Convocation Speech by Nate Gordon ’16

Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh
Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh

Thank you, Mr. Hill.

This is my sixth Convocation at Williston, so I feel very privileged to be able to take part in it in this one which carries so much historical significance for the school.

To me, Convocation is like a mini graduation celebration for finishing one week at Williston. I think that some of the hardest things we will have to do here are already behind us. If we can figure out whether we’re supposed go to Lunch 1 or Lunch 2 when we have art history during a Green Week, if we can figure that out, I mean, we can do anything in life, right?


We are here today, not only to honor this new school year, but to celebrate the 174 years that preceded us. All of us here today are carrying on a tradition that began when two people, Samuel and Emily Williston, decided to use their wealth to found a school that would provide an exceptional place for people our age to begin lives that would impact others.

I came to Williston five years ago. The very first day I was on campus with my new classmates, I walked through that blue door to Reed on my left when an older student, Pat DeNuccio, a sophomore at the time, said to me, “hey, cool shoes.” Now let me tell you, those high top bright blue and orange skater shoes were not cool. But when that older student spoke to me, my confidence, granted, more like ego, went through the roof. From that moment, I felt very, very comfortable on this campus. And I don’t mean comfortable in a comfy, go happy, complacent way. I mean comfortable in that Williston gave me the self-assurance to, the next year, in eighth grade attend a meeting for the school newspaper, The Willistonian. While I was the only student who showed up to that particular meeting, I managed to get the location and time correct for a few others, so I’ve been able to spend many enjoyable and productive hours with all the other writers and editors of the paper, along with our unbelievably dedicated faculty advisor, Ms. Mantegna.

What these last few years have taught me is that Williston is a place that is big enough so that it offers opportunities for each of us to pursue what we are passionate about. Williston is also small enough so that if you pursue those passions, you will make a difference in our community. At the end of the day, each of us is part of something quite a bit larger than any one of us. We are all part of a class, we are all part of one school. But because we are at Williston, each of us has been given, not just the opportunity, but the responsibility to take part in making this school better today than it was yesterday.

Going back in time, Samuel and Emily Williston had four children together, all of whom passed away at a very young age due to the lack of modern medicine. I should tell you that our archivist, Mr. Teller, bribed, excuse me, inspired me to put any piece of Williston history into this speech. To continue, after losing four of their own, Samuel and Emily decided to open a school to help the children of other parents become educated and lead lives that positively impact others. And today, we are the kids, we are the high school students, who Samuel and Emily provided for because they didn’t have their own.

And now, your parents are the ones who have sacrificed at least something for you to be here today. Williston’s trustees, Mr. Hill, his administration and staff, have kept the tradition that is Williston alive today. And the faculty, each teacher on this campus, works every day to create more opportunities for us than most high school kids in America ever encounter. So who’s left? Well, you, me, us, the students.

At this point, it’s on us to decide whether or not we’re going to take advantage of the position we are in by being at Williston. And it’s on us to decide how we are going to leave Williston as a better school and community than when we came to it. And, right now, it’s on us to decide if this 175th year will be better than the previous 174.

To make that a reality, let’s not just be here, let’s do something here. Whether you plan on coming back to Williston or not after you graduate, in 25 years, when we’ll all face the hard truth that our Sammy cards won’t pay our mortgages—in 25 years— I want you to look back at your time on this campus and say, “I went to Williston, I did some good things there.”

So, to Mr. Hill, Mr. Booth and all the trustees, members of the faculty, families, friends, students, most importantly the Class of 2016!, thank you for allowing me to take part in this ceremony.

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