Monday, June 8, 2015

Congratulations Class of 2015!

Charge to the Graduates:  Graduates you have distinguished yourselves in the classroom, on the playing field, in the laboratory, and on the stage.  You have won scholarships, national and state championships, environmental and art awards.  And most notably, you have established yourself as a class with sound character.  Congratulations on a job well done!

As you celebrate graduation and prepare to go off to college, to the military or to the world of work, take pride in your accomplishments, but remember that behind your success there has been a network of people supporting and nurturing your goals and dreams.  This network of parents, teachers, coaches, and neighbors make-up the fabric of the MERSD community, and they are responsible for providing a foundation from which you will be able to pursue your future. At a time of looking inward and contemplating your personal journey, I offer you two pieces of advice to help you achieve a life of balance and purpose. 

My first piece of advice is that when life is getting too hectic, and you feel like you are losing yourself in your quest to become something – call a snow day!  We live in exciting yet turbulent times.  The world changes at an exponential rate and challenges our ability to keep pace, as it also challenges our humanity.  There is pressure to acquire, compete, and become. Along the road of life there will be many times when work and responsibility take priority, but always try to keep in mind the person you are today and the dreams and passions that move you and excite you.  In High School, a snow day may have meant a reprieve from a test, a morning to sleep-in, or a day to binge-watch your favorite show.  In your adult life, it will mean found time with your family, an opportunity to unplug from work, a day catch-up with an old friend, an occasion to read a good book or pursue your favorite hobby…..and of course a chance to binge-watch your favorite show.  Simply, it is a time out that will allow you a chance to ground yourself and to reflect on what is truly important in life. And, like senior year you won’t have to make them up!

There will be times in your lives when you struggle to balance your careers with your personal lives.  When faced with such choices, I encourage you to always tip the balance in favor of your family and friends.  Financial success will provide material comfort, but it will not nurture your spirit.  True success is found in the self-worth you develop, your family, and in the relationships you build. 

Each year at the Lions Scholars Night, John Hickey shares his thoughts about the importance of community.  This year his comments resonated with me more than ever before, and they provide the inspiration behind my second piece of advice.

Class of 2015, you are a living example of the adage “it takes a village to raise a child.” Your village, the MERSD community, cares deeply about its young people and one another. Parents, grandparents, residents of Essex and Manchester, young and old, have worked tirelessly to provide with you with resources and opportunities.  Through their role modeling, your families, your school and your community have worked hard to instill in you that giving back to your village leads to a richer sense of self.

In the coming years you will struggle to find your place in the world, to define who you will be, and to determine your pathway in life – whether it is climbing the corporate ladder, finding the cure for cancer, saving the environment, arguing in front of the Supreme Court, or winning a Oscar – remember the lessons your community has taught you.  Give back locally and globally, support your neighbors when they are in need, pay it forward to the next generation, and be active in civic life.  Provide for others what your village has provided for you.  Remember that community service isn’t a high school graduation requirement – it is the mark of a good citizen.

As you leave Manchester Essex and venture into the world I urge you to make room to include civic responsibility.  In a country of incredible wealth and power, there remain tremendous inequities.  You are leaving a small tight-knit community and entering a world of greater diversity and need.  Your new village may feel big, impersonal, and intimidating. Push through that initial impression, and you will find like-minded people who share many of the values that you have enjoyed growing up here.  “It takes a village” and soon you will soon be its leaders - responsible for the care and nurturing of the next generation. Remember how your community celebrated you in times of triumph, nurtured you times of sorrow, and encouraged you in times of challenge.  Use your talents and skills to make the world a kinder warmer place, and make available to others the advantages and that were provided to you.  The community role model you have grown up with is a blueprint for success.

These two pieces of advice connect in a fundamental way – you need to slow down long enough to remember what is truly import and valuable in life – family, friends, and relationships, both personal and civic.   These are things that lead to a life of balance and meaning.  Be thoughtful how you treat your fellow man and do not look away in the face of injustice.  As a society we will succeed or fail together.  The following words are not my own but they are profound in their simplicity, a solid code to live by and a way to ensure balance and meaning in your life… treat other as you want to be treated, be a leader not a follower, and always do your best.

Graduates you are an impressive group of young adults.  The world awaits you, and I have no doubt the class of 2015 will make its mark.

Congratulations and Good Luck!