Good evening, Class of 2022, Packer community, families and friends of the graduating class, both here and at home.
I will begin by addressing the elephant in the garden: I was not the first Dean of the class of 2022, and I was not the second Dean of the class of 2022. But they say the third time’s a charm, and, well, it sure was.
The class of 2022 and I were like a romantic comedy, but like a good one from the '90s where Meg Ryan wears a lot of beige and off-white, and eventually discovers that the person standing next to her all along is actually her soul mate. I taught many of these seniors over their high school years, and, when asked to be their Dean this year, thought to myself: the infamous class of 2022, how could I say no? So I gladly said, challenge most certainly accepted.
They were immediately welcoming and kind and I became very fond of them. I fell in love with their passion for change and commitment to justice, as well as their loving, generous hearts. They, in turn, fell in love with my dog. I sent them a heartfelt email every Friday afternoon with some stories to inspire them, some advice, and some pictures of my little dog, Simba. In case you don’t know this, sending heartfelt emails to Gen-Z is similar to talking to a soundproof wall: you should expect no response. And that remained true in this case, but the exception was when someone would occasionally comment on how cute Simba was. The other exception was when I shared about a day that was difficult for me, and so many of them responded with an outpouring of love and support. The moral of our story is: the people who are meant to support you at the end were often right next to you all along, and… get a dog.
I can guarantee that one word we will hear a lot as we talk about the mighty Class of 2022 today and for time to come is activism. This class has distinguished itself as the activists of our community and they have changed Packer permanently, for the better. It is absolutely no surprise, then, that their guest speaker today is Schuyler Bailar, one of the most well known activists and advocates for trans inclusion, radical body acceptance, and mental health awareness. I have the privilege of introducing him, and I could not think of a more perfect person to address this class today.
Schuyler Bailar is the first transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA Division 1 men’s team. By 15, he was one of the nations top-20 15-year-old breast-strokers. Schuyler’s difficult choice– to transition while potentially giving up the prospect of being an NCAA champion, swimming as female– was historic and timely. He continues to make history every day as he lives as his truest and most authentic self in every part of his life. The 2020 LGBTQ Instagram Advocate of the Year, Schuyler is now a diversity and inclusion educator, activist, life coach, speaker, and author with his first novel Obie is Man Enough.
When the Class of 2022’s Senior Fun Committee brainstormed who to request as our guest speaker today, Schuyler Bailar was the first name that gave us a collective gut feeling: yes, this is the one. No one else could do justice to a class that is so committed to leaving the world a better and more just place than they found it.
It is now my honor to welcome the Class of 2022’s distinguished guest speaker, Schuyler Bailar.