Boys’ Latin Valedictory Speech

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Thank you Mr. Post.  Good morning members of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Schools, faculty, fellow classmates, family and friends.  I am truly honored to speak to you today.  On behalf of the Class of 2011, thank you for joining us on this auspicious occasion.  I would like to begin by asking my fellow classmates to give a round of applause to those who have helped us reach this milestone:  the faculty, our families and friends.  

Class of 2011—this is our day.  As the 167th class to graduate from Boys’ Latin and the 50th on Lake Avenue, the world of 2011 is very different from the world of 1845, or even the world of 1961.  But some traditions have not changed.  Graduation day is still a significant day, marking the completion of our education at Boys’ Latin.  There are few moments in life so powerfully mixed with happiness and sadness, hope and fear as this one.  And like all rites of passage, it is both retrospective and prospective.  It marks the end of high school, when we bid farewell to the security of Boys’ Latin, and become part of the Laker legacy.  Yet today’s ceremony is also called a commencement, the beginning of the next phase of our lives.

Some of our class has been fortunate enough to spend thirteen years on this campus, with Boys’ Latin becoming our second home as we matured from young boys through adolescence to adulthood.  When we crossed over the bridge from middle school to upper school, we were nervous and not sure what to expect.  Now, it is time for us to cross the bridge to our future.  Once again, we are apprehensive and not sure what to expect.  But this time we are not crossing with our BL buddies, we are crossing on our own.   The seventy-one members of our class will attend 43 different colleges that span the nation from Maine to California.  Many years ago, cartographers used the term Terra Incognita, the Latin term for “unknown territory,” to identify regions that had yet to be explored.  Today, leaving behind the reassuring routine of life at Boys’ Latin, we will begin the journey into our own Terra Incognita.  It is appropriate that we take a few minutes to reflect on our Boys’ Latin experience.

This is the end of a thirteen-year run for me at Boys’ Latin, fourteen for Taylor McKissock!  Some things have remained constant:  thirteen years without girls, pretty much the same guys and the same scenery.  However, there have been some changes during this time:  four new headmasters, a new upper school wing, and a brand new middle school.  We won the first baseball championship in fifteen years but managed to go through four baseball coaches in four years.  There are some things I will always remember: lower school dodge ball, Mrs. Sczcpinski’s bullhorn, Jimmy Scharff’s endless trips to Mrs. Sczcpinski’s office, Mr. Franklin telling Mitchell Horning to cut his hair or telling me to tuck in my shirt, Jack Durkee’s bear hugs, Job Bedford always arriving late for class, rapping with Kendall Newman, Elliott Taft’s many supportive female relatives, and Mrs. Whitman mothering us all.  Nothing is more memorable than a teenager’s first car and we’ll all remember Derrick Wright’s jalopy, Attman’s yellow Camaro, and for Ben Kellar especially, seeing Drew Mank’s sister behind the wheel. 

There have been exciting sports moments as well:  carrying the coffin onto the St. Paul’s field, Well’s excessive celebration, Durkee’s three pointer, and Aaron Mack’s infamous home run and his 4 minute dance around the bases, as well as the soccer, baseball and volleyball championships.  Trust me, there is nothing better than rushing the field with all of you.  And, I will miss putting our fists together in a circle and shouting, “1-2-3 Lakers.”

Jack Loizeaux, a 1935 BL graduate, once observed, “During the sixty years since I have graduated from Boys’ Latin, hardly a day has passed that I haven’t smiled as I’ve remembered my teachers, the sports, and the school in general.  How much richer my life has been due to the influence of Boys’ Latin.” I, too, am proud to be a Laker.   In 44 BC, the ancient Roman statesman, Cicero, wrote an essay on the qualities of friendship, using the phrase that has become our school motto, Esse Quam Videri, “to be rather than to seem.”  Written over 2,000 years ago, these words still reflect the essence of Boys’ Latin, where a Laker is defined by his character, integrity, and compassion for others.  I have witnessed countless examples of these core values among the faculty, the parents, and my fellow classmates.  In the movie The Blind Side, when Leigh Ann feels threatened in Michael’s old neighborhood, he tells her, “I’ve got your back.” And that is precisely what Boys’ Latin and this class is all about.  We’ve always had each other’s backs.  I wouldn’t be standing here today if my classmates and teachers didn’t have my back when I had an accident in lower school.  Faculty like Ms. Tooma, Mrs. Szczpinski, and Mrs. Barnett, along with all of my classmates made sure they gave me the help and support I needed to make a full comeback.  The Class of 2011 has always stood beside me, encouraging me and helping me become the person I am today. 

We leave high school today with high hopes, pride and gratitude to those who have helped us through the years.  As we enter the world beyond Lake Avenue, we will have to live without Mr. Bowling’s sage advice, Mr. Logan’s eloquent stories, Mr. Doherty’s deadlines, Mr. Osborne speaking faster than the speed of light, Mr. Shriver’s voice echoing across Lake Avenue all the way to the baseball fields, and Ms. Mullally pushing us farther than we ever thought we were capable of going.  We are leaving our safe haven, the halls of Boys’ Latin, but we will take what we have learned and let it guide us through our future.  As Mr. Bowling likes to say, Carpe Diem.  We must “Seize the Day.”
The Class of 2011 is a remarkable group of people, with gifted athletes and scholars, worthy musicians and talented artists.  Our class has accomplished a lot: starting an award winning robotics club, reviving the school newspaper, taking college classes, Tyrelle and Jeremy’s musical achievements, travelling abroad, starting community service Saturday road trips, making all-star teams in football, soccer, volleyball and lacrosse, and the list goes on…  We have pushed ourselves academically, artistically, and athletically.  We will be entering a technology-driven world moving at the speed of light.  Our generation will be judged not on the technology we create but rather on the values we embrace.  Bart Giamatti, former Yale president said, “to strive for principles, even if the journey is never completed, is to tap a vast source of energy, the energy to commit to your best in the brief, precious time that each of us is blessed to have.”   Fifty years ago, in 1961, the first class graduated from Boys’ Latin on Lake Avenue.  They faced a tumultuous decade.  Whatever our generation has to face, I am confident our class will face it with character, integrity, and compassion for others, in the true spirit of Esse Quam Videri.

Shortly we will say goodbye to each other and scatter to different universities around the world. We will never be sitting here together as this group again.  We have achieved, learned, laughed, gotten into trouble, and matured.  We are bound by friendship, by brotherhood, and by our shared experience.  And we can move confidently toward the future knowing that we will always have each other’s backs because we are part of something bigger than ourselves, the Laker Legacy.  Fellow graduates, it has been my honor and privilege to share 13 years at Boys’ Latin with you.  After years of effort, long nights of studying, endless tests, pop quizzes, papers and DBQ’s, we are finally graduating!   And so we say, Ave, Atque, Vale:  Hail and farewell. 

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