Thank you, Class of 2021, for allowing me to speak to you today. It has been a long time since the two of us first met. When I met you all you were a bit shorter and your backpacks were very wide. But now it is your time and you belong.
Before the darkness of 2020 engulfed us, I spoke to you all about taking care of each other and I ended those comments by asking you all to repeat Together, Together, Together! During this speech I ask you to reflect on those words, either out loud or to yourself.
Let me ask you this, when was the first time you realized you belonged at Tower Hill? I mean truly felt like you were someplace where it was okay to be you. Was it when you were a third grader? Was it your first memory of Tree Trim? Or was it when you proudly signed your name on the Upper School Honor Banner? For me it was four years ago when I first started at Tower Hill? It was August 2017 and I was on campus to setup my new office. Students happen to be on campus at that time, also. A ninth grade student opened my door and asked a question about where the restrooms were located, and at that time my office was located close to the restrooms. Without skipping a beat, the ninth grade students exclaims, “Awesome, I can hang out in your office because it is close to the bathrooms!” At that very awkward, yet interesting moment, I knew that I belonged.
I am sure your moments of belonging are just as sincere ... continue to think about them during the course of my words.
Last summer I thought it would be a good idea to go for a bike ride. The rest of my family were out of town and I had the house to myself for a couple of weeks. So it was time to ride my bike. Off I went ... down one street and up the other; like I was the mayor of the city. I was feeling good and all was going well until ... I hit an unexpected bump in the sidewalk and down I went. As I was plummeting toward the sidewalk, many thoughts went through my head. 1) I haven't crashed my bike since I was like 8! 2) This is going to hurt just like it did when I was 8. 3) The language that I am going to use after the crash is going to be significantly different from that language I used when I was 8!
Indeed, it did hurt and indeed I had some choice words once I hit the hard concrete. There are many things that aren't great about crashing your bike, but the worst, in my opinion, is the looooong ride home after the crash. I don't know if people could tell that I was hurting as I biked home, but to me it felt like my body was one big wound and each time I passed a car I was sure that it was clear to the passengers that I had just been flat on my back moments before.
It has been several years since that accident and the physical signs of that crash have all but vanished; moreover, I still ride my bike ... a bit more careful, but I still ride it. A few minutes ago I asked you to remember the time when you felt like you belonged at Tower Hill. Now, I ask you to reflect on the time when you crashed on your bike. Not literally, but figuratively. That time when you didn't get the best grade, or you didn't perform athletically like you wanted to or rejection from that person you wanted to date but they didn't want to date you ... period. Think about that long "bike ride" home and how emotionally you felt like everyone could see your wounds. But now here you are! You are on the verge of graduation from one of the most challenging schools in the nation. You got back on that bike and you didn't quit. The memory of that pain is in the past. You are now sitting with each other and you believe in each other and you belong to a moment right now that should make you feel like you are ready for the next challenge.
Understand there will be plenty more crashes and they will hurt.
In high school I ran for class president three times ... I lost all three times.
At the end of my freshman year of college my GPA was a hearty 1.5 ... you have to try to get a 1.5.
I have had to bury a biological father, a step-father and my 23-year-old son.
But giving up was not an option...
even though I buried those close to me, I have the love of my mother, wife and three remaining children, all of them my biggest cheerleaders.
Together, Together, Together!
...and remember, Class of 2021, your parents will be the rock you lean on as you begin your new journey. I know it has been tough ... I am willing to wager that many charged discussions were had this morning before your arrival here, (many of you probably arrived here today proclaiming ... I can't wait to get to college) but know that your parents have sacrificed so that you can strive for excellence. And even though you may have fallen a few times, the love of your parents is what has allowed you to get on that bike again.
Recently, one of you wrote me a goodbye email that really touched me. In it the student wrote, “…you went out of your way to make sure our voices were heard. You made it so much easier being in the extreme minority, your arranging meetings with us and other members of the faculty was really what empowered me to stand up for myself and try to be a voice for my people."
I am humbled by the words of that student, but YOU, Class of 2021, are strong, too! You gave me the strength to be the best I could be for you. You played for that team when things weren't necessarily in your favor, you stayed in that advanced course even though the last assignment grade was not up to your standards, and you engaged in service both to the school and surrounding community.
Embrace your memories of belonging ... hold on to them because when you feel like the world is not where you want it to be you will always have your family and you will always, always have 75 other individuals who believe in you. It is your belief in me that will allow me to emotionally get through the last part of this speech.
Like all of you, my family and I are preparing to say goodbye to Tower Hill and it is because of the love you have shown me and my family that this process of separation will become increasingly more challenging over the next few days. From Josie Adsett to Donoven Mack to Madalyn Yates all of you have been the true reflection of the school's motto of Multa Bene Facta (Many Things Done Well). You embraced me as one of you and for that I am forever indebted to you. So as the two of us begin to prepare for our ride off into the sunset let's not forget that we believe in each other, which means we will always belong to each other. It is my true belief that the Glory of the Creator is inside all of us and at this moment, Class of 2021, the Glory in me yields to the Glory in you.
Together, Together, Together!
Be blessed and I wish you well!