Good morning and a big hello to the Williston Northampton School Class of 2013, teachers, parents, grandparents, siblings, bagpipers, webcast-watchers, and kids. Welcome and thank you all for showing up to our high school graduation.
Speaking in front of a crowd of 1000+ people is something that not a lot of people get to experience in their lifetimes and being awarded this opportunity today is a really special honor. Some people try and picture the audience in their underwear to get the nerves down. I just stuck to not wearing contacts, so if something comes out wrong, well sometimes you can’t see the whole picture in widescreen vision.
So, what’s next? Seriously though, did we get that figured out? I need to let my mom know…
Editor’s note: The following speech was presented by John Katzenbach during the 172nd Commencement Exercises at the Williston Northampton School on May 26, 2013.
I was delighted to be asked to stand in for the Ambassador from Colombia at this graduation. After all – what is a graduation speech? Mostly it is an opportunity for older folks to exhort younger people with all sorts of incredibly heartfelt and probably utterly useless advice. But – that said – You are – for better or worse – the classic captive audience. That is, it is my sincere belief that until Bob Hill actually hands you that diploma it is unlikely you will flee from this ceremony, regardless of what I say.
So, my first thought in putting this talk together was – obviously: What would the ambassador from Colombia tell you?
This was easy: One: Learn Spanish – a very useful language.
And two: Be diplomatic.
Editor’s Note: The following Baccalaureate remarks were presented by Head of School Robert W. Hill III on May 25, 2013 in Stephens Chapel.
Good evening seniors, parents, colleagues and welcome to our Baccalaureate Ceremony for the Class of 2013. I wanted to share a few remarks before we begin this traditional ceremony which dates from Medieval times signifying the attainment of learning and knowledge.
Preparing for this weekend, I face an annual recognition which all speakers at this time of year realize—if they are honest. It’s a dilemma which comes from trying to think of something interesting or, even harder, something memorable to say to seniors who are about to graduate and who have had their fill of advice, nostalgia, and predictions. It’s times like this that I wish I could go to Mrs. Sawyer’s writing center, or better yet, just ask her to come redeliver the message to you guys from a couple of weeks ago: Remember that lesson? “Be kinder than necessary and work with love.”
Three days after his seventh birthday, Manny Stern, and the last remnants of Antwerp’s Jewish community, caught the last train out of Belgium. It was May 1940 and German troops were encroaching on the Low Countries and northern France. During the Holocaust, between 1939 and 1945, the Nazis systematically murdered over 6 million people as their forces conquered Europe, Russia, and parts of North Africa.
Mr. Stern met his wife, Ritta, at a square dance at City College in Manhattan, she was 18 and he was 21. They’ve been married for 58 years.
However, it wasn’t until four or five years ago that Mr. and Mrs. Stern, grandparents of Eva Stern-Rodriguez ’13, decided to start telling their stories of survival during the Holocaust. On April 16 the Sterns visited Assistant Head of School and history and global studies teacher Glenn Swanson’s Hitler and Nazi Germany class to tell these stories.
Below are the stories retold by Mr. and Mrs. Stern, on April 16, 2013, with occasional editing for readability.
Until a number of years ago I never talked about my experiences, I wasn’t particularly interested, I didn’t attend conferences and conventions and meetings, I didn’t get newsletters, I didn’t care about it.
About five years ago, we had a guest speaker at our synagogue and he was the former Israeli Ambassador to Belgium. He started his talk by saying, ‘My story begins on May 12, 1940 in Antwerp, Belgium when my family and I took the last train out of Belgium that was allowed to leave.’ Then he went on to tell a story that left me very disturbed because it was a parallel story to that of my family. At the end of his talk he asked for questions and I said, ‘Mr. Ambassador, I was on that train.’ Continue reading →