By Dr. Ellin Booras
Welcome to members of the School Committee, superintendent, town officials, family members, faculty, staff, and most importantly members of the Class of 2016. This is truly an auspicious occasion marked by the beauty and splendor of holding this special event in the Captain Gerald F. De Conto Veterans Memorial Stadium, a facility which recognizes and commemorates the courage and selfless dedication of one our graduates while launching the future and defining the promise of the Class of 2016.
Your legacy is remarkable in the fields of academics, arts, and athletics. You have definitely achieved your collective ethos to lead with dignity and to enable and to empower one another. You did not succumb to a laser focus defining success. Rather, you created success in ways which were creative and inclusive.
This morning, my message to you is about developing resiliency and staying present in your new and evolving world as citizens of impact and insight. Sheryl Sandberg, highly successful CEO of Facebook, and author of Lean In provided me with thoughts with which to frame my remarks. In her commencement speech at UCLA, entitled “After Loss, Learning to Walk,” she espouses a wish for your generation, a wish I share.
“ I learned that when life draws you under the water, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again. I learned that in the face of the void, or in the face of any challenge, you can choose your joy and meaning. You will almost certainly face deep adversity. There’s loss of opportunity, loss of dignity, the sharp sting of prejudice when it happens.
What can you do to overcome adversity? You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but how you survive. The seeds of resilience are planted in how we process negative events in life. Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience.
Counting your blessings can increase your blessings. Live each day of your life with joy and meaning. I hope you walk without pain, and that you are grateful for your next step. When the challenges come, I hope you remember that anchored deep within you is the ability to learn and grow. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. You can build it up, draw on it, and use it when you need it. In that process, you will figure out who are really are and you just might become the very best version of yourself.”
The spirit of Sandberg’s words is echoed in the work of Angela Duckworth, author of GRIT: the Power of Passion and Perseverance. Grit has become the reigning buzzword in the field of education. But, what does it mean to you, the Class of 2016? Duckworth’s hypothesis is simple: what really matters is not genius, but a unique and special blend of passion and perseverance. Grit is when you call on the courage necessary to take on challenges and not give up at the first sign of difficulty.
Our culture may supersize the value it places on raw talent while missing the signs and signals of hard work, thousands of hours practicing one’s craft, putting in sweat equity as essential ingredients needed to achieve success. Remember, people make their own luck. Luck comes to those who don’t give up. Weave the words resiliency, tenacity, and initiative into your vocabulary and they will become your core values.
As you venture beyond the familiar pathways of your hometown and leave the friendly hallways of Sandwich High School behind today, do so with the resolve to uncover your passion, to feel the joy of perseverance, and to define your own success, in ways which give your life meaning. Avoid the limited binary lens that will judge you as either triumphant or failing. Personalize your futures while resisting the tidal force of societal norms that may encourage you to memorize the correct answers, only to find out that they were not the answers to your own dreams. Take safe chances. Calibrate your risks. Go all out when you find something that captures your imagination and triggers a true hunger to learn more and more about a topic, a country, a writer, a musician, an artist, or a mathematical formula. Now is the time for you to sally forth with reduced supervision and enhanced freedom. Don’t be afraid to fail. Only then, will you develop the courage and fortitude to succeed.
You, the class of 2016 are our knights in shining armor. You are wonderful young men and women whose legacy of kindness and care has taken Blue Knight Pride to a new and good place. You did indeed live the present in your four years here. I am confident that as you venture forth to define and to solve problems in a world where your goodness is needed, you will bring your authentic selves with you.
In closing, let me cite Cervantes’ reference to one of the most veritable knights ever known. Take these words spoken by Don Quixote as he was preparing to leave his beloved village to pursue his destiny to knighthood,
“Come, Sancho,” he said. “The world needs our immediate presence”
Here’s the context for the quote: ” Cervantes explains the Don’s desire to leave his village and take up the profession of knighthood; he was spurred on by the conviction that the world needed his immediate presence.” (Book 1, Part 2).
It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your principal. While leading Sandwich High School without you will not be an easy task, please come back and visit to see how we are doing. We will always care about you. As I said in my opening statement, you lead with dignity and grace. Your legacy is one that shaped our present and will illuminate our future. The world does indeed need your immediate presence.
I certify that each student in the graduating class before you has completed all the requirements necessary to receive a diploma from Sandwich High School, and may enjoy the rewards and privileges thereof. I proudly present the graduating Class of 2016.
Thanks to Sandwich Community Television, you can watch graduation here: