Good morning, everyone. I am Maya, this year’s student council president, and I am overjoyed and, I will admit or you will soon see, quite emotional to be here today and to be speaking with all of you.
First, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank each and every one of my fellow graduates for bringing their determined, lively, authentic selves to this community. And I want to thank the audience, our biggest supporters, for fostering an environment where that authenticity and individuality is valued. As our teachers, you have challenged us to reach further into and for our potential. As our guardians, you have introduced us to the world and encouraged us to explore.
This class, along with our entire generation, has grown up in challenging times, to say the least. I do not need to tell any of you that they were and are tumultuous, unprecedented, and chaotic—or any other adjective that has been rightfully used again and again to describe this era. The bottom line is, upon graduation, the world we are to launch ourselves into is not perfect. The spaces we call home and the elements that make up our home have deep flaws, whether that be our Earth through climate change, our systems through ingrained racism, our schools through gun violence, our cities through homelessness, or our governments through deep partisanship.
Like the world and like every person, Hewitt is and always will be imperfect. However beautiful and generous, however perspective-changing and joyful, however guiding in the formation of who I am and who I want to be, of who we are and want to be, Hewitt will always have flaws. The issues of the real world find sneaky ways to manifest themselves in our little bubble of a school community.
But this graduating class proves that the Hewitt bubble—to continue with the cliché—equips its students with the critical thinking skills and activism needed to acknowledge and to rectify those issues. We know we have no excuse to be passive, to accept injustice. Hewitt empowers each of its students to effectuate their own visions for improvement. This year, as student council president, I have used my platform to celebrate and uplift others by encouraging younger students to engage with and present to the entire community; collecting and shouting out the accomplishments of students and teachers during Town Hall meetings; and carrying out traditions, new and old, which bring us together as a community.
I have witnessed my fellow graduates using their agency, their voices, and their platforms to host nationwide conferences and interschool partnerships to fight for environmental justice and concrete responses to climate change; by tackling sex-based inequities in healthcare access in the city and across the world; by donating their time and resources—from sandwiches to dance shoes—to alleviate economic burdens; by advocating for prison reform on Rikers Island; by bolstering cultural appreciation in our classrooms and along our halls; by fundraising for cancer research and cleft lip surgeries; by coalescing youth against voter suppression; and by pushing for better mental health resources at Hewitt and beyond.
In the past four years, we have found a home on the streets protesting for abortion rights, for stricter gun safety laws, against incidents of police brutality and racially motivated violence, and for international climate action. And we will need to do so again.
I commend this grade for approaching and recognizing these issues, in the world and in our community, with genuine love. We seek out these challenges and tackle these flaws because we strongly believe in and want to honor the core values and potential of our home.
On that note, I would like to share a few snippets from a poem by Amanda Gorman called “Hymn for the Hurting,” which was written in response to the tragic school massacre in Uvalde, Texas. Please do not have any expectations that my recitation will be as musical as hers, but here we go:
Our hearts shadowed and strange,
Minds made muddied and mute.
We carry tragedy, terrifying and true.
And yet none of it is new;
We knew it as home,
Thus while hate cannot be terminated,
It can be transformed
Into a love that lets us live.
May we not just grieve, but give:
May we not just ache, but act;
Maybe everything hurts,
Our hearts shadowed & strange.
But only when everything hurts
May everything change.
The graduating Class of 2022 will make change, I am sure of it. And I am already proud of us for using our voices, passion, and optimism in the service of our home at Hewitt and our homes beyond this one. So as we move on to the next steps of our lives, please keep that love, that faith. Keep that agency, that courage, that kindness. Care about the world - this home and the homes you will make in the next chapters. And may you always find a home in change-making.
Interested in reading more 2022 commencement remarks?
Read We Are Home by Carley G., Class of 2022
Read Creating Your Own Path by Dr. Tara Christie Kinsey