Graduation Speech 2018

To all of our special guests, faculty, administration, parents, friends, and family members – we thank you for your pride and presence as we celebrate this, our 25th commencement exercises for the class of 2018.

First, my sincere gratitude to Rob Batchelder for your words and your friendship in our graduation ceremony today.  It is a testament to the longstanding relationship between the American School and the US Embassy in Warsaw.  But, more importantly, it will be my fondest memory of our time on this path together.

Mr. Sheehan, thank you again for confirming your deep bond to the students you serve along with your brilliant team.  As always, you are proud of them and, in return, they honor you with their trust and admiration.

Christina and Sara, thank you for representing your classmates so eloquently.  You both captured the experience brilliantly, each in your own special way.

Dr. Taylor, I thank you for your inspiration and wisdom.  As promised in our assembly yesterday you effectively juggled  your words, bringing a message filled with heart and promise.

Students, your teachers know you as engaged learners, empowered by your passion, caring of each other, and motivated to accomplish big goals. Faculty, counselors, and administrators seated before you are beaming with pride.  And they are a talented group who do not consider their work to be the filling of a vessel, but more the launching of a ship.  Their nurturing spirit has prepared you for your voyage and the many challenges on the horizon.

We know as an international community that many here on this stage have had other schooling experiences before joining us in Warsaw. Also, some stay with us for a time, leave for a bit, and then return. It is part of being an international school that we embrace this constant flux of change and transition.  But, as has been my tradition in many schools over a number of years, I’d like to recognize some special Warriors on this stage, nurtured from the beginning of their schooling experience entirely to graduation at the American School. As I call these names, please stand and remain standing so that we can recognize all of you as a group:

10​ Students have been identified as having been here since either Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten:

Kindergarten:

  • Alexander C.
  • Matthew M.
  • Maximilian O.
  • Chan Woo P.
  • Oskar P.
  • Sarah H.

Pre-Kindergarten:

  • Kashish K.
  • Michal K.
  • Iga L.
  • Sara M.

Please recognize these students and their families as our Warriors of longest standing.

525,600 minutes – No that is not how long my speech is going to be.

525,600 minutes How do you measure, Measure a year – these are lyrics from a song entitled Seasons of Love from the Broadway Musical Rent.  It’s a powerful song that filled my ears recently and I’m always caught by how it’s one of those tunes that seems to bridge generations.

But, in particular, a key lyric buried in the song goes like this:

It’s time now to sing out,
Though the story never ends.
Let’s celebrate, remember, a year in a life of friends.

525,600 minutes.  A metaphor for our celebration today.

But I thought I would do a little math of my own…

Let’s see – 13 years of school times180 school days, 6 hours per day, 60 minutes per hour:  I know there is a math whiz on this stage that already knows the answer…

842,400 minutes – That’s the journey of your education.

Oh – but wait.  If you add a couple of years of pre-school, it sizes up to over 950,000 minutes.  Then, I started thinking, maybe there was also a bit of summer school and maybe some after school activities, homework time, extended essay research, a few weekend trips for school related sports or academics, some service time on the weekends at animal shelters, and possibly a lesson or two from a piano teacher.  So, since we are all friends here, let’s just round it up to a nice even one million minutes.  1 million minutes invested in your education so far.

Much of life is about perspective and there is a truth about this perspective.  Here it is:  You will never go to school as much after this day as you have already completed.  Even if you go on to complete a MA and PhD investing about 8 years’ of time, it will still pale by comparison to what you have already invested between the time you started walking and talking, and TODAY.  1 million minutes.  Job well done!  Putting it in perspective, the next learning journey should be a piece of cake!

I value that this last year, your 64,800 minutes, will be many of the most remembered.  As noted in our proceedings, you have been a powerful and capable class.  We watched you listen, learn, study, struggle, and dance.  I hope that the entire experience of your education has given you perspective that you too can take into life.  Value each other always, gather family and friends close at every opportunity and cherish the precious moments past, present, and future.

Two years ago was a special graduation for me, owing to my first born son crossing a stage very similar to this one, and I am now contemplating a similar moment for my daughter just one year from now.  My closing and traditional message is gleaned from my perspective as a father, privileged to have led the schools where my two children have studied and will have graduated.  This traditional message, I will note, is particularly poignant on Mother’s Day.

In these final words, I speak for the parents in the audience and I know this will resonate in their hearts as it does in mine:

To the children in the Class of 2018 — when we say we love you, as we often do, it is not because of habit or routine. It is because of how we really feel deep inside each time we utter the words.  The following has been and always will be true:

  • you inspire us
  • you complete us
  • you give our lives meaning

While we will feel lost without you during the times we are apart, we are so proud of your launching, warmed by the anticipation of all that we know you are yet to become.

We love you so much!!

Go forth all of you — embrace your family and then life!!

At this time, I ask Principal Michael Sheehan and Chair of the ASW Board of Trustees, Mr. Rob Batchelder to please join me on stage for the conferring of diplomas…

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