On Thursday, May 25, the Class of 2021 graduated from Saint Dominic Academy. Today, I’d like to share my remarks from the graduation ceremony.
Good morning, Class of 2021. As I said at rehearsal last week, since you already have your diplomas in hand, you of course have the option of tuning me out as I offer some final insights and what I hope are words of wisdom before you leave Saint Dominic Academy. However, I hope you won’t do that, as it’s been too long since I have had the chance to talk with all of you, face to face. And we all know how much I love to talk—so please, bear with me for just a few moments.
It’s hard to believe you are graduating—perhaps it’s because of the way the school cycle has worked from last March until now, but I have a hard time realizing that you are done with your senior year—and I’m certain your parents feel the same way. After all, I don’t feel any older than I did when you were in the 9th grade. Remember when I took some of you hiking with Dr. Shreck and the slug spit on Isabella’s hand? Wasn’t that just this past fall? I’m looking at your faces and Charlotte, weren’t you just in Annie? Nastaja, aren’t you still in the 8th grade? Persia…what season of AHS are we up to now? Miya…didn’t I JUST graduate high school with your mom? Alyssa—weren’t you just hyperventilating over a Physics assignment? Julianna and Amanda…weren’t you just the “baby sisters” of seniors and not seniors yourselves? Megan—didn’t I just call you and your dad on the phone to welcome to you to the freshman class? The list could go on and on—and I guess it doesn’t matter if I don’t feel older or if your parents don’t feel older, or if your teachers don’t feel older—the point is this—somewhere in these past four years, you grew up—from brand new “teens” just starting high school to mature young women who have weathered a world- wide pandemic, a historical presidential election, a change in the socio emotional climate of our country, and have grown stronger because of all of these things.
In fact, maybe I don’t need to give you advice at all ( although I am going to) because I realize that due to all of the emotional growing you had to do, not just over the past four years, but over the past 16 months, that you are already far wiser now than I was at your age. Obstacles and unexpected life events have a way of pushing us forward into adult life and nobody has been pushed forward or asked to adjust to so much so quickly as the students across the United States over the past year and a half. That could mean, that by the time you are my age you’ll be much wiser than I could ever hope to be and that you’ll be the ones giving sage advice to others. But, for today, I’m up here and so, my very last task as your Head of School is to send you out to college and the world with just a few pearls of wisdom I’ve strung together through my 40+ years on earth.
- Inner strength has nothing to do with the following: age, size, color.
- Inner strength has to do with one thing—the ability to meet things head on. Each of you has already found that inner strength inside you—you’ve met more obstacles head on then you should have had to at your ages. So, don’t lose sight of it. Meet everything that’s thrown in your path head on. Call upon the inner strength that got you through these past months and as you grow more mature, your inner strength will grow stronger.
- Making mistakes is not the worst thing you can do. Everyone makes mistakes. The worst thing you can do is to not own up to your mistakes.
- If you don’t own up to the mistakes you make along the way, you’ll never learn from them. And, if you don’t learn from them—I can tell you from experience, you’ll just wind up repeating them in a myriad of different ways.
- So, make mistakes—we all do—own up to them, learn wisely and move on.
- Be resilient. Your feelings are going to get hurt—and I have to tell you, they’re going to get hurt often. That awful sensation does not stop as you get older. It’s hard to be resilient when people hurt you; hard to hold your head up, smile and let it roll off your back. I know—because it is the single hardest thing for me to do, and I’ve been trying for over 40 years. And every day, I keep trying….and every day you should too!
- Try not to let them see you cry! Now I don’t mean never cry—that would be crazy advice from a woman who cries at commercials on a regular basis. However, what I’ve learned is that there is a time and a place for a good emotional cry and there’s a time to blink back those tears—and if you are in a situation where someone can use your heartfelt emotion against you and paint it as a sign of weakness—then blink back those tears. Don’t let someone use your good heart and caring empathy to their advantage and your disadvantage. How do you know that’s happening? Trust me—you’ll know. People who want to manipulate you will show their true colors early on.
- Be smart-be quick thinking-be safe. It’s sad that in this day and age, you’ll be given this advice over and over again, but as beautiful and kind hearted young women, you need to hear it. Keep your wits about you—at college, at parties, when you’re out with friends, even when you’re on dates—and trust your instincts ALWAYS…if something unsettles you, then remove yourself from the situation right away. We cannot always avoid the danger that life puts in our paths as women sometimes—but we can be aware it exists, we can know to make the safest choices for ourselves at all times and always, we can work for change so that this advice doesn’t have to be handed out in the future.
- Finally, and most importantly—find a good friend and be a good friend. I know each of you has a close circle of friends right now—but as you head off to college, although you’ll keep in touch, it will also be time to expand those friendship circles. So, right now, think of your closest friend in the class of 2021—what joy does she bring to your life? How does she make your days better? What about her makes you smile, makes you laugh, makes you a more empowered woman? Do you have the answers? Yes? Good! That’s the friend YOU want to be when you get to college—and people like her are the friends you want to make.
There are a million more life lessons I could expound upon, but our time together has grown short. I’m no longer your Head of School, and I’m no longer the one who has to work to shape your educational and spiritual path within the walls of SDA. However, I hope you know that I, along with everyone else at SDA will ALWAYS be here for you—and that Saint Dominic Academy will always welcome you home. Congratulations, ladies and much love to you always.