked hearing the advice again, though I’m still not sure about the hand gestures.
Next I found an article, “A high-school teacher’s best 100 pieces of advice” and found number 55 to be the same advice Mr. Seamon gave me in response to my email, “When you get what you want, stop talking.” In Duke University’s 2012 Convocation speech, I found the advice Ezra Wool sent me, “It’s not about getting to a certain place; what’s more important is the journey.”
Hours and several redundant speeches later, I realized that all the inspiration I needed was already on campus. My muses sat next to me in my math class, taught science, ate lunch every day with me, and had been present for the past five years of my life. Which lead me to this piece of my own advice: Don’t wait to appreciate and love everything Williston is for you. I know this can be difficult between homework, and friends, extra-curriculars and worrying about who’s subtweeting what. Often the hardest time to appreciate something is when it’s constantly around you. And ironically the best time to learn from something is when you are continually surrounded by it. Let your inspiration come from the things and people you are with daily. Everyone at Williston can teach you something and you all have something important to share.
Now I’d like leave everyone with this thought, because I know by now the cell phones are out and everyone, especially my brother—Hi Caleb!—is wondering when I’m going to be done. We have 250 days left, use them to enjoy each other and Williston. Because I fully believe that one day we’ll realize that while these might not have always been the best days of our lives they’ve been filled with the best things. Lazy spring days on the Quad, Dunkin runs, late nights in the dorms, that amazing win on the sports field, landing the lead in the play, your art work being displayed, a class that you really connect with, and of course, Tandem bagels.
Throughout the year teachers will stress the importance of textbook learning so I’ll stress the importance of peer learning. Look to your left, look to your right. Each of these people have something very important to teach you. Something you can’t gain from a book or even from Mr. Gunn’s APUSH class. If you pay attention, Williston will make you aware of the great paradox of a good education. You will discover the infinite things you are unaware of. What you choose to do with that realization is up to you.