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Congratulations, 2020 Grads! Commencement Speech

Welcome families, friends, teachers, and especially welcome to the Class of 2020! I'm so happy to be with you here tonight.

Graduates, I want to show you something:

Do you recognize this sign? Can somebody tell us where it comes from? And what does it mean?

Yes, you’re right-- the sign means: Stop and look, pause, think. This is from the wisdom of Ms. Dana, as she helps 2nd graders know how to enter a room, see what is happening, and quietly find their place. It even shows you where to put your feet—do you see the little shoe outlines at the bottom?

The idea is that you will join in what the group is doing without causing a disruption and without calling attention to yourself. Definitely an important skill in 2nd grade. It means --don’t run into the room and yell “What are we doing?” but instead enter slowly, read the room, take time to figure out how and where you fit in.

It’s generally good advice, not only for entering your 2nd grade classroom, but for other life situations as well. It means don’t react in a kneejerk or panicky way, take time to really look and listen and reflect before you speak and act, and be thoughtful about what part you want to play in any given situation.

But you may be wondering—sorry, Ms. Dana--is this always good advice? What about those times when you look around and find that you don’t want to quietly join in what the group is doing?

Sometimes you might look around at what everyone is doing and decide “that’s NOT for me.” This is an important part of knowing yourself, being strong and confident enough to pursue what is right for you even if it is unusual or off the beaten path. This is something I hope you will take with you from TCS--the ability to know yourself and advocate for what you need and want and believe in. And I'm pretty sure I’ve seen each one of you graduates do this very effectively during your time here.

And then also there are times when you look around at what others are doing and think “Not only is that not right for me--that’s not right, period.” Maybe what everyone is doing is unkind. Maybe it’s hypocritical. Maybe it’s unjust. Maybe it’s sexist or racist.

And I'm sure I don’t have to tell you that those are the most important times to NOT do what everyone else is doing.

Like a lot of other people, I'm thinking a lot right now about George Floyd’s death at the hands of police. And about how his murder is only the latest in a long line of horrifying, senseless violence directed at black and brown people in America. I'm thinking about how important it is to stand up and speak out and say that what “everybody” is doing is wrong. It’s not OK. It has to change.

I'm also thinking about Fred Rogers, Mr. Rogers, who says in times of disaster and chaos and scary news that you should always look for the helpers.

So right now in this moment in history, as we stop and look around, what is everyone doing? Well, some people are helping. Some people are cleaning up shops and neighborhoods. Some people are delivering food. Some people are marching and protesting and organizing. Some people are registering new voters. Some people are running for office.

TCS grads, this is where you come in. I’ve seen what you can do. I’ve seen your amazing Capstone projects. I’ve seen your leadership in our school community, evident in everything from how the Kindergarteners greet you so enthusiastically each morning to how you speak up in Town Hall meeting to help the group move towards a decision. You set the tone for our entire school and you have done an outstanding job as role models with your hard work, your commitment to your own learning, your kindness and care for each other and for our community. And I might add you seem to have a lot of fun while doing all of that.

So it is fair to say that all of us at TCS expect you to go out and do great things—by which I don’t mean huge things—you don’t necessarily have to be the one leading the protest movement (although knowing you, you really could be the ones leading the movement).

When I say great things I don’t mean huge things but I do mean important things. Meaningful things. Things that help make the world a better place. Things that treat others with respect and dignity and compassion.

These can be big and dramatic and public acts, but they can also be smaller acts, even invisible acts. How you treat people in everyday life. What relationships you choose and how you conduct yourself within those relationships. What fields of study and activities and causes you put your considerable talents into. What you value and how you organize your life in accordance with those values.

Class of 2020, we thank you so very much for all you have contributed to The Children’s School. We have been honored to know you and work with you these past years. We will miss you very much. And we are thrilled that you will remain part of the TCS family forever.

Congratulations! Your future is bright. The world needs you. Now get out there and do some great things!

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