Thursday , July 21st, 2005

Welcome Class of 2005, Board Members, faculty and staff, parents, families, and honored guests. 

A few words of recognition are due to those who have helped make today’s event possible. To our faculty and staff we gratefully acknowledge your dedication, caring and wisdom. To the parents, families and community members we thank you for the constant love, support and concern you have provided and for the times you have challenged us to improve the quality of our work. And for our students, we offer you our congratulations for your accomplishment that we celebrate today. You have brought distinction to yourselves, your families, your school and your community.

You have achieved this distinction because of your hard work and commitment. Being a high school student isn’t easy. The academic work is challenging and the pressure you have felt to succeed has been significant. But classes and tests alone do not define the high school experience. You have negotiated the really hard stuff of growing up. Making friends, keeping friends, figuring out your interests, wishing for more sleep, counting absences, sometimes enduring uncomfortable school rules, organizing your time, planning your future, and formulating ideas to help you make sense of Colegio Jefferson, of your families, of your country and of the larger world. You have done this well.

You have taken college entrance exams and SAT’s. Some have decided to study abroad. I would like to take a minute here, and mention our students who will be studying abroad. Francisco Pavan, was accepted at Univ. of Miami, Bentley College, and Bryant College, he will be attending the University of Miami, Carmen Barboza, was accepted at New York Univ., George Washington Univ. with a substantial scholarship and University of Virginia, she will be attending George Washington University, Alfredo Brandt, was accepted at Bentley College, Lynn Univ with a scholarship., Florida Institute of Technology with a scholarship, Drake Univ. with scholarship, and Embry Riddle with scholarship, he will be attending Lynn University, Fabiana Burbano,was accepted at the University of Miami, at Bentley College in the Honors Program with a scholarship, at Bryant Univ. in their honors program with a scholarship, she has decided to attend Bentley College, Alexandra Ayala, was accepted at Brandeis University, at Lake Forest University with a scholarship, and College of Du Page, she will attend Lake Forest University, Natascia Da Prato, was accepted at York Univ., Marymount College, and Adelphi Univ., she will be attending York Univ.

Graduation is an incredibly important rite of passage, a time to step back, pause, reflect on where we have come from and where we are going. It’s also a time for celebration and pride – and I’m so pleased to be able to share this very special occasion with 52 outstanding seniors and your families.

Looking out at each of you this morning, I see a lot of things written on your faces. I see excitement. I see pride. I see nostalgia. I see hope. I see fear. And it’s amazing – seeing you today, it seems like just yesterday that I was feeling all of those things at my own high school graduation.

I was eighteen. I was finished with high school. Supposedly that meant I was an adult – but I sure didn’t feel like one. I didn’t have any better idea how to go about furnishing a house or creating a successful career or any of that grown-up stuff than I had before I got the diploma. Had I missed something? Had I skipped class on the day they handed out the official adult handbook? Was it too late to get an extra copy?

What I didn’t realize then was that I already had a handbook – in the lessons I’d learned from friends and family and teachers, the interests and passions they’d sparked, the goals they’d pushed me to set and the dreams they’d helped me create.

So if any of you sitting here this morning are feeling anything like I did on my own graduation day, if you’re wondering if you missed the day when your teachers explained the key to a successful life – I want to reassure you that you didn’t.

You are powerful people. Each and every one of you. And the best way you can exercise that power is to believe in it, to trust yourself, to figure out what interests you and go for it.

People such as: Mother Teresa brought hope to the destitute of Calcutta. Mother Hale took care of HIV-infected babies in Harlem. Ronald Reagan demanded that Mikhail Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall, and he did, freeing millions of people. Nelson Mandela took the reins of power and brought a peaceful transition to South Africa after decades of apartheid.

Each of these people seized their moment. They didn’t hesitate. They were equal to the task. I have spoken of those well known, the famous, those remembered by history. But each day there are countless people who quietly seize the moment: teachers, nurses, doctors, clergy, law enforcement officials, fire fighters, and social workers. Each confronts a world of endless demands, infinite challenges. Yet, with each decision, each act of service, each moment of compassion or kindness, they change the world for the better. They fight for what is right, what is good, and what is just. They do so with little fanfare or applause. They act without hesitation. They also are equal to the task. The point I’m trying to make is that we all have the power to make a difference and to do tremendous things with our lives. You too must seize the moment!

This morning you stand at a crossroad where each one of you will take a new direction in your life’s journey. Walt Whitman said, “Not I – not anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself.” Where you end up isn’t the most important decision, but instead it is the road you choose to take to get there. The road you take is what you will look back on and call your life. Life is a journey of everyday experiences, teaching us moment in, moment out, who we really are. It’s important to remember these words, “Happiness is to be found along the way, not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it is too late.”
So, in conclusion, I ask of you five things: Be kind and always remember to help others. Believe in something bigger than yourself. Be a credit to your community. Have integrity and never give up.

A chapter of your lives is ending, and a new one, beginning. As the band Green Day sang, “It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right, I hope you had the time of your life.”

With these thoughts, and with my warmest regards, I say to you, the Class of 2005, congratulations and best, best wishes!

May God bless you!