Graduation Speech 2019

IMG_2476.JPGTo all of our special guests, faculty, staff, administration, parents, friends, and family members – we thank you for your pride and presence as we celebrate this, our 26th commencement exercises for the class of 2019.

Thank you to Ray for stepping in for Ambassador Mosbacher.  Our partnership with the US Embassy is again enhanced and affirmed by your words and your presence stands as a shining example of a life of service and commitment.

Mr. Sheehan, thank you again for ushering through our graduation under unique circumstances this year.  Our ability as a community to adjust and adapt is due in great measure to your leadership and counsel.  My thanks to you and your amazing cadre of administrators and teachers who usher in each day with enthusiasm and passion for their subjects, their profession, and our students.

Felix and Lucas, thank you for representing your classmates so eloquently.  You both brought light and focus to the challenges you have faced and the wisdom you have gleaned from your experiences.  You have represented your classmates brilliantly.

Dr. Kirkpatrick, I thank you for your message as you bring your time here at ASW to a close.  It is a wonderful tribute that you were selected by the students you have so diligently served in your classroom and throughout their school life. In this way, and through your words today, you have inspired yet another generation which brings powerful punctuation to a career full of accomplishment.

Our thanks also to the High School Choir and their wonderful performances here tonight. It has been a year filled with stellar moments and these will be counted as brightest among them.

Before I proceed, my own words of thanks to an important person that has been instrumental tonight, as she has been for many years before this.  Malgosia Hydzik, the class godmother, has served ASW faithfully for 26 years.  That means, and I checked, she has been in our midst for every graduation since ASW has had graduates.  She joined the school during its 40th anniversary in the 1992-93 school year and watched the very first graduating class cross that stage.  Teacher, mentor, coordinator, organizer, historian, colleague, friend.  We can never adequately thank you for all that you have done.  While other opportunities will come in the days ahead to recognize your retirement and contributions over more than a quarter century, this event is a cornerstone to your connection to the students you have served.  My special thanks and recognition to you tonight!

We know as an international community that many here on this stage have had other schooling experiences before joining us here 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. Over twenty nationalities sit on this stage tonight.  But, as has been my tradition in many schools over a number of years, I’d like to recognize some special Warriors, nurtured at ASW from the beginning of their schooling experience all the way to graduation. As I call these names, would you please stand and remain standing so that we can recognize all of you as a group:

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

Kindergarten:
Viktor Czernin-Morzin
Grace Oh
Denice Visalda
Michal Gasiejewski
Ji Eun You
Grzegorz Telejko

Pre-Kindergarten:
Agata Buksowicz
Mateusz Pietruszkiewicz

Please recognize these students and their families as this year’s Warriors of longest standing.

So, the time is almost upon us.  I have but one question for the class of 2019:  So, What’s the T?

For those in the audience with bewildered looks, you can look this up in your Urban Dictionary and you’ll find that it means What’s up?  What’s the latest gossip?  How’s it going, maybe?

So, what’s the T, graduates?

I find myself in an odd situation that I’ve experienced only once before in my life.  For the second, and final time, an offspring of mine is sitting on this stage.  Owing to where our surname falls in the alphabet, you can easily find her in the very last seat in the back.  Sorry about that, dear!

So, it is no surprise that I find myself just a bit closer to the class of 2019.  Not too close mind you, because that would have made my daughter’s time here that much more uncomfortable beyond the already hellish reality of being the Director’s daughter.  Despite that, our move here was rather smooth, due in part to the efforts of faculty, talented administrators, and my daughter’s special friends. Because of that deeper insight gleaned through my daughter’s experience, my comments yesterday at the awards assembly ring as true tonight as they did yesterday – I’m not sure I want to let you go.  And I definitely know I don’t want to let her go.

It is the parent’s truth tonight that we are conflicted between our pride and our concern.  We know you are prepared because we’ve watched you grow, strive, struggle, stumble and survive along this journey.  There are a few scars, both physical and emotional, and yet, you are sitting on this stage tonight and that says a lot.  I’ve watched you so engaged in your learning that you literally plastered it on your bedroom walls in order to find success in your exams.  But, I’ve also watched you find the moments to chill with each other through coffee houses, the dance floor, or just kicking back on the carpets of the guitar room with a microphone in hand jamming in a chosen key.

As a parent, and representing all of the parents here assembled, we want you to know how much we care about you.  I know that’s hard sometimes to accept.  The occasional angst between adolescent and parent is well documented.  We expect it because we know we did it to our own parents, too.  It’s hard to be very mad at you when we remember how disagreeable we were in our own youth.  Even in my own house, I’m currently vacillating back and forth between being called Dad or Jon.  That’s usually dependent on how “mean” I’m being in the moment or whether I’m paying attention.

I can only say that I must warn you all now that sometime later in life, you are likely to mutter words to this effect:  Parents, just when you think you’ve got them pegged, they turn around and show you how much they love you.

For tonight, I would suggest we all find forgiveness in our hearts and enjoy this crucial evening together in earnest embrace with family and friends, cementing a connection that must now survive distance and adulthood.

Remember always: Parents paint the colors of your rainbow through love and sacrifice.  Take their palette and inspiration as your own and change the world for the better.

Students, I ask you to embrace the journey that is now before you.  You face a great challenge.  As a planet, we are seemingly mired in deceit, decay, and despair.  But, there is hope and I’m encouraged because I know you launch with character intact, inspired by your close bond with us and each other, and a demonstrated insight into the issues you will face.  We encouraged you to be thinkers, inquirers, and doers.  You’ve shown it here and I’m quite confident in your ability confront all that comes with invention, passion, and purpose.

To my darling daughter – and as a parent representing all parents – there are no words to adequately express my love and pride.  I’m sorry if I’ve occasionally been tough. But, you can always count on knowing that, when I look at you, no matter your age or which name you call me, I will always see the child that I held in the first moments of life.  I embrace your creativity and compassion, in awe of your playful spirit.  I am truly amazed at your becoming.  But, please, for me, Starbucks buddies forever, OK?!

Class of 2019 – we love and admire you, proud of all you do.  Be well and be warriors, now and always.

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

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