Headmaster’s Graduation Address, 2019
Good Evening Everyone! Tonight is that Bookend Experience for all of us, ending and celebrating a GREAT School year. And for these Incredible 7 students, it is the Bookends of their high school career. Four years ago, our focus was to take you IN; tonight is much more exciting, and maybe a bit intimidating, we are sending you OUT!
Tonight you get to experience the ultimate goal of JRHS, the goal you committed to the moment you first came through the door – to be sent out!
Somewhere in the past 1-4 years, you made a covenant with JRHS, pledging to do your part to fulfill the mission of JRHS:
To become a vibrant Christian Community
To pursue Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding
To become an effective Leader for Jesus Christ
I have conducted and attended enough graduations to know there are two common errors associated with this austere ceremony:
1. Viewing it as an end, as opposed to a beginning – we need to think commencement, which is where we get our common word “to commence”, as on a journey.
2. Filling your heads and the listening audience with liberal blather mantras like, “go be what you want to be”; “go now and forge your destiny”, and other such nonsense that is a gross mis-representation of how God has designed us!
We will work hard to avoid both of these bad roads, and, rather, the best parting advice I can give you is to tie into the great body of work that is going to forge you into something spectacular based upon an eternal standard, not today’s whims and fancies. And, to give us something to chew upon, I’m going to share with you 5 time-proven principles that will make a great man or woman out of you. For this, I’m indebted to my new favorite author, Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska, and his new book on “Adulting”.
From his intro: “We need our emerging generation to become fully functioning American adults, providing for their families, investing in their communities, and showing the ability to raise children who will carry on after them….We need curious, critical, engaged young people who can demonstrate initiative and innovation so the US can compete with a growing list of economic, military, and technological rivals in the twenty-first century…The generation now coming of age is going to need even greater resilience and grit than previous ages.”
This is quite a tall order, and yet, as I studied his five themes, I marveled at how poised JRHS is to profoundly impact our students in the direction he is outlining.
The first one is to Live Intergenerationally or, to avoid a life of Age Segregation. He writes: “We need to find ways to liberate our kids from the tyranny of the present,” and be more in tuned to the generations of people before them that have not lived the current level of age segregation that our kids face. One basic way to do this is to know other people, especially older people. The hyper-generational segregation of our time is bizarre, unhealthy, and historically unprecedented.”
I think of the many ages represented in a JRHS year, from children to elderly, and would therefore pose the challenge to you as graduates that this is a very healthy way to live. Even in the dorm life that is ahead for many of you, find good, older mentors to help you navigate life’s difficult waters.
Number 2 is Work Hard Sasse writes: “Bizarrely, our culture is now trying to protect kids from hard experiences. We should be running in exactly the opposite direction; we should be figuring out how to help them build a menu of really hard tasks to tackle. They need to know in their hearts and in their bones that suffering is not something to be avoided, but conquered…that suffering in our work is actually a character building virtue.”
So, what do you think class of 2019, have we given you enough “Do Hard Things” to learn from! Wow, now that’s not a popular enrollment topic to have with new parents, but, let’s face it – every great American of all time has been a great worker, and most cultural analysts will attest that a broad swath of Gens Y and Z are not growing up in a culture of hard, meaningful work. Graduates tonight, I would challenge you that real-life, life at its fullest, is just like mountain climbing.
Number 3: Resist Consumption. From Ben: “We just consume too much stuff. And yet, people remain unhappy and uncertain as to why…consumption is not the key to happiness; production is. Meaningful work – that actually serves and benefits a neighbor, thereby making a real difference in the world – contributes to long-term happiness and well-being. Consumption just consumes.”
I believe at JRHS we have modeled this quite well to you. The challenge is still there for you to continue to think and be “other-oriented” in your personal philosophy to all things consumption, be they real or virtual.
Number 4: Travel to experience the difference between “Need” and “Want” He writes: “You can learn a lot about your own culture by experiencing other cultures. Meaningful travel…is about engaging people in a culture who have assumptions about life, about economics, about government, far different than yours. And, it is especially about experiencing subsistence living, connection to food acquisition, nature, and necessity.”
It has been our intent to find ways to show you the world’s less fortunate, such that you can live appropriately and biblically in your affluence. We will never know how these experiences have impacted your heart, mind and world-view, but we know one thing: you are far better off for it. My challenge to you now is to continue to grow in your understanding of the world’s economics.
And, Lastly, Number 5: Become Truly Literate “Do you know how to read well? How to read critically – and therefore to think critically? America’s Founders understood literacy as a prerequisite for freedom and our form of self-government. Once we know how to read, what we read matters. So let’s build some reading lists of books you plan to wrestle with and be shaped by for the rest of your lifetime.”
This too has been a hallmark of your education – the reading of great literature across the ages and genres, all indexed towards the formation of a Biblical Worldview. So now you have a good base, and your bookshelf is maybe half full. Keep filling it!
To Summarize Senator Ben Sasse’s points, let’s review:
Travel with a purpose
Become truly literate
Some great advice for you going forth from JRHS tonight.
Graduation class of 2019, I commend you on your part of this process, and may it be a model for years of leadership ahead of you. You have done much for JRHS, your influence has been felt, and you will be missed. The underclassmen have their work cut out for them to fill your shoes!
You have been here 1,2, 3, or 4 years. You came with all the normal blessings and baggage. You have achieved, and risen above what your culture will expect of you. You are the chosen ones, the lucky ones. On behalf of the entire JRHS Board, Faculty and staff, let me communicate to you that we are very proud of you.
May the Lord Bless you as individuals and an Alumni class as you go forth from here!
We now want to show everyone how wonderful you and all the underclassmen are. For those of you who have not yet seen the Mission Celebration Video, enjoy and be blessed.