Dear Flint Hill Families,
Late May and early June mark an important time in our educational journey: graduation season. Many of us may attend various ceremonies and hear lots of great speeches given by notable figures in the community. In some cases, talks are given by people close to a school and in others, by leaders around the nation. The whole focus of a commencement speech is to say something that is impressive, engaging, thought provoking, and hopefully memorable. Often speakers try to offer some advice, inspire confidence in the graduates or simply offer some of the wisdom they have gained through the experience of life.
Last Friday, Emily and I attended our niece’s high school graduation. As I sat there, I naturally thought about Flint Hill’s graduation next week, and it occurred to me that as parents, we are all constantly giving a “commencement address.” We constantly find ourselves in situations in which we must offer advice, life experience, and wisdom based on the challenges and successes we have had in our own lives. And while we may never be up at a podium speaking out loud to a young crowd of people, we all hope that our children are listening and learning from our every day “speeches,” just we hope graduates learn from commencement speakers.
I have never formally given a commencement address. I have been in the education industry for a long time, have attended countless commencement ceremonies, and have presided over graduations for well over 20 years. My remarks are always about that particular class and introducing them to the assembled group of family and friends. As I reflect on this commencement season, I’d like to share with you what I would share at a graduation.
To the tremendous Class of 2017, I have marveled at all that you have achieved, and will always be impressed by the dynamic, poised young people you have become. While we are all Huskies and many have worked together to bring us to this day, YOU have earned this special moment due to your hard work, grit, courage and drive. Today, as you leave this phase of your life, I hope you will carry the following thoughts as you go forward:
Remember what it means to be a Husky. Please never lose sight of our core values of honesty, respect, responsibility and compassion. We have talked about them endlessly with you for a reason. Accept the vision we have for our students: take meaningful risks, be yourself, and make a difference as you move on to begin your college education and eventually onto your career paths. Never lose sight of the mission we have as a school. We talk about being learners, using best practices, challenging ourselves, being creative, valuing diversity and learning from the most dynamic and relevant aspects of education. Keep Flint Hill in your heart and your head.
Keep a perspective on life. You will achieve many things as you go forward, but never take yourself too seriously. Take pride in what you accomplish, but stay humble. And acknowledge the other people who play a role in your achievements. Life is like a roller coaster and truly has its ups and downs. Just keep your head up, knowing that there will be people to cheer you on when things go well or to pick you up when you fall down.
Work hard and play hard, but work smart and play smart. When it is time to work, work. But when it is time to dance, laugh, or simply enjoy daily life, do it with the same passion and driving spirit that you always displayed here at school.
Say “I love you” often to family and friends. You have no idea the impact those three words can have or the when it may be the last time you get to say those words.
Everything always comes back to people. Relationships don’t just happen – you have to work on them. From friends and romantic partners to your business network, nurturing relationships requires discipline and ongoing effort.
Say “thank you.” Gratitude is an important but underrated trait. Always let people know how much their support, help or kindness means to you. Whether it is holding the door, helping you with an internship, or being there to give you a smile when you truly need it, let others know how much you value and appreciate them.
Serve others. Whether doing military service, community service or just simply being kind to others, we should always reach out and find ways to help make others’ lives better. We are fortunate enough to have been at this great school and fortunate to have our wonderful families. But there are countless others who are less fortunate. Society needs our active engagement in the lives of others to make a real difference in the world.
Life is about personal bests. I learned a long time ago in track, that life is not always about winning or losing, because there will be plenty of both, but it is about “personal bests.” Do your best and always make certain that you are giving it your all. In theory, we are always competing with ourselves. Be a better person tomorrow than you were today and keep that up every day of your life.
Take the initiative. There are lots of traits that will carry you through life. Grit, perseverance, determination, our core values; the list could go on and on. But initiative always stands out to me. Go after what you want in life. There are lots of wonderful quotes that will tell you about what that means, and how important it is to engage fully with life. I saw one quote recently that simply said: “Die with memories, not with dreams.” It is always better to look back and be disappointed about something you tried than be disappointed about the things you didn’t try but always wanted to do.
People will never forget how you made them feel. It was Maya Angelou, who once said, “People will forget what we do and forget what we say. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Our emotions brand our memories. So again, always keep our core values in mind and be conscious of how you make people feel. Those memories will last a lifetime.
I have great faith that as you graduate you have gained greater confidence and competence. We need your strong work ethic and your willingness to lead. Make certain that you will always listen to and watch those around you and take great pride in the fact that you are a Husky.
There. I have now given a commencement address. Thank you for listening and thank you for supporting our efforts to produce wonderful graduates and young people.
Best wishes to everyone. Enjoy the upcoming Closings for all three divisions, and then next week, feel free to join us as we celebrate the outstanding Class of 2017. Go Huskies!!!
John M. Thomas