Good morning and welcome parents, families, guests, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students, and especially the Class of 2014.
Before you get too settled 2014, I ask that you stand and face the audience and join me in applauding all of those who played such an instrumental part in your arrival at this pivotal moment in your lives.
So 2014, I hope this small gesture that we just conveyed carries forward so that expressions of gratitude are not something that happen once every four years—don’t forget to acknowledge and be grateful for the help you receive along the way, and also don’t forget to lend help to others when they are in need. If you think about it, we never achieve anything alone, and I hope that one of the things you take with you today is an appreciation for your friends and mentors and a sense of loyalty to your alma mater.
So what is this event called Baccalaureate, this evening with the members of the senior class, their mentors, and their parents? It is historically a religious celebration dating from the Middle Ages when universities were first established.
The first Baccalaureate service was likely held at Oxford University in Oxford, England in 1432, and in some cases graduating students receiving their Bachelor’s Degree—the bacca part—had to give a speech in Latin before they received their laurels—the laureate piece. Because the universities were connected to the Christian Church and because the Renaissance was the rebirth of classical learning, the Baccalaureate appropriately combined the power of the church with the traditional search for wisdom through learning.
The role of the Church has diminished here, but the solemnity of the event and the reflection on the past remain a key part of our own Baccalaureate service.
Students. Parents. Faculty. Grounds Crew. Security. Dining Hall Services. That one photographer we hired for the weekend. Pigeons. Squirrels. Assorted insects amongst the grass. Easthampton late-morning joggers. Good morning. Well seniors, we did it. We graduated high school. Now we can finally claim our bets from our freshman year advisors. I mean this is fantastic, these diplomas are truly invaluable and are gonna come in handy for all sorts of things: job opportunities, college verification, swatting flies, origami, paper airplanes, fire starter for when those job opportunities didn’t turn out so great.
You know maybe it’s not these diplomas that matter so much. Because when it comes down to it our Williston journey was always working toward one unparalleled item that no other high school could come close to achieving…these really fancy plastic cases AROUND the diploma – I mean what kind of leather is this, walrus? That would be sick. Sick as in both very interesting, and immoral.
I graduated from a military school in 1958. The yearbook reminded me that “Moser is never on top in any field.” True. I wasn’t. But, back then, I didn’t care.
I did graduate though— thanks to the generosity of my history teacher who allowed me to re-take my failed final exam (and who, I am certain, graded that second exam with compassion for a boy who couldn’t care less about history…or math, or English, or chemistry, or anything else academic).
My folks gave me a record player for my graduation present. It wasn’t very sophisticated, but it played the music I enjoyed listening to, which was not the music my classmates listened to. While they listened to Harvey and the Moonglows, the Platters, and Elvis Presley, I was off in my own world listening to Nat King Cole, Rachmaninoff, and Broadway musicals like Oklahoma, and South Pacific.
In South Pacific, a character named Bloody Mary, a large Polynesian woman, belts out a tune in which she tells her beautiful brown daughter that “if you don’t have a dream, how you gon’ have a dream come true.”
And it is this matter of having dreams that I address this morning.
Editor’s note: Senior Class President Maddy Stern gave the following speech during Senior Dinner on May 9, 2014.
In a college interview someone asked me to describe Williston. “Well it’s a small New England prep school, we have a really nice pond, 60 percent boarders, 40 percent day students…” She responded “Yes, I am familiar with prep schools, sounds like Deerfield. Tell me why you love Williston, what are the most important things I should know about it?”
Well I don’t think Deerfield has a pond…and I couldn’t even imagine comparing Williston to any other school. I’ve been at Williston for six years now, that’s approximately 2,000 meals in the dining hall, easily 1,500 coffee runs, probably hundreds of extra help sessions and 54 months with the class of 2014. That’s a pretty sizable amount of time. So I was surprised when I couldn’t answer right away.