Good morning and welcome to The Williston Northampton School’s 174th Commencement. Welcome to parents, families, guests, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff.
I want to begin this morning, by recognizing that this ceremony falls on Memorial Day weekend. So I would ask that we begin with a moment of silent reflection for all those who gave their lives in service to our country.
So welcome Classes of 2018, 2017, 2016, and especially, you, the Class of 2015.
Yesterday during our Academic Awards Ceremony, I asked the audience to acknowledge Williston’s astonishingly committed teachers who work so tirelessly and selflessly to help students achieve their goals. No doubt that Purpose, Passion, and Integrity don’t exist without the guidance of this fine faculty. In that spirit, 2015, there are a lot of people who came here today just for you, because they love you and supported you–parents, relatives, guardians, and friends. So I ask that 2015 stand and face the audience to show your collective appreciation for all of those folks in attendance this morning.
Class of 2015, you have been hearing for the past two weeks—from just about everyone—to cherish the memories of your Williston experience. Seriously, how are you supposed to do that when your 32 gig iPhone has been flashing the warning that “storage for the device is at capacity.” What a downer of a message for this fine morning: “You have no more capacity for memory.” Let’s think about that: What if, in the middle of one of your most exciting academic moments at Williston, say in a class debate when Emmett and Bickerstaff were squaring off, that a little signal went out in your brain that said “you have exceeded storage for this device.” What do you do then? Are you supposed to rush over to tech support screaming for Mr. Lorenzati? He probably knows you are on your way anyway since we track you guys with a little chip in your Surfaces. Can your brain really be filled to capacity?
You guys belong to the greatest generation of memory-makers in history. You have Instagram accounts, Vine feeds, Snap Chat, Twitter, OMG, you even have something like a cam-er-a on your cell-u-lar devices. In the old days, cameras were uni-purpose and not something you could hide; they were pretty bulky and heavy and had all the stuff that comes with them hanging off your body. You have all seen Mr. Rutherford with multiple cameras around his neck and the gear bag over his shoulder like Indiana Jones–I am convinced carrying all that stuff around with him all the time is what makes him so buffed.
You students might not have invented the “selfie,” but you perfected it. Heck, selfies are getting to be “old school” now. And selfie sticks are the new cigarettes—they are hazardous to your health and are banned in many public places. You have so many picture memories that they need to be stored in “the cloud”–One Drive is now part of your life.
Whether you are one of those intrepid 6-year seniors who have grown up with Williston, or are a senior who has been with us for one year, you have built more memories than you can possibly know. I shudder to think (I was going to say, “shutter” to think) how many posts, tweets, grams, whatever you have generated.
But at the same time, and without your giving it so much as a moment’s thought, you have been storing vast gigs of other kinds of memory-making. Your smart phones have limited capacities; you have a limitless capacity for those other kinds of memories. I’m now talking about those mental images, word pictures, recollections–whether sharply captured like one of those selfies, or cropped, touched up, revised, like, well, one of those selfies.
These life long memories do not depend on a device, other than the greatest device of all, which is your brain. You are the stewards of these memories, and they will come to you at different times, making you laugh or cry, or sustaining you, or maybe chiding you, like the friend or mentor who you connect to them.
Not to be the one to kill the moment, but these Williston memory making moments are coming to a close for you—the party’s almost over, but not before you hear from someone, who like you, has spent his life creating memorable moments for others.
You are really lucky to have today’s speaker, Mr. Brad Hall, Class of 1975, here today. I tried to get him to come last year, but he used the lame excuse of his son’s graduation from Wesleyan. Then I found out that the school had actually asked him to speak many years ago but that that same son was graduating from kindergarten—not sure if that’s a true story. Brad flew out from LA just to do this, to be here with you all this morning and to celebrate with you this rite of passage.
When Brad graduated from Williston in 1975—I looked at his yearbook to check out the cool turtlenecks, hair styles, and plaid pants of the day—he went onto Northwestern, and he did what I hope all of you will do: he pursued his passion, in his case for acting and comedy. In fact, before we talked about being entrepreneurial, Brad was just that. The comedy group he co-founded in college was hired by a show you may have heard of, Saturday Night Live—where Brad was a member of the cast for two years before pursuing writing and directing. I could go on and on to describe Brad’s accomplishments for you but he would probably say, “yada yada yada,” and have me move on. One thing I know, that if his email correspondence to me is any indication, we are all in for some memorable lines from Mr. Brad Hall.