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So…Class of 2024, this beautiful campus, this beautiful morning is for you!

Ok! Perhaps you thought you had heard the last ruminations on this year’s theme—purpose…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 purpose 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 embrace the responsibility that has accompanied the privilege of a Waterford education. I am certain that your purposeful 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 true purpose lies—in your connections with and to others! This is what your liberal arts education is all about! 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 of 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 after all the goal of a liberal arts education!

And one final request…Take time to express your gratitude to those who helped you to 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 morning, 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 2024, 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, the class elected two speakers, Ethan Brennan and Auden Smith to give the senior addresses, read them here:

Hello everyone, I hope you’ve had a good commencement thus far. I’m Ethan Brennan, a member of the class of 2024. I would like to start my speech today with a quote, “You have to look at the single leaf before you can look at the forest.” My close friend shared this proverb with me a few years ago, and it is supposedly of his own creation, and when I researched this phrase to fact check him, it likely is. The idea of the phrase is simple enough, you have to introspect and understand yourself before you can look critically at your relationships or the community around you. My friend said this in a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way, likely as a response to me saying something critical about him in one of our many petty squabbles. In the moment I brushed his idea away, but as I now reflect on my time here at Waterford, the many years I have spent on this campus and how it has shaped me, I realize the profundity of this proverb.

We were discussing the importance of proverbs in my English class this year, funnily enough. Proverbs can be used to better understand cultural values of the communities that use them. Phrases such as “the grass is always greener on the other side” or “Rome wasn’t built in a day” tell us about the values that we find important. So what does my friend’s invention tell us about him and the culture around him? The importance of understanding yourself first to then better understand the world around you.

Back to how this phrase relates to me. I’ve spent nearly 17 or 18 years at this institution, which include both my time as a student and not as a student. Some of my oldest memories are at this place; I remember at age two or three being sat on the floor of my dad’s classroom playing with dry erasers, or being wheeled into that same classroom in a stroller and having a crowd of teenage girls fuss over me. I also remember being in kindergarten and accidentally sleeping for 13 hours one night, resulting in me not doing my homework for that day, so when I arrived at school I did not get to play with the marble run like everyone else and instead had to sit by my lonesome and finish my homework which was to think of nonsense words that rhyme with “pig”, this core memory teaching me about the importance of deadlines. I also remember getting in trouble in second grade for finding the b-word in the dictionary and showing everyone in my reading group, or being the father mouse in the first grade Aesop’s fables plays. The first providing me with a better understanding about appropriate behavior in school, and the second planting the first inklings of my passion for theater. I think about my time in middle and upper school such as my first fishbowl discussion on The Giver in the 6th grade, or crowd surfing during FNL in the 10th grade, or even delivering my speech during first Friday this year. Each of these moments I’ve shared have been vital in cultivating the many facets of my identity as an academic, a performer, a leader.

These memories are an essential part of myself as are the many memories I have obtained going to this school. They have shaped me into the person I am today. As I reflect on these memories and how they culminate into the person I am, I remember the proverb. Every moment I hold dearly at this school reminds me of the person I have become and the values I hold dear, allowing me to evaluate the ways in which Waterford has shaped me. I know it is a bit cheesy, but the core values of Waterford are something that have really been foundational to my personal development and are essential tools for my journey forward. Waterford provided me with many experiences to grow in each of their values: integrity, excellence, curiosity, responsibility, and caring. 

Waterford has also truly been a refuge for me; I have developed many of my closest relationships at this school with my peers and teachers who I know I can turn to for any help I need. I have been able to meet some of the most talented students, each dedicated to their many, many interests. I have also been able to meet some of the most talented faculty and staff, each of them spending countless hours to provide us with a beautiful campus and rigorous education. The people I met here have truly laid the foundations for my success and have given me valuable connections to the wider world as I step into it. I know that even as I leave this place, there will always be the relationships I made here to turn to in times of need. I value everything this school has provided me, knowing that the fruits of my labor are not useless and that if I absolutely apply myself, good things will come. 

The proverb my friend shared with me helped me think about the importance of reflection, especially in times of drastic change, such as leaving a place that you’ve grown up in, where many of your fondest memories were developed. I love this place and the experiences it has provided me, through the many ups and downs, the highs and lows, that have allowed me to develop into the person I am today. This place has given me, and my peers, everything we need to succeed moving forward, and I know as we step into the future that there is no challenge that we cannot overcome, no mountain too tall. I am excited to see what we can accomplish.

Good morning everyone, I am so honored to be up here today, and to get to speak about how amazing my class is. One of my favorite things about the Class of 2024 is how they are always looking forward, whether it be forward to the next school year, forward to college, or forward to careers, this class is driven and excited for what comes next. And while this is an incredible strength, today I give you permission, Class of 2024, to look back. As you look back, I imagine what you remember are not the awards you won, the grades you got, or the people you impressed. What I hope you remember are the moments we all came together. Coming together looks many different ways for our grade: it looks like cheering for Redmond and Ryan during their epic rap battle in middle school, it looks like our collective disdain for the College Board, it looks like advocating for justice during the Great Blanket Debacle of 2022, and it looks like an entire room of teenagers dancing to Gangnam Style without shame. At Waterford, to walk down a hallway without being greeted is a rare occurrence. It is impossible not to be able to find someone to sit with in the library, someone to study with in the science building, or someone to skip the lunch line with in the dining hall. We can all relate to a moment in which we entered a class we knew practically no one, and left at the end of the year with an entirely new group of friends. Our class loves learning and growing, but most importantly, we love doing it together. I hope you all look back and are proud. I know I am proud. I am proud to have gotten the opportunity to learn among such talented, kind, and interesting people, people I cherish not only for the times they taught me a new concept or chatted with me in the hallway, but for the people they are, and the person they have made me. 

After high school, we will change and grow, and that is so exciting. But eventually we may not recognize our past selves or each other. We can be comforted by the fact that these people, on this stage, will always know the high school, middle school, and for some, the elementary school versions of ourselves. The friends we will make in college and beyond will never know who we are at this exact moment in time, but our class will. There are only a few other people who can say that, and most of them are sitting in this audience. That is special.

The people in this audience know us, because they have been there for us this whole way. To our families, thank you. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to go to this school, thank you for believing in us and giving us the confidence I know we are all leaving with. To our teachers, thank you. You will never know the impact you have had on our lives. The way you have shown up for us, given us empathy, and shared your passions with us has taught us our worth. I remember mid-winter this year sitting in a class when a teacher walked in from a snowstorm, snow in her hair, holding a student’s coat they had left in their classroom. Rather than waiting for the student to pick it up, or taking it to the front desk, this teacher had walked across campus in the cold to be sure a student wouldn’t suffer in the storm. Earlier this year, I remember signing in at the front desk and seeing Ms. Hamideh and Ms. Egan huddled around the computer, watching the boy’s soccer away game and cheering them on. I remember a moment this year in which I realized I had gotten the lowest test score of my entire class, and I had emailed my teacher frantically, asking what I could do better and how this possibly could have happened. I received the kindest, most empathetic email back with the last line being, with a period in between each word: “You. Are. Wonderful. Don’t Forget it.” Despite my bad grade, I somehow still got into college and have lived a happy life since then. Crazy, I know. I could go on and on about teachers like this. To have had teachers who care who we are is one of the greatest gifts this school has given us. 

This term, a lucky number of us were able to take Ms. McGee’s “Science Fiction and Film” class. I took it, because Ms. McGee is incredible, but I felt so out of my comfort zone surrounded by aliens and androids. I didn’t know how I could approach film as a text, and I was unsure how to discuss human nature when the things we were reading about were, well, not human. Throughout the term, I was surprised daily by the way my classmates, who I had previously and foolishly signed off as “not English people”, discussed films, novels, and short stories with incredible intelligence and nuance while I observed with awe. Even in my Spring Term of senior year, I was still being impressed and surprised by my classmates, some of whom I have known since I was three years old. And if you know the Class of 2024, you know they are very impressive.  

At the beginning of this year, our class gathered to discuss the characteristics of our grade. The overwhelming answer: COMPETITIVE. This definitely is not what you want to hear going into the college application process. However, I beg to differ that the Class of 2024 has turned our so-called “competitiveness” into what makes us the best class Waterford has ever seen. We have made it through four years of high school and 14 years of schooling, fueled by Max’s constant candy supply, Dr. Davis’s donuts, and hundreds of Einstein’s Bagels. Though there are only 70 of us, our class consists of skiers, DJs, live action role players, celtic harpists, mosquito experts, music producers, and pro tree climbers. Our competitiveness has allowed us to show up for one another: we are aware that we are lucky to learn alongside each other, and we support each other through our collective ambition. This class has pushed me to be the best student I can be, but has also taught me to love learning. By their example, whether it be getting to sit in a coffee shop with them and talk about a book for two hours or the fact that when given chalk, the first thing they draw is the electron transport chain, this class does not compete with one another, but rather inspires ambition and thought, while sharing in excitement. To my grade: I feel so lucky to have been able to learn alongside you. I am constantly impressed by your dedication, generosity, and excitement, and I am sure I will go my whole life this way. I love you all. 

Now, it wouldn’t be a proper commencement speech without one good quote. Coach Judd shared this one by Ralph Waldo Emerson with us this year, and I remember thinking how well it applied to our grade and all they have done for me. “To laugh often and much: To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.” Right now, this graduating class has one question on our minds: “Will we succeed?” Class of 2024, we already have. Thank you.



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