Hello and once again welcome to everyone who is here today.
For the first time, perhaps in my life, I feel wise. I feel as though, by this point in time, I have gained enough knowledge, gone through enough personal experiences, succeeded and failed enough times, that I have accumulated at least some valuable information that others can truly benefit from hearing. And of course, as I continue to grow, so will this wisdom, but for now, I am honored to be given the opportunity to share with you today some of these things that I have learned. `
Now, the graduating class already know what this speech is about. But for the rest of you here, and for those who have forgotten, let me recap: this speech, it’s going to be odd. This speech, it’s going to be different. And I hope, more than anything, that this speech will be memorable. Because, you see, too often I have witnessed speeches become lost in their own words – perhaps eloquently written, but in the years or even days following, you can’t seem to remember what they were about, you cannot recall those reflections, life lessons, and stories that the speaker referred to and referenced. The challenging part however, about trying to write a memorable speech for graduation is that it is impossible to expect one person to sum up the infinitely diverse experiences of many into a single, all-encompassing, climactic address – and so faced with this challenge, I cheated.
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?
This should be straightforward, but for me it will not be easy. I am surely not alone in wishing for just a little more time with this tremendous class. Time for one more game, one more play, one more concert, photograph, drawing, dance or song—time for, yes, one more class or at least one more conversation (oh my!)…but that time is past. So I am left with words for you and yet words fail because, to paraphrase Lincoln, what we say here matters little in comparison with what you, the Class of 2014, have done here. So, I will endeavor to try to say some words about a crucial dimension of your Williston experience—but my words may linger because I am not alone in realizing that such greatness as the Class of 2014 comes rarely and should be celebrated fully.
We now honor the finest scholars in the Class of 2014 with their public induction in to the Williston Northampton chapter of the Cum Laude Society. In electing these young women and men as members of the Cum Laude Society, Williston celebrates their academic accomplishment and, in a broader sense, the fundamental mission of our school. These young people show what can be accomplished by an academic life inspired with purpose, passion and integrity.
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.