Headmaster’s Thoughts – June 2010

It is now a five year tradition that, instead of my usual “Thoughts” for June, I write out my speech at graduation. This year’s graduation was truly a joyous affair, with brilliant speeches by both students and faculty members and a hilarious and yet sensitive speech by Andy Borowitz, our graduation speaker and the creator of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. None who attended the graduation will forget it. In that context, my speech is rather lame, but somehow it did not detract from the wonderful, affectionate spirit of the occasion.



Graduation Speech – May 26, 2010


Before we give out the diplomas, I also want to congratulate the graduating Class of 2010. You are, as you have heard, a great class, and I thank you for all your work on behalf of the school community.


You now have the pleasure of being a source of pride for your parents and family who are here with you. This is a very happy occasion, and while we faculty nostalgically reflect backwards on how much we have enjoyed teaching you, in turn you should reflect forward on your futures, glorious as we are confident they will be.


More immediately, I want to wish you every success at college. It must be somewhat strange now, with your high school class around you for the last time, to think that in just over three months you will all be in a new environment of greater freedoms and responsibilities than you have ever had, and with a whole new set of peers to befriend and to work with.


Three months is a long way away. It is such a long time that you can easily fall out of practice of achieving deadlines in your writing and reading. Time and again, I have heard from graduates that they sort of went into mild shock when they arrived at college and realized how much work was expected. After a fun summer, there is an adjustment period to get back into the practice of studying regularly. So, my suggestion is that—no matter what you do this coming summer, whatever wonderful plans you have, and I hope that they are wonderful—you stay reading and, if possible, keep an analytical journal of what you are reading.


(You could always write a blog as I do in my “Headmaster’s Thoughts.” The fact that no one except you will read them is not really important. It doesn’t stop me from writing mine. The New York Times this morning stated that 175,000 new blogs are started every day.)


My point is that you really don’t want to lose the practice of academic study. If you are truly diligent, you might find out what is on the reading list of your first term at college and get a head start by reading those books over the summer. Personally, I had a much longer time between institutions than you because I left my high school in December when I got into college (we don’t have high school graduations in England) and didn’t go up to Oxford until September. In fact, I lived in Paris in what was optimistically called “a hotel” in a very seedy area. I well remember the shock of what then seemed a huge reading list which was literally thrust in my hand when I arrived at my college, and the expectation of two essays within days. I struggled, as I think my peers did, to get back into that routine of focusing on academics before everything else.


Well, that’s it on advice. You have received a great deal from others already. I was going to advise you against plagiarism, but I realized that I had read that somewhere else; and I was going to talk about the dangers of procrastination, but I just never got around to it.


Personally, I have enjoyed teaching all of you. We zipped through ethical philosophy pretty quickly and most of you stayed awake, for which I am grateful. It certainly went quickly for me. I know from studies that your brain evolves to 90% of its size in the first five years of life, when I think a year is actually about 30 months for the baby. I know from all the studies that a person is the brightest and most fertile when they are about 18. Wait a moment… are not most of you 18? You may be the brightest and most fertile now. This may be the very day, today, when you hit the height of your powers. As someone who doesn’t text, I do, however, know the acronym OMG.


Certainly, I believe that high school years are the most formative of your life. You pass beyond the tumult of adolescence and are in (as they would say about eggs, caterpillars, pupae, and butterflies) your “young adult phase.” May you have a long and glorious “young adult phase”! A year for you takes about 12 months. Later on, you get to the “late adult phase,” which I am in, when a year takes about three months as it rushes by. And maybe some time in your young or middle adult phase, you may well have caterpillars of your own, which we hope you will consider sending to York Prep.


So let me congratulate you again. We will indeed miss you and wish for all of you every success. We look forward to seeing you many times to talk of your achievements in the coming years.


Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster

E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org



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