Headmaster's Thoughts: Farewell to the Class of 2020

I want to add my congratulations to the great class of 2020…. How I wish we could be together for this ceremony, but we will get together again and I look forward to seeing you on that occasion and celebrating your success in person with you.

This is still your “commencement exercises”. We did not have them in England, and I am not sure how the word “exercises” skipped in, but “commencement” I understand. It is the “beginning”, in your case the beginning of a new life, one where you are totally responsible for yourself. And let us face it, until now you have had a strong family support system. Going forward, you are on your own. You can totally reinvent yourself. The introvert can become the outgoing center of attention, and the underachiever can become the overachiever. I like that last one…a good idea: be an overachiever.
 
I have enjoyed teaching you all year. You guys are really a terrific group. I have probably given you, in our Ethics class, all the advice I should. Be curious, be skeptical, be authentic. Be yourself. Listen to yourself, and trust yourself. You shape your own future. You choose your values.
 
The only advice I have not given you for the future is to call your parents… often! Call them! They are going to worry about you. Let them know how you are doing. When you finally getaway, try and shrink the distance by communicating. And, on the same issue, keep up the friendships you made at York. Call each other! You have shared this unique experience. School ended for you in March and since then, yuck! So keep in touch with each other. Communicate! I hope that together you can make this a better society.
 
I do want to say something about the present situation and I can only describe this by telling you of two confusing and difficult experiences I had at school. My very first memory of school was getting into trouble in Kindergarten. I probably was four. I used the word “bloody” to describe something. Apparently this was very bad and the teacher was appalled. I was sent to the Headmistress’s office, and my father was called in. High drama! And my father, who was a German refugee and spoke English badly, was baffled. As he told them, all of his fellow workers used the word “bloody”: all the time. “It was a bloody mess.” “It was a bloody shame.”   “It was bloody difficult”.  He had no idea it was a “bad” word, and I, who spoke German before I spoke English, picked up the word he used a great deal at home.
 
The second event took place about 10 years later. I was at a party and, all of a sudden, a girl I had never seen before accused me of going through her handbag. I hadn’t touched her bag, didn’t know she had one, but I just froze in place. I saw my future disappearing. And after 30 seconds or so, the party just went on, and one of my friends told me that she did that at every party she attended. It was a tough 30 seconds and may have influenced me to become a barrister specializing in criminal law. Those two memories stand out very clearly. At both times, I was completely confused as to why the events were taking place, they happened very suddenly, and they were frightening enough that I still remember them clearly.
 
And this is how, I think, we ALL feel about the present pandemic. Before school closed on March 11th, things were normal. We were all together. You were into your colleges, and going to study but also have a lot of fun. And then…it stopped, and we sheltered in place. It happened suddenly, and we knew that it was not our fault, and it was frightening. I am so sorry.  Yes, we will get over this, but you have a shared bond with each other in dealing with something you should not have had to deal with. It was not fair. It upset the last few weeks in your school life, and it has deprived you today of the joy of hugging each other, of being together and mingling with each other’s families. You should have been embracing the faculty who were there for you. This should be a memorable happy physical, traditional, graduation. Instead, we have this virtual graduation. I hope you remember it with affection. Be assured that all of our faculty wish we could hug you, we wish we could be with you, we want to congratulate you and your families in person.
 
So we will meet in the future, and hopefully do all those things. You are, forever, part of the York Prep Family. Thank you for all that you did to lead the school and be such a great class. In this virtual graduation, on behalf of the entire school, I wish you farewell and every success and happiness in the future.
 
Ronald
This is still your “commencement exercises”. We did not have them in England, and I am not sure how the word “exercises” skipped in, but “commencement” I understand. It is the “beginning”, in your case the beginning of a new life, one where you are totally responsible for yourself. And let us face it, until now you have had a strong family support system. Going forward, you are on your own. You can totally reinvent yourself. The introvert can become the outgoing center of attention, and the underachiever can become the overachiever. I like that last one…a good idea: be an overachiever.
 
I have enjoyed teaching you all year. You guys are really a terrific group. I have probably given you, in our Ethics class, all the advice I should. Be curious, be skeptical, be authentic. Be yourself. Listen to yourself, and trust yourself. You shape your own future. You choose your values.
 
The only advice I have not given you for the future is to call your parents… often! Call them! They are going to worry about you. Let them know how you are doing. When you finally getaway, try and shrink the distance by communicating. And, on the same issue, keep up the friendships you made at York. Call each other! You have shared this unique experience. School ended for you in March and since then, yuck! So keep in touch with each other. Communicate! I hope that together you can make this a better society.
 
I do want to say something about the present situation and I can only describe this by telling you of two confusing and difficult experiences I had at school. My very first memory of school was getting into trouble in Kindergarten. I probably was four. I used the word “bloody” to describe something. Apparently this was very bad and the teacher was appalled. I was sent to the Headmistress’s office, and my father was called in. High drama! And my father, who was a German refugee and spoke English badly, was baffled. As he told them, all of his fellow workers used the word “bloody”: all the time. “It was a bloody mess.” “It was a bloody shame.”   “It was bloody difficult”.  He had no idea it was a “bad” word, and I, who spoke German before I spoke English, picked up the word he used a great deal at home.
 
The second event took place about 10 years later. I was at a party and, all of a sudden, a girl I had never seen before accused me of going through her handbag. I hadn’t touched her bag, didn’t know she had one, but I just froze in place. I saw my future disappearing. And after 30 seconds or so, the party just went on, and one of my friends told me that she did that at every party she attended. It was a tough 30 seconds and may have influenced me to become a barrister specializing in criminal law. Those two memories stand out very clearly. At both times, I was completely confused as to why the events were taking place, they happened very suddenly, and they were frightening enough that I still remember them clearly.
 
And this is how, I think, we ALL feel about the present pandemic. Before school closed on March 11th, things were normal. We were all together. You were into your colleges, and going to study but also have a lot of fun. And then…it stopped, and we sheltered in place. It happened suddenly, and we knew that it was not our fault, and it was frightening. I am so sorry.  Yes, we will get over this, but you have a shared bond with each other in dealing with something you should not have had to deal with. It was not fair. It upset the last few weeks in your school life, and it has deprived you today of the joy of hugging each other, of being together and mingling with each other’s families. You should have been embracing the faculty who were there for you. This should be a memorable happy physical, traditional, graduation. Instead, we have this virtual graduation. I hope you remember it with affection. Be assured that all of our faculty wish we could hug you, we wish we could be with you, we want to congratulate you and your families in person.
 
So we will meet in the future, and hopefully do all those things. You are, forever, part of the York Prep Family. Thank you for all that you did to lead the school and be such a great class. In this virtual graduation, on behalf of the entire school, I wish you farewell and every success and happiness in the future.
 
Ronald P. Stewart
Headmaster
York Prep 
 
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