Graduation Remarks 2020

To all of our special guests, faculty, staff, administration, parents, friends, and family members, whether here or online watching live – we thank you for your pride and presence as we celebrate this, our 27th

commencement exercises for the class of 2020.  Our special gratitude to our board members present here tonight including Board Chair Greg Liddle, and Board members, Sheri Brienza-Wypyski, Massimo Merighi, and Marek Zdziech, all proud parents of graduates here tonight.

Thank you to Ambassador Mosbacher.  Our partnership with the US Embassy is again enhanced and affirmed by her words and we honor the partnership that is again nurtured and supported through common purpose.

Mr. Sheehan, I almost can’t believe we pulled this off.  We took on a daunting challenge at every turn, but your commitment to possibility and potential has played out tonight in a gathering of immense proportion, both unprecedented and auspicious.  Thank you for your partnership in honoring these deserving souls before us.

A special additional thanks to what Michael already shared from me to the team that helped to make this happen.  I pause here to mention that Stan Pietruszynski has just announced his retirement this year after serving the school faithfully for 19 years. I don’t believe he is with us tonight but was here with me at 7:00 a.m. this morning to greet our setup crews.  Please look for opportunities this week to thank him for his almost two decades of service to ASW.

But special thanks go to my temporary, but nonetheless instrumental, Executive Assistant, Monika Skonieczna.  She now knows more about Drive-In theaters than anyone in Poland probably should and without her efforts and constant negotiations, this evening would not have been possible.  Please join me in thanking again all people and their colleagues working behind the scenes to make all of this possible.

Julia & Taylor, thank you for representing your classmates so well.  You both brought considered insight under the most difficult of circumstances.  You have represented your classmates wonderfully and offered us much to consider in what lies ahead for you and for all of us.

Dr. Taylor, your message was, as expected, a wonderful journey and a heartfelt message.  My thanks for your work and inspiration with your students and for your genius and energy here tonight.

To the faculty, staff, and administration of the American School of Warsaw. While you couldn’t all be with us tonight, your spirit is present on this field through your dedication and talent, demonstrated to all in the weeks that we have spent mustering every ounce of energy and capacity to serve the students we all love under the most difficult of circumstances. This year, more than any other, we need to thank you for the relentless and impassioned work that converted brick and mortar into virtual purpose and persistence.  I will never be able to thank you sufficiently for all that was required to preserve continuity of learning in the darkest of hours.  If there was ever a moment to honk your horn for our staff and all that they have done in service to you, now is that moment.

We know as an international community that many of our graduates have had other schooling experiences before joining us here in Warsaw. Some even 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 step to the front edge of the tent area and remain standing there so that we can recognize all of you as a group:

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


  • Jing Jenny Wang
  • Aleksander Adamkowski
  • Helena Nowakowska
  • Claudia Villar
  • Hung Cuong Nguyen Duc
  • Arsenij Holod
  • Julia Owerko

Pre-Kindergarten – Age 4:

  • Antoni Zdziech
  • Guglielmo Merighi
  • Maja Kozlowska
  • Arnel Villamin

Pre-Kindergarten – Age 3:

  • David Overweter
  • Igor Stokowski
  • Kaja Klimovicz
  • Lily MacDonald

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

I don’t know about you, but I entered this calendar year with a tremendous sense of optimism.  For me, the whole idea of a new decade was exhilarating, almost more so that the turn of the century which I celebrated as an elementary principal in Buckley, Washington — Y2K as we called it. 

This year, 2020, was supposed to be an opportunity to bring, as the name implies, new focus and opportunity.  You know – 2020 vision.  It was supposed to be a time to build on great achievements and find a path forward to even greater prospects.  Like every year, my annual resolutions suggested hope, promise, and renewal. 

And, not only that, it was really MY year.  I celebrated the New Year with family in Guangzhou, China and relished the opportunity to get ready for the year of the Rat, MY year!!  I waited 12 years for this.  I even had my annual Chinese horoscope reading and found all the good luck signs as family members helped me translate the farmer’s almanac style descriptions.

Well, here we are and not so much.  That’s how I felt in the center of this dark cloud that has been hanging over us.  I felt, like all of you, buried by the despair and grieving that we have all felt during this crisis.  For me, the best parts of my life were missing – walking the hallways, chatting in the cafeteria, the occasional coffee, the events and sports, the art, the plays, the cherished PTO events — the comradery and banter that fills life with meaning.

But, class of 2020, I would offer here today that, despite the circumstances, we have been tested and have shown the true resilience of Warriors.  We’ve had much thrown at us and it is time to take stock.

You are graduating today and, quoting Mr. Sheehan from yesterday — Rain, Wind, Snow, or Shine…this thing is happening.  You are having a graduation today that will never be matched and will be remembered as the most significant event for graduates and ASW ever undertaken.  You will be remembered!

You are in the process of surviving one of the most pivotal events in human existence.  You went into virtual school for more than 10 weeks under the threat of a pandemic and during that time, you still complete your classes, you pulled off an IB Art Show, Model United Nations, Theater presentations, and countless other demonstrations of resolve.  You will be remembered!!

You were already a notable class long before lockdown.  You had numerous accomplishments under your belt through performance, athletics, talent, and service.  The many projects would be impossible to here list.  You can leave ASW proud of your accomplishments.  And that includes participating in removing your Director’s eyebrows.  You will be remembered!!

So, in reality, maybe 2020 is still going to bring focus and clarity.  Just not the way we expected.  Maybe, and particularly for you, this decade will be yours to mold and shape through recovery, renewal, and perseverance.

And, maybe it’s about time.  Maybe the lesson of all this is understanding what we can accomplish with collaborative spirit and a sense of community.  I suggest we will still need that in the months and years ahead because the story of the current crisis is only partially told. But I also know you are up to it, because graduates are always primed and ready for what lies ahead.

My heart continues to suggest to me that we are stronger now.

  • Stronger together.
  • Stronger in purpose. 
  • Stronger when we seek possibility over despair. 
  • Stronger when we leave no one behind. 
  • Stronger when we hold hands. 
  • Stronger when we share. 
  • Stronger when we nurture the planet.
  • Stronger when we love our parents and cherish family.
  • Stronger when we protect the weak and vulnerable. 
  • Stronger when we seek and offer justice and forgiveness. 
  • Stronger when we carry a burden, our own and that of another. 
  • Stronger when we serve and survive. 
  • Stronger when we achieve the most challenging of things.
  • Stronger when we pray. 
  • Stronger when peace rules the day.

Be strong.  Be safe. Be well.

Class of 2020 – we love and admire you, proud of all you have done and will do.  Be Warriors, now and always!

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