2020 Cum Laude Address

Congratulations to all of you on these honors that you have received this evening in recognition of your important work at Vermont Academy. You have worked at the highest level at Vermont Academy, and when this happens, your teachers learn with you. In the future, I want our enrollment contracts to say that you are invited to study with the faculty of Vermont Academy. Because you do!

One of the great outcomes of investing in and building your mind is a greater consciousness as you live this life. You are on the road to cultivate the ability to understand subtleties, to make discriminating and difficult judgments, to learn from failure, and nurture a lifelong growth mindset. Yet with this profound and evolving consciousness comes the burden of knowing.

As you have seen in recent days, there are many opportunities to address the challenges we face in the world, but one of your greatest personal challenges will surely be to learn how to work with all kinds of people, with all points of view. You are educating yourself to be a superior intellect and to aim toward the bright future I know that you will have, but you should always strive to know and understand others who may not have the turn of phrase or writing ability that you do but who have perfectly valid views that should be taken into consideration. Education should not be a divider but rather the path to deeper and more democratic or universal understanding.

I hope that you see the opportunities before you at Vermont Academy, in college, in career, and in serving humanity. I also hope that you see the joys of consciousness, of being fully aware of what it means to be human and alive. As I told my two sons when they were growing up, the most basic way to re-engage with being human when you feel most alone is to give to others. Keep things simple even though your minds are sophisticated -- and getting even more sophisticated.

As Rudyard Kipling coached us in his great poem, “If,”:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same; 

You will have reached the steady, inner calm of understanding that is the sign of a fully conscious and wise adult.

Remember -- all roads lead back to Vermont Academy! And for now, in your minds, you can walk the paths of Long Walk -- some of you to return in the fall and some to return in the future. Congratulations to all and thanks to Ms. Schilling, Ms. Catsos, to all of our speakers and honorees. We are so proud of you.

Education for Life - One Student at a Time

Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.