Thank you for joining us this morning to officially welcome members of the class of 2023 to their senior year. And thank you to the Upper School leadership team for bringing the Senior Ceremony to fruition. As we enter our third week of school, it feels natural and necessary to pause to acknowledge the challenges of the past 30 months. Seniors, you have risen to meet these challenges we could have never anticipated. So, as we usher in a new school year, I feel enormous gratitude. It feels good to be here together, in person, on this beautiful morning. Amongst us are, in any combination, remarkable academics and athletes, visual and performing artists, and social and community entrepreneurs committed to the common good. Whether your years at SCH have numbered three or thirteen, we are here together embracing the same obligation as full members of the community: work for the good of all.
What is the purpose and value of walls? This seems to be a primary query in Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall.” The wall, the central object in the poem, is a stone fence that separates two properties. The poem’s two diverging statements about walls are, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and “Good fences make good neighbors.” These statements prompt us to take a side and/or reflect on our own wall, be it physical or figurative.
Why do I mention walls and fences? Because they are precisely what prevents us from paying full attention to the person in front of us, behind us, or on either side of us. Fences and walls reinforce the distance between people and fortify routines that prevent deep or sustained relationships with people we don’t customarily notice, or worse, altogether ignore. Such barriers don’t create much opportunity for mutual understanding, empathy, and compassionate action.
One way to remove a fence or topple a wall is to practice generosity, gratitude, and a sense of duty. And how do you master these attributes? Find an environment or situation in which you can deliberately pressure test and practice them. Let someone cut in front of you in line. Slow down so that someone can merge in front of you. Let someone else take that primo parking spot. Stop to assist someone who looks lost. Talk to someone at a party who looks like they don’t know anyone. Shovel someone else’s driveway. Bag someone’s groceries.
Today is a reminder for us to deploy ourselves generously and fully to our neighbor, including ones we don’t know, as if they were family. This is what we aspire to do here at SCH, day in and day out. SCH exudes an unambiguous spirit of generosity, an ethic of caring. Today’s senior ceremony is an expression of our commitment to the community. Our storied tradition of community stewardship adds unmistakable value to the SCH experience. This tradition continues as you prepare to touch the lives of some of our youngest learners at SCH, your buddies. Know that you enter their lives as heroes. They will look up to you as giants to learn from and be inspired by.
Building a positive relationship with them through support, guidance, and encouragement enables them, all of us really, to become more confident in academic, personal, and social pursuits. As you officially take on this role, realize that you have the potential to be a hero to many more. In fact, most, if not all, students will turn to you, our seniors, for cues on how they should behave, cues for how they should show up as a member of this community. Thus lies an opportunity to stand as an example by being responsible leaders and making just and appropriate decisions and taking pride in your actions.
We should always remember that one of the keys to our success as a school is our strong sense of values, our indelible sense of honor, and our palpable sense of purpose. Rooting us in a fundamental respect for the individual and the common good, our mission and values serve as a kind of firewall against the ugliness out there. As we strive to become a more perfect community, let us continue to hold each other up and stand side-by-side and upon each other’s shoulders in service to our community. Let us continue to be gracious and compassionate: slow to impatience, quick to listen. Thank you for your hard work and generous spirit as we start your senior year together.