Graduation 2020

Elizabeth C. Speers

Head of School
Charge to the Class of 2020
Seniors, I want you to look up and around you into this twilight sky, studded with these twinkling lights, strung over and around us. While we may be distanced from one another, these lights string… us… together, just as your friendships, families, and Tower Hill years are strung together forever. So let the image of these lights be a reminder to you, that no matter what distance you may travel in the coming years, these Tower Hill lights will always be shining for you. Seniors, you have surely lit the way for each other and for the Tower Hill community this year. May these strands of starlight remind us – that we are, all of us, connected through a light and love that is stronger and more powerful than any adversities we may face.

We have all heard the quote: “we do not get to decide the times we live in, but we do get to decide how to live in these times. Well, seniors, you have shown us through your gumption and grace, how to live. You have lived your senior spring with the gumption to carry on with a kind and committed spirit, and you have lived your senior spring with grace that has inspired hope.  

Your senior year has seen the likes of which no other senior classes have experienced in over a century – a global pandemic, masks, zooms, uncertainty, economic stress, heroes on the front lines, sobering news and social media, and profound questions that must be answered about justice and freedom in our country.
Through community conversations and one just last week led by Ms. Connor, you have had the courage to participate in real dialogue and open, respectful conversation about race, gender, and issues of inclusivity. You have modeled within our community, what the hard work of love, respect, and real understanding looks like.

You are a particularly talented, diverse, fun loving, and resilient class. You have shown Tower Hill what it is to be resilient, maintain a positive attitude through adversity, and to persevere. You are a class that will forever be remembered as raising the bar on innovation at Tower Hill. You have showed us that Tower Hill is so much more than our facilities, buildings, and classrooms. You have lived into our word for the year – community - in profound and extraordinary ways.

Seniors, we have all admired your ability to hold simultaneously – the drive to excel with the ability to have fun. Over your years at Tower Hill, you have shared your extraordinary talents in academics, arts, theater, music, debate, model UN, robotics, service, and athletics. You have completed more than 3,000 hours of service, you have traveled near and far, been global scholars, and helped us live into our commitment to be a school of Wilmington and the world. You have competed and won state championships, and racked up thousands of hours in practices, games, and most important of all, you have been recognized for good sportsmanship. And your class soaked in the full arc of Tower Hill’s Centennial, with composers Reece and Joseph, of the amazing 100 Years Green and White centennial song - as your very own classmates!

And seniors, you led the school’s first Tower Term Time capsule this spring and you created amazing things: Tower Hill’s own version of Mindcraft, a Quarantine Crossword, Cookbooks, videos, poetry, writing, reflection, music, and mosaics to name just a few. Someday, years from now, there will be students and teachers who will peruse the Tower Hill archives, and discover the answer to the question: What was it really like for the Class of 2020 during their senior year at Tower Hill? Thanks to your leadership, seniors, here is what they will discover about the spring of 2020:
• Morning Meeting continued to take place every day by Zoom.
• Senior speeches were delivered without a hitch, as you shared your stories, experiences, passions, and outlook on a quarantined senior spring.
• Seniors continued to excel academically, with terrific college results and new ways to sit for AP’s.
• Amazing singing, art, performances, and outdoor fitness feats continued despite being apart from one another.
• Students got to know their teachers’ children and babies, and one another’s pets quite well during remote classes.
• Seniors wanted more than anything to be together and sometimes…in the early weeks of quarantine, Mrs. Speers would pretend she did not see them in the gravel lot, visiting from their cars.  

And they will read in their history books…..about our country at this time. While our word for the year was COMMUNITY, sadly we continue to witness some of the very opposite as country. We have witnessed in real time the fragility of our communities with continued evidence of bigotry, hatred, and violence. We need a world in which respect and justice applies to all - whether we are of the same faith or not, whether of the same gender or not, whether we are of the same color, or ethnicity, nationality, or background, or whether we share political views or not. We need to be people that refuse to be governed by hate.”

I hope you will remember that Tower Hill asked you to lean into the true meaning of this word: COMMUNITY- through your daily lives this year – AND you knocked it out of the park, against great odds. I hope that somewhere deep within your individual and collective fiber as a class, you have come to learn that COMMUNITY, while certainly better in person, ultimately requires our individual and collective commitment to integrity, courage, kindness, respect, and humility. Communities that are open to learning how to do better, will bring about understanding, love, and peace. There will be times when your voice is needed, and I would contend it is needed right now, and you will need to use it, to ensure that love wins over hate.

Seniors, I invite you to be in touch with me directly, as you reflect on your Tower Hill experience. Your opinions and ideas are important to us and to me personally. We are always eager to welcome you back as alumni.

So at last, a few words of advice to send you on your way:
From the newest member of the Speers family, Nola, who wanted to encourage the Class of 2020 never to lose their silly puppy ways and to of course always remember the green and white.

As Mr. Shaw said at Baccalaureate: “find a way to be a leader in your lifetime and the sooner the better, frankly.”

And as our Student Body President, Thomas reminded us: “remember that there are silver linings.”  

As Dr. Brown said from Marie Curie: “now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

As Jess reminds us “we are burdened with choices…but we are blessed with opportunities.”

And I share advice from a few others:

• Embrace the differences between you and your classmates. Always be asking yourself, "what can I learn from this person?" 

• Welcome failure into your lives. It's how we grow. What matters is not that you failed, but that you recovered.”

• Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length and look at it as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball collection.

• Do not inhale smoke. Drink lots of water.

• When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

• This is the only time in your lives when your only real responsibility is to learn. Try to remember how lucky you are every day.

• “Optimism is radical. It is a hard choice, the brave choice.” Guillermo Del Toro

• And, as the great educational reform giant of the 1800's, Horace Mann said, "Education, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of human beings, the balance-wheel of our social machinery." So do not take your education for granted.

And finally, dear seniors and this is from me AND by way of a Benediction….AFTER WHICH, I ask that all families and graduates remain seated until an usher dismisses you from your current location:
Dear seniors, I urge you to care more about inclusivity than exclusivity, reject elitism and embrace equity, always take the high road, as your integrity will be the very bedrock of your success and remember that “love is the most reliable muscle of human transformation.”  

And finally, pay attention to ways that you can combine your intellectual might with confidence, compassion and humility, for it is in this very combination that you will help transform and inspire the world. Seniors, we will miss you, we love you, and GODSPEED.