So…Class of 2023, this beautiful campus, this beautiful night is for you!
Perhaps you thought you had heard the last ruminations on this year’s theme—joy in the journey. Think again.
In all seriousness, at this final and very momentous ritual, the final leg of your Waterford journey, I want to say a humble and heartfelt thank you. You have modeled joy in every step of your liberal arts journey. We know it has not always been easy, as Waterford’s asked each of you to lean into excellence each day, in and out of the classroom, and yet your embrace of challenge has inspired your classmates and a grateful faculty, as we’ve watched you grow and contribute in so many meaningful and extraordinary ways.
You are curious, capable learners who welcome the responsibility that has accompanied the privilege of a Waterford education. I am certain that your joyful learning journey will continue in college and well beyond, as you pursue honor, beauty and wisdom and the aspiration of a life of meaning and purpose. And this is where the true joy lies—in your connections with and to others! Where your deep passion for lifelong learning results in the betterment of each and every community to which you belong.
You have the skills and knowledge, the habits and heart and mind to be anything, to do anything you can imagine. Use your Waterford education to dream big dreams because we know you have the capacity to make the world a more humane and better place. This is, afterall, the goal of a liberal arts education!
And one final request. Take the time to express your gratitude to those who helped you get here. We are all stronger on our path in life in the company of others. As you reflect on your Waterford experience throughout the evening, I am certain teachers, coaches, mentors, friends, parents and other family members come to mind as you hold space to appreciate ALL who have supported you, and will continue to do so going forward.
Thank you class of 2023, for all of the ways that your journey has enriched ours…Congratulations!
Each year, the senior class chooses a classmate to give a senior address at the Commencement ceremony. This year, Ethan Romer gave the senior address, read it here:
When I thought of graduation as a kid it struck me as this foreign, incomprehensible event out in the void, something that would eventually happen, but I wouldn’t have to think about for a long time. To leave the people, the school, the community that defines who I am, it’s quite a terrifying proposition. So I kept it as an intellectual exercise that I would kick down the road—a problem for future Ethan.
Well now here we are—so let’s not procrastinate any further.
Commencement, graduation, can be thought of as many things. Hard work coming to fruition, perhaps an end to suffering, to some just a meaningless piece of paper. I feel a mix of emotions—elation, sadness, nostalgia. We have worked tirelessly for over a decade—discovering ourselves, befriending others, developing a worldview, learning to think critically and question what we want out of this life. There is an endless list of sappy metaphors that could apply, but when drafting this speech the idea that kept coming to mind was a threshold. The passage from one era to another. The beginning of a new chapter.A threshold is threefold—the two sides and the space in between. Where we came from, where we are, where we will go. Past, present, and future coming together in one decisive moment.So let us reminisce on the past for a moment.Our first year of high school was full of new experiences and challenges. We adjusted to the course load of high school, bombed several algebra 2 tests, and got our first dose of online school. We completed the bird project and the apples and potatoes essay, hallmarks of the Waterford liberal arts education, over zoom. In 10th grade we adjusted to the new normal—we read Frankenstein, learned what a mole is, and for some, took our first AP test. It was a year of experimentation and learning what subjects we wanted to explore further in the coming years. And then began junior year. Truth be told, I don’t remember all that much—must be my selective memory working its magic. I vaguely recollect late nights, early mornings, and far too many Saturdays spent taking standardized tests. Yet this was the most pivotal year at Waterford. Through seemingly impossible course loads we learned what we were capable of and how to push beyond. Finally, this year has been a rollercoaster of everything—long naps, college apps, too much snow—perhaps, and a rapidly progressing case of terminal senioritis.Now, the present. There is a certain nervous excitement in the air, conflict seeking resolution. Our high school years are coming to fruition. So much time, energy, and hope leading to this moment. It is surreal to arrive at the finish line, to taste the result.Yet the reward is not in this moment. In the grand scheme of things, today is quite insignificant. Rather, the sleepless nights ahead of AP week, the frustrating hours spent at the roundtable in the math lab, the philosophical conversations at office hours—this is what matters. The path we have walked to get here, the joys and the tribulations along the way. This is the space in the middle—the threshold between the past and present, the experience as it is lived.Just as happiness is not the only emotion we experience today, joy is not the only emotion we experience in the journey of life. All inform us of the human experience—the knowledge that nothing in this world is exclusively good or bad. This is what it means to be an adult, to embrace ambiguity and have faith in the process. Today is the day we cross the threshold from adolescence to adulthood, the moment where we leave behind high school and step across into the unknown.So what is next? What lies across the threshold?I cannot wait to see what we as a class accomplish. At Waterford there is so much intellectual vigor and passion for life concentrated in this one small area. It is a privilege to know this group because I am certain that each person will go out and effect positive change in the world in their own unique way. There are future scientists, writers, innovators, artists, politicians, and athletes in the group behind me. The possibilities know no bounds.
This diversity of opportunity, thought, and interests is what makes the liberal arts at Waterford, and therefore the class of 2023 so unique. The breadth of our education and experiences empowers us to cross disciplines and seek common ground. Nowadays, this trait can be hard to come by as kids are pushed to specialize at a young age. The product is a stark divide between fields of study, and it scares me. Scientists implore poets to get a job. Artists suggest that scientists in their devotion to rationalism lose sight of what it means to be human.
Yet the group behind me gives me hope. I know future surgeons that have received scholastic awards for their writing and English majors that excel in physics. Waterford and our class in particular has the unique skill set to be both—to see across academic thresholds and understand that truth is messy. As students of the liberal arts we are equipped to bridge the divide and effect change in the world. It is our imperative.
So, as we watch the sun set on the mountains, our souls are full of the entire spectrum of human emotions—I encourage us to reminisce on past triumphs and simultaneously look forward with sheer optimism. Waterford has prepared us to engage with the world in countless ways—to learn from others and change the world for the better.
As Walt Whitman famously said, “I contain multitudes” and so do we class of 2023. In our future, let us embrace scary thresholds and never close any doors, let us pursue a life of meaning and purpose as lifelong learners, let us follow our moral compass and paths of interests and see where they take us. There are no wrong answers.
WATCH THE LIVESTREAM OF THE 36TH COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES
CONGRATULATIONS, CLASS OF 2023!
October 13, 2022
June 4, 2021
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