Dear Briarcliff High School Class of 2012:
Although you may be filled with both excitement and trepidation, I am confident you are indeed prepared to move beyond the comfort of home and high school. Your accomplishments are impressive in their scale and diversity. As a class, you represent great scholarship, artisanship, sportsmanship and uncommon leadership.
You have provided service to others here in Briarcliff Manor, in neighboring communities and places across the world. You have opened hearts and helped others become more accepting of differences. At times you have received accolades for your accomplishments and at times you have struggled and toiled in obscurity. Either way, you have shown character in the face of adversity and you have overcome obstacles to find success. You have made us laugh, you have made us cry and you have certainly made us very, very proud.
You now inherit a world that is swiftly changing, one that can be cruel as it will no longer yield to obsolete notions of stability and security. In fact, those who cling to a simple and predicable world seem lost, frustrated and confused. Yesterday was an era in which we were defined by what we “did” from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. One needed only to gain entry into a profession or career upon completion of school and life’s rewards seemed certain. Today, it is estimated that the average young person will not only change jobs, but will change careers 5 to 10 times during their working lives. So it is more important than ever that one possess the skills and fortitude to define and redefine him or herself.
Yet, you are young and perhaps best suited to find your place in a world that demands the very qualities of youth. A well-rounded education is of course fundamental, but possessing a youthful state of mind, temerity and a tempered disposition, a thirst for adventure, imagination, courage as well as humility inextricable yet reconciled with an unbridled sense of self is essential. We live in a revolutionary world, one in which young people increasingly must and have taken the lead. Across the globe, young people have borne a greater level of responsibility than any generation before. Whether your involvement brings about the liberation of people, creates a new social media phenomenon, or simply voices displeasure with a broken financial system, your involvement matters and you can make a difference.
So what should I say to you before you go? What might I say to you that has not been expressly conveyed in the classroom or measured on an exam? As I ponder your many good deeds and wonderful dispositions, I cannot help but juxtapose them with the contemporary notion of success. Thus, the answer seems rather plain. The widely subscribed notion that our hopes and beliefs must bend to our immediate necessities is erroneous. The belief that personal gain is best measured by material possession is incomplete. The assertion that the goal of life is to live in “comfort” rings hollow. And finally, the divide between our ideals and what is
realistic is overstated. There is no irreconcilable contradiction between what we know in our minds and what we feel in our hearts. Indeed, our ideals, our aspirations, and our most closely held convictions are not incompatible with the necessary and applicable solutions to the problems before us. In fact, if we are to overcome the immediate dangers and challenges we face as individuals, as a community, and as a nation, we will need to embrace our fundamental ideals, summon our collective courage, and accept the discomfort that comes with sacrifice and change.
So I say to you — the Class of 2012 — take the world by storm! There is great opportunity for one who will be true to her ideals and for one who will be bold in his efforts. And there are great rewards in this brave new world for those who will remain young in heart, mind and spirit.