Nathan Bronstein, All School President, Commencement Speech, June 6, 2008
I have done a lot of thinking in the past couple weeks. When I first expressed that I wanted to speak today, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I then learned the difference between knowing what to say… and knowing how to say it. And so, that day was followed by countless others spent staring at a blank computer screen, hoping the right words would come. I have never had such a hard time finding those words. There is no doubt that this is a great day—a day of reflection, a day to look ahead, a day to consider our hopes and dreams, and a day to look to the future.
But first, this is a day to say goodbye, a day for closure. Let us not leave today with trailing shadows of our past. Never say goodbye when you still want to change something, never give up when you’re not ready to accept it. Never say you don't love that person anymore, when you’re still not ready to let go. This could be your final chance, so put it all out on the table and don’t be dismayed, because for many of us, our goodbye today is merely a necessity so that we may meet again.
With that, I think it’s time that I, too, put everything out on the table and came clean about a few things myself. First, Shipley, I do not have a perfect record. I actually did receive a blue slip earlier this year. But I received it for perhaps the most boring crime ever. I was caught nibbling on half a cookie outside Ms. Pendergast’s office Okay, here’s the big one, Shipley… I still don’t know the school song… I’ve actually just been silently mouthing the word “watermelon” over and over again at varying speeds so it looked like I was singing along. I mean, I know the green and the blue part of it… but, yeah, that’s pretty much it. There! I said it! Now I feel a lot better, but I’m not quite finished what I wanted to say.
Shipley, I am nowhere near the same person I was four years ago. Back then; I thought I knew what strength was. I thought it meant learning to be entirely self-reliant and independent, learning to depend on nobody else, but still having the capacity to be depended upon. Growing up, this is essentially what I was taught; at my old school I was both everything and nothing at the same time. I was taught again and again to never expect anything. But then everything changed.
This year was the hardest year of my life. And for a time, things got really bad… I began to shut myself off from everyone, choosing to handle everything on my own. I never asked for nor did I expect anyone’s help. But the people before you silently and swiftly came to me and stood by me. This class—these athletes, scholars, artists and musicians—they saved me. They taught me what strength was, because they helped carry my burden in my darkest hour; they gave me someone to depend upon, something and someone to need. And I love this school. I love this class and I love everything we stand for. And I vowed to do everything I could for it, because, in the same way that I found something to need, I also found something to fight for, something to love, and something to give myself too.
Shipley, anyone can give up, that is basically the easiest thing to do in the world. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand it if you fell apart, that’s what true strength is. And this is something I could not exhibit without this class. In the words of my father, “What doesn’t kill you, can only make you stronger.”
The greatest honor I have ever had has been to call myself a member of this class. To the family and friends here watching this today, I say keep watching. Watch where we go and what we do, for we will be the greatest generation. Not because we are, but because we have to be. We are quickly losing the luxury of being those who are reassured, as we take on the great responsibility of being those who do the reassuring. But this is a burden we are ready to carry. We are not perfect, but we are enough. We are a class of dreamers, but we are hard working, passionate, and diligent enough to make our dreams happen.
I can’t say what will happen from here… But I take comfort in that, because, as long as we don’t know what will happen, anything can happen. Though, I am sure of one thing, no matter what happens, one way or another, in the end, it will all work out and it will be all right. Because I know who we are, I’ve what seen we’re capable of, and I know we will not allow the alternative to happen. And so, Shipley, in the words of the famous guitarist Tom Petty, “You and I will meet again/When we're least expecting it/One day in some far off place/I will recognize your face/I won't say goodbye my friend/ For you and I will meet again.” Now I have one last honor, and that is to graduate alongside the largest family I have ever had. And so for one final time, my name is Nate Bronstein, and I thank each and everyone one of you.