Monday, June 17, 2013

Congratulations & Good Luck Class of 2013!

Parents, community members, members of the School Committee, faculty and administration, and, most importantly, the graduating seniors of the Class of 2013. Welcome all to the 12th annual graduation ceremony of the Manchester Essex Regional High School!  This year I would also like to extend a special welcome and acknowledge a unique group of individuals who have served double duty for our seniors – we have ten MERSD staff members who have children graduating today.   Congratulations to you all. 

Class of 2013, you are pioneers.  Globally, you were the first kindergarten class of the twenty-first century, and, locally, the first freshman class of our state-of-the-art green high school. You are a cohort of digital natives who have never lived in a world without the internet, Google, iPods, or cell phones….you have always been “connected.”  As part of the millennial generation, you possess confidence and optimism; you appreciate diversity, and you are programmed to multi-task.  Your childhood experience is both foreign and familiar to those of us who have had the responsibility of stewarding you through your development. 

Sadly, your grandparents, parents, and teachers are familiar with and understand a societal backdrop of war, intolerance, and economic insecurity. All generations share this experience for these are aspects of history that continue to repeat themselves despite humanity’s best efforts to eradicate them; however, foreign to us are smartphones, social media, twenty-four news cycles, digital identities and big data.  They are exciting but intimidating innovations for generations of teachers, parents and mentors who grew up with rotary phones, the photo mat, walkmans, and an Apple IIE that wasn’t connected to anything but the electrical outlet.  

Class of 2013, your world already moves at breakneck speed, and all signs point to it accelerating exponentially.  I urge you to find ways to slow down and appreciate the old fashioned but important aspects of life …. a face to face conversation with a family member….. a visit with a childhood friend…. some quiet time reading a hardbound book.... a walk on the beach…unplugged time to reflect.  You will need the balance and perspective, for as the twenty-first century pioneers we will be looking to you to help us harness and make sense of this brave new world.  

In your time with us you have shown an independent streak and a willingness to chart your own course. Your successes in the arts, academics and on the playing field demonstrate your skill, talent and winning attitude. Your social activism in environmental preservation and work on the Gardner Project combined with your collective response to the tragic events of Newtown and the Boston Marathon terror attack highlight your compassion for humanity.  The tools of the twenty-first century will present society with challenges not yet imagined.  It will take creativity, collaboration and innovation to convert the challenges into opportunities.  I urge you to use your pioneering spirit to meet them head on and ensure that the power of these new technologies is used to promote humanism and break down barriers of class, race, disability and geography to create a broader more inclusive form of community.   I know you can be the generation that utilizes the lessons of history and ends the cycle of war, poverty and intolerance.

In the words of EO Wilson -

“You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.”

Your parents and your teachers from Kindergarten to senior year have prepared you well and have provided a strong foundation for your future. As you step into the next chapter of your lives, I ask you to seek success from within, be kind to your fellow man and work to leave this world better off than you found it.

Congratulations and Good Luck!