In the eleven years of writing these “Headmaster’s Thoughts,” I have always used my speech at graduation for my June “Thoughts.” This year we had a beautiful ceremony, highlighted by a fine speech by our keynote speaker, the great American actor, Mr. BD Wong.
Following below are my remarks as I thought I was going to deliver them. In truth, speeches can never be totally scripted and the actual speech I made bears, at best, a close relationship to this written version. More interesting than my speech was the “goodbye” speech of our graduating student, Ellara Chumashkaeva. Her speech sums up well the spirit of the great class that just graduated. I know that we will all miss them.
Congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2015.
I want everyone here to know that this is a very special class for me; one whom I have told a number of times that I found particular pleasure teaching because they are such a cohesive community, AND they laughed at my jokes. This is a class who has watched out for each other, has never put each other down (no matter how unorthodox some members are), has always embraced each other, has always helped each other, and who were always interesting to teach—never boring. You are a wonderful group of young men and women. I congratulate you on your character as much as on your great academic success. You are a class of great talents in so many areas—the performing arts, the visual and film arts, sports, and the talent of humor, as well as curiosity. A terrific class!
In trying to teach ethical philosophy to this group, I was interrupted so often with interesting questions, and we got diverted into such interesting discussions, that we never finished the course and never got through the curriculum. I am proud of that, even though, as Eddie said, sex seemed to be a major topic throughout the year. So, on a personal level, THANK YOU for being such active participants in the learning process and not just an audience for lectures. When I say that sex was often the subject of our discussions, that does not come out quite in the way I meant it to be.
This is a very emotional day for me, very emotional… because 20 years ago today I bought this suit… and I don’t have another one like it.
As Jayme and I get older, as the gap in ages between the graduating seniors and us widens, I realize that we were not much older than you currently are when we started York Prep. We were in our early twenties and had a dream, and 46 years later together with you we continue that dream. But from your perspective, the people who dreamt the most were your parents. That is why they had you. They dreamt they would have people, not babies but people—young people who would be kind and thoughtful, and they were successful. You are! I know you appreciate them and hope you know that you represent their dreams now and in the future. They deserve your real thanks.
So dream of the future too, and be kind to us old people, I know you consider us very old, because we all started the same way, we were all young with dreams.
Seeing Fatimah, a devout Muslim, and Eddie, a devout Jew, as the joint MC’s of this graduation, and more importantly as real friends, gives us all immense pride. It shows that your class at York Prep embraced both diversity and community and that those words are completely compatible.
It is clear that this class has gone through the most important period of life growth together. They are unified, and interconnected. I hope that you continue to find ways of staying in touch with each other and grow and take joy from shared experiences as you go forward.
Since we have a great graduating speaker in BD Wong, I am not going to take much more of your time except to applaud you again, to tell you that you will be missed so much, that you have brought laughter, energy, and joy to the school and, therefore, to thank you and your families for sharing these glorious years with us at York Prep School. I hope you find the same joy and success at the colleges you now attend. They are fortunate, indeed, to have you join their communities. Be assured that you have the affection of the entire school. We all wish you great success at college and in the future.
Ronald P. Stewart