Graduation 2020

Jessica Chen '20

Student Government Association Secretary
Class of 2020 Speaker
“Ladies and gentlemen, here we are at a checkpoint between high school and college. On behalf of the entire crew, welcome aboard this flight, a non-stop service from Tower Hill to who knows where. At this time, make sure your seat backs are in their full upright position and that your seat belt is correctly fastened. Thank you.”

We are gathered here today to celebrate a class with perfect vision made up of some incredible people. While I stand here nervously reciting a speech I’ve been practicing for the past few days, I know Ben du Pont could probably regale you all with no preparation for an hour—and that’s if you stop him. Kyla could do a back handspring and wow the crowd. Joe has made a song we’ll be listening to for 100 years. Peter Harris could make—and probably has made—10 new friends in the time I finish this speech. Katy and Baily have put hundreds of hours into community service. Yash has some pretty legendary dance moves and the brains to match. These people and many more make up the Class of 2020 that I am so proud to be a part of. We were the last class to know the freshman homeroom as it once was. We were then kicked out of said homeroom, redeemed, and then re-kicked out. We spent junior year watching the centennial “breeze” graduate since we all knew we were the true centennial class. We spent our second semester of our senior year facing a global pandemic. It’s safe to say we’ve made many unforgettable memories with each other. 

And to the people who’ve helped craft us into who we are today—our teachers, friends, siblings, and parents—thank you. 

To our parents. You’ve provided snacks when we stay up late into the night studying for a big test we have the next day, driven us to and from hundreds of games, and bravely sat in the passenger seat gripping the car handle and pushing the imaginary brake with your right foot when we first learned how to drive. 

And to our teachers: thank you. In physics, my classmates and I were supported by teachers that made us feel at home in their classrooms… while also sometimes sending us emails titled “Big Huge Monster Test” the day before each of our assessments. Our English teachers taught me to love everything from the complexity of Dante’s Inferno to the bawdiness of Shakespeare… often using words I only knew the meaning to 50% of the time because of my inadequate lexicon. History teachers made it easy to understand modern European history with it’s six King Georges and at least three Frederick Wilhelms of Prussia…while also teaching us that there was a unique way to pronounce “Washington” and “oil.”
Seriously though, the teachers of Tower Hill can never receive enough thanks and praise; they come in early to work with our busy schedules, they open their doors throughout the day for anyone who wants to have a conversation, and are often right there with you during athletics after school.

I’d like to continue this speech with a small piece of advice: don’t take advice from just anyone. There will be so many people who want to give you their opinions and what they think is the best way to approach life’s problems. It’s overwhelming and ultimately impossible to follow every piece of advice given to you, so choose the people you listen to wisely. You probably shouldn’t ask a gambler how to invest your money and you probably shouldn’t listen to an almost-high school graduate for advice on life, but I digress.

Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.” He thought the “existential angst” humans had to deal with was a burden on us. "What if I had done this? What if I hadn’t done that?" These are questions that have and will continue to plague us, especially as we move on and move out during such uncertain times. But I think our condemnation to be free is liberating. Simply put, “It is not what it is. It is what you make it to be.” While our birth and upbringing are beyond our control—and it’s important to recognize the privilege we have to attend such an amazing school—, defining ourselves falls on our own shoulders. Even when you think you’ve made a wrong choice, make it into the right one. We are all a tiny piece of this big, big universe, and sometimes that can make us feel very small. But as nothing, you can become anything. Like Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses says, “Big or small, there’s a difference only you can make.” So, what will the difference you make be, Class of 2020? You are burdened with choices… but you are blessed with opportunities.

I’d like to thank Tower Hill for this trip its taken me and many others on for the past couple of years, and I encourage us all to sit back, relax, and become the pilot of your own flight, wherever it may take you.