Commencement Address 2019 - Kingswood Oxford

Commencement Addresses

May 21, 2019

Commencement Address 2019

First, please give another round of applause to Ms. DiSanto. What a wonderful graduation speech.


You have worked so hard, and it has paid off.   You have risen to the various challenges that were presented to you, and you have taken risks both intellectual and personal – some were worth it and made you better, others were not, and created a hole that you had to dig yourself out of.  But you learned from these and grew in both scholarship and character.  You took advantage of opportunities to try something new and to grow as a person.  Last night’s incredible display of talent was evidence of this, and while not every member of the class can get up on stage to perform, we know that each of you has commensurate talent and insights.   


While your success, your diploma, is certainly the result of your own efforts and the many sacrifices you made, I think it would be shortsighted were we not to take a quick moment to recognize the many others who have helped you get to this point.  


First, Would the parents of our graduates please stand? Parents, thank you for entrusting us with the awesome and noble task of educating your children. Students, I mean alumni, your parents have been your biggest supporters and have made more sacrifices than they can count in time, money, and energy (and sometimes their own emotional stability) to ensure that you become the thoughtful and well-adjusted young adults that you are.


To the Trustees of the School – please rise.  We also owe a great debt of gratitude to the Board of Trustees of Kingswood Oxford School. Though you do not have the great pleasure that we have of interacting with these incredible students on a daily basis, we would not exist without you. Your dedication to the mission of Kingswood Oxford, your tireless commitment, your time, your philanthropy, and your wisdom have also made it possible for this incredible class to become graduates of our wonderful school  Please join me in thanking the Board of Trustees.


Lastly, Faculty, please rise.  Where would you be without this group of talented and caring group of adults, who brought you into their lives, shared their passions with you, challenged you, cared for you, laughed with you, cried with you, and helped you dig out of those holes that you sometimes dug?  Please join me in thanking this incredibly talented and committed faculty. 


To the graduating class of 2019, my charge to you is pretty simple. It does not ask you to go forth and prosper, or conquer the barbarians on the other side of the mountain, or even to go change the world.  My charge to you is to SLOW DOWN.  BREATHE. AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.  PURSUE HAPPINESS.  As Ferris Bueller said on his famous day off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it.” Don’t miss it!  In the coming years, you will be pushed and pulled in one direction or another.  You will face challenges and stresses in college and in your jobs.  And you will feel the pressure to be “successful.” To achieve someone else’s version of success. Your ability to enjoy the journey and manage trying times will be far easier if you are enjoying the moment and not putting too much pressure on yourself. 


One of my favorite bands from the 1980s, The Talking Heads, which most of you likely have never heard of, warns us in their famous song, “Once in a Lifetime,” about a looming existential conflict if we are not, as Ms. Disanto just told you, being true to your core feelings:


And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile.

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife.

And you may ask yourself,

How did I get here?


The singer, David Byrne, suggests that he reached the pinnacle but lost sight of how he got there.  You have all been prepared to “get there.” Kingswood Oxford has prepared you well. I will not be surprised if some of you start your own businesses or perform on Broadway.  It will not shock me to hear that one day, one of you might argue a case before the Supreme Court, deliver a speech before Congress, or even win a Nobel Prize.  Others may not quite achieve these lofty heights, but you may still find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile with a beautiful house and a beautiful spouse. 


But you may get there only to find that you are not happy. Remember that real happiness comes from healthy relationships, meaningful work, and in service to others.  As you find your way in this world, do not lose sight of how you get there. Slow Down. Breathe, and make sure that your endeavors are grounded in things you genuinely care about. 


So as you go forth and take this next step in your journey,  choose wisely, and do something that makes you look forward to waking up each morning.  We look forward to hearing how happy you will be.  


Oh yeah, one last charge…call your parents next year at least once a week.


Goodbye, Good luck, and Godspeed!

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