Headmaster’s Thoughts – June 2007

Graduation Speech, 2007

Congratulations to all of you. An interesting class… never boring. Never ever boring! And congratulations to your families. Thank you for entrusting your child’s school education to us.

I am down on the program as “Headmaster’s Farewell.” I am not sure what you expect to hear, but I can certainly tell you what comes to my mind on the occasion of your graduation.

The first thing is the joy of youth. What a wonderful thing it is to be young! I hope you had a lot of fun. I hope the school experience was positive. Most of us old people have this narcissistic fantasy that we still have a youthful outlook and retain the youthful character we developed at school. We like to think we are the same person, and it is our school experience—secondary school experience, at that—that we refer back to in our minds as being the time when the essential person we are was shaped. That seems to me to be the reason so many of us have such great nostalgia for our secondary school days. We remember and try to convince ourselves we are the same person as when we were eighteen; indeed, the young person we were as we grew from twelve to eighteen. That, we desperately want to think, is still us.

Ah, the delusions of old age!

Of course, you will now need to adapt as different challenges face you at college, in the job market, and, dare I say it, as parents yourselves. I hope we have helped prepare you for all this. I know that you will have to adjust, but, in a “counter-conventional wisdom” way, I urge you not to give up the joys of youth too easily. I should say that I do not think there is much to worry in this area with your class. I do not think you are going to just roll over and say: “That’s it! I am an adult!” You, this class, will push vigorously back to stay as unpredictable as you are, challenging the set mindsets that people might expect, always making up your own mind about the issues of the day. I’m with you. Of course, you should be a responsible citizen, but that doesn’t need to come at the expense of a youthful and joyful outlook on life.

So, although the professionals will tell you that the first decade of your life is the critical one (and they are right in every technical sense), I believe it is this second decade, the one you are now ending, that is the time you will look back on and say: “This was when I became who I am.”

This second decade is the one when you test the limits. Check it off! You did that!
The decade when you experiment; Check!
The decade when you challenge. Check!
The decade when you explore the joys of relationships with the opposite sex. Check!
And, generally, the decade when you make a commotion all around you. Check! Check! Check!

The second thing I think about during your graduation is how nice you always are to the other members of your class. You are one of the most supportive of classes to each other. You hug each other a lot. You clearly like each other. I hope that stays. I hope you stay in contact with your friends in this class. It is not as easy to do as it sounds. Friends move and stuff happens. But you are a remarkably close class, and I can only wish for you that this closeness stays because, as you keep in touch with your friends from high school, so you keep that uniquely wonderful time of youth alive in your mind.

Finally, this is only the “formal” goodbye from the faculty. We fully expect that this ceremony will not end our relationships. You will continue—I am sure—to distract us, to surprise us, and to delight us. We look forward to hearing about you, and the commotions you make, in the coming years. May you be very successful!

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org

“Headmaster’s Thoughts” for previous months are archived in the section In the News. You may access additional months by clicking Headmaster’s Thoughts Archives on the same page.