Fourth Quarter Honors Assembly 2017
With the end in sight, a brief retrospective is in order. While I intend to speak at greater length and hopefully with greater force at the graduation this weekend, it is difficult not to address the seniors in everything one says at this time of year. While they are undoubtedly eager to partake in the banquet, pull off their prank, attend the picnic, don their robes, and receive their degrees, it is harder for those of us who have been inspired, frustrated, and encouraged by them over the years watch as they clear out their lockers and make their final preparations to be done with Ridgeview. Describing all of this as ‘bittersweet’ is patently cliché.
When one considers all that has gone into a year and the finite number that any of us are granted, time trips by almost unmercifully. We are very near the end, and those of us who teach here are well aware that what we do does not bear immediate fruit. The realization of what you have achieved here, whether in the past year, or over the past thirteen, will likely not sink in for some time to come. Nevertheless, I hope that when it does become clear what you have accomplished, what this place and these people have attempted to do for you, you will look back upon these years wistfully and with some measure of gratitude.
As much as you long for summer, I hope that you have enjoyed the year. If you have not, unfortunately, you have only yourselves to blame since happiness is largely a matter of attitude. It is easy to disregard that, to claim that circumstances beyond our control write our destiny, but there are seniors here who we will celebrate this evening and tomorrow afternoon who have demonstrated the verity of the Heraclitus’ assertion that character is destiny, and of Churchill’s that “attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Epictetus is right, of course, and it is our attitude towards events that we can control, not the events themselves. I am appreciative to all of the students, some of whom have endured things that it seems only a thoroughly unjust world would force them to endure. In so enduring, to those of us who are observant, patient, curious, self-examining – their perseverance and endurance show us what we might be and the possibility of surmounting all that is placed before us. They become our ablest teachers.
For all of those who have been recognized, and for all of those who struggled without being acknowledged, I appreciate you for being good mentors to one another, for carrying yourselves with dignity and self-respect; for looking after your peers, and for thinking of others more than yourselves. I am grateful to you for setting yourself to something difficult, challenging, and in many ways, something unforgiving. Ridgeview’s curriculum, its manner of study, the introspection it requires, the undiluted realism that it asks us to encounter the world with – none of these are perfectly synchronous with the mercuriality of one’s teenage years. That you do as well as you do would be commendable in itself; that you often do exceptionally well in this, speaks volumes about the quality of your character. So, to all of you, thank you for being here and for persisting in hard work at a turbulent time in your young lives.
Our final student of the quarter for the year is a young man of many abilities. Others have known him far better than I have, but they have been clear in their praises. As a singer, as an athlete, as a friend. I have tried to think of some instance in which I heard someone say something disparaging about him, or allude to some dirt they might have on him, and I can think of nothing. His senior thesis made me think about attention, focus, and flow for the past month, and I appreciate his congeniality, affability, and good cheer. Please join me in congratulating Mr. Logan Broedner.
The faculty have met and thought hard about the students we would like to acknowledge with this year’s character awards. These meetings with the faculty are always interesting in that each of us has had a slightly different relationship with any given student. None of us has all of the pieces, and even were we to have all the pieces, our judgment would hardly be infallible. Nevertheless, our student’s character is essential to our ability to sustain and propagate Ridgeview’s unique culture. Neither can our classrooms look like they do nor our conversations proceed as they do if this culture is not maintained. Consequently, it is a matter of some importance to us to take a moment and acknowledge the moral stamina of some of our students in contributing to a positive culture.
First, I would like to acknowledge a young man who has consistently been a good man. He has, of course, done well. Were this all he had done, his tenure here would be unremarkable and merit only mention in passim. Instead, I think that he has endeavored to be conspicuously moral. That is, he was aware of himself and his actions, as well as the events that took place around him, and scrutinized them for their ethical significance. While he and I have disagreed a couple of times, my opinion of him has not been diminished by these disagreements because of the way he comported himself. It is obvious that he takes himself and others seriously, that he approaches life with optimistic good cheer, and attempts to be good in all that he does, whether that is being a friend or a conscientious student. This first of this year’s character awards goes to George Smith.
Second, I would like to acknowledge a young woman whose enthusiasm has rarely waned. Like George, she seemed conscious of what she was doing and how she could be perceived in each moment. Some would see in this a falseness, but I think that we ought to have a regard for whether we are endeavoring to be our best selves, even if sometimes we have to pretend until it takes a deeper hold of us. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Would we preference the company of the malcontent because they were authentic over the company of the person who was trying hard to be better amidst the chaotic swirl of circumstances inclining one to the contrary? I think that others are often given the courage to see the world as it can be by those pretending that it already is. If it is pretense, I hope that it is contagious and that we are all emboldened to be better by it. This is what I have seen in this young woman, and it is for this reason that the second of this year’s character awards goes to Grace Westfall.