Class of 2022, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to congratulate you on all the achievements that have led you to today’s graduation ceremony. LET’S GOOOOO!
As some of you may know, I am Elliot’s dad. And, as a parent of a member of the Class of 2022, I have had the good fortune of watching this class for a very long time — 12 years in fact. And I’ve been connected to the school for even longer — 17 years — thanks to Elliot’s older brother Sam, who graduated from Packer Class of 2017. And our youngest, Owen, spent years as a puppy and a Lower Schooler.
I say all this to lay some foundation for what I am about to share.
As you can see, I’ve been involved with Packer for a very long time and I’ve had the opportunity to watch this Class of 2022 for a long time, and I have never seen a class demonstrate such genuine care for one another. I’ve seen the way you look out for each other and the way you check in on each other and support each other. This is not to say you don’t have incredible drive, intellect, creativity, curiosity, musical talent, athletic prowess and passion for justice. You do — you’ve achieved great things both as individuals and in groups. You are gifted, creative scholars and strong advocates for yourselves and for others.
But the thing I want to recognize is your empathy, your sense of connection to one another. Kindness and empathy may be dubbed “soft skills,” but don’t let that lead you to underestimate their importance. Kindness and empathy are what bring people together. We feel that urgency particularly today, as fear, polarization, and selfish forms of individualism plague so much of our society/country. Building connections to others — including and especially people we don’t see eye to eye with — is the only way to disarm conflict and create lasting, positive change, the only way to heal.
And in this respect, you are ahead of so many of us in the adult world. You have demonstrated your expectations of yourselves and your generation. You have demonstrated your expectations of us. You have advocated for the world you want to live in.
You have shown us – this is the way.
Class of 2022, please take a moment to reflect on your connections to one another and take a moment to thank the people who helped you develop the inner strength to allow you to reach out and support others.
Many of those people are your Packer teachers, advisors, and mentors — they deserve a great deal of the credit for instilling the value of empathy in you. As the parent of a graduate, I want to express my deepest gratitude for the love and care they have shown to all of you — the hours they spent, meeting with you after class to explain a concept, to help you revise an essay or plan an activity, or to just listen to your worries. Thank you to the entire Packer faculty who helped you on your journeys to this evening.
And last but not least — in fact, FIRST and FOREMOST, are your parents. Your parents were your first source of love and support. And they will love and support you long past this moment.
Support from parents comes in many forms: there’s the kind that is like running behind the wobbly bicycle, keeping you balanced, upright. It’s direct, it’s hands on. You feel it, guiding you, catching your fall.
Another kind of support is what we parents are working on right now, today. This support is the opposite of the first kind: it’s the support we show in letting you go. It’s the trust and faith we have in you — not that you’ll never make a mistake or do things we disagree with. (I’m sure you will and that’s ok – we’ll still love you.) It’s the support we show in respecting your adulthood, in letting you make your own decisions.
So, graduates, please – if nothing else, remember this – remember to thank your parents. Thank them for guiding you during the wobbly moments on your bicycle, and thank them for letting you go today.
Class of 2022, may the road ahead be filled with happiness, wonder, and continued care for the people around you.
I thank you, and now invite Dr. Jen Weyburn and Maria Nunes to present your diplomas on behalf of the Packer Board of Trustees