2022 Baccalaureate Remarks

For many of you, seniors, the world must look like a set of binaries – opposing sides, opposing views.  You might wonder why all of the adults are setting up camps, not talking to each other, and not working on conflict negotiation. The truth is that there are many people who do try to connect, to do the hard work of serving aims that are collective rather than individual, and that represent the kinds of discussions that went into the founding of America.  I have recently wondered, could we make an American Constitution at the moment we are in?  What do you think?  That is a rhetorical question – no need to respond!
Seniors, take a moment and reflect on all that you have learned at Vermont Academy and all that you have experienced.  Learning from peers and in those in-between moments is just as important as learning during class time or on the stage or on the court or field.  Think about all that you have learned.  You are well prepared for whatever your next steps are in life.  Think also of your own capacity to listen, to negotiate, to put something before your own interests, and to work with a team of multi-dimensional and multi-focused peers to get something done.  I believe in you.  I think you can do it.  I urge you to do this in whatever ways you can, in your future schools, in your neighborhoods, and in your work experiences.  Practice these skills of collaboration and compromise, and always think about the fact that the goal is not to convince someone else that you are right, but to put the greater good and a common goal up in front.  Keep your view and let others keep theirs, but seek to solve problems and offer fresh creativity, patience, and understanding.  We have high fuel costs right now, but this is the fuel that makes for progress, and it is priceless! 

I want to play a game right now of “I saw” and “I heard” to acknowledge some of the special moments that seniors and PGs went above and beyond in their own achievements – perhaps not recognized here, and who might also, in another case, have stepped into what could have been opposing views and offered wisdom and reflection:

I saw Julia Mespléde skate as part of her France World team and win the victory with VA alumna, Chloe Aurard '17; I heard Liam advocate for a friend at a difficult moment for him personally; I saw teams leave any points of view or conflicts out of their games, and give everything they had in spite of it; I saw four capstone project presentations and superior work from Mia, Andrew, Kim, and Danielle; I watched a student-led musical on the Choukas stage – an extraordinary effort and success from Mia and the cast; I saw the boys’ soccer team leave it all on the field at the championship in the fall with seniors Ian Robinson, Hunter Demarco and Fray Villiman delivering standout performances and Ty Higgins, Cam Boardman, Liam Lucas, Dion Brown, Rex Hill and Nolan Caruso contributing to the success of this incredible team.  Hunter Demarco, by the way, scored a penalty kick in the NEPSAC semifinals with a broken collarbone; I saw a phenomenal senior art show and loved the glow that I witnessed from Jason Shapiro, Elizabeth Pitts, and Kalaya Hudziec as they shared their work; Kalaya and Pittsy also substituted for Ms. McNealus and taught a NARTS class (ninth-grade arts); I heard Evan Dos Santos and Lily Schlosser pitch their idea for a smoothie shop and saw them succeed in opening one in the Wildcat Den (I hope you tried one of those smoothies!).  They are entrepreneurs! I heard Maika Paquin play tennis against a team that was acting very pretentious, and she never wavered in her own standards of sportsmanship while privately wondering about theirs!  I saw girls’ varsity hockey give their all this season and seniors Danielle, Riley, Maika, Julia, Meg Spring, and do their best on the ice.  I know that Wolfgang offered to set up courses on the rock climbing wall and that Andrew Lussier stepped up as a tour guide and proctor despite being a PG and in his first year at VA.  I know Andrew Gould was a lead writing tutor and also an Eagle Scout.  I saw Maxine give all that she had to our ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion work.  I saw Mia organize a flash mob in Shep dining hall to perform a scene from Standardized Testing; I witnessed Colby Casey being an incredible leader for Girls’ Varsity Basketball, creating a team culture and a can-do attitude no matter what the score might be – truly inspirational and deserving of the big fan base the team developed!;  Cam Boardman made a walk-off home run to beat Proctor, Evan Dos Santos wrote and directed his own movie; in the early winter, Liam Lucas and Leighton Geraghty both took time away from their Thanksgiving break to come to the rink and speak to 40-60 families about the VA hockey program, and the showcase was in Canada! I heard Leola Brown’s beautiful, crisp tone as she played a Dvorak piece on the French horn at the Spring Concert and shared her joy of music with the audience, and I heard incredible solos and performances by Kim Peruso, Eliza Asante, and Mia Hennum; I knew that Ty Higgins had created over 40 pieces of digital music through his tenure at Vermont Academy; I knew that recently Amalia Allen had learned at least six drum patterns in the last two weeks. And finally, do you remember the beginning of the year at the Wildcat Games when the freshman class was singing the Evening Song and half of the Senior class came out to sing it with them so they did not feel embarrassed to be in front of the whole school?

 The list could go on.  This is Vermont Academy.  This is Us.  Maybe the best honor is in those unsung moments when we do what we do because of our Core Values about character and citizenship. 
So when anyone laments about a divided nation or a time of extreme political division, remember that we know how to come together at Vermont Academy, how to give to others, and how to, I hope seniors, continue to be that VA person wherever you go.  In my mind, I keep thinking that we could point out a Vermont Academy graduate throughout his or her life because of these kinds of citizenship moments.

Thank you, seniors!  Go VA!
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Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.