Hello! I am honored to be here in front of you all today to be giving my last speech as a Hewitt student. Many of you have heard a fair amount from me throughout the year as student council president, and are probably saying to yourselves, “Here she goes again.” Fear not. As Henry VIII was fond of saying to his many wives, “I shan’t keep you long.”
In the few moments we have together, I thought it would only be fitting to reminisce with you regarding some of my favorite Hewitt memories and the special community that we have here, particularly as those of us in the 12th grade are nearing the end of our wonderful journeys at Hewitt.
You see, we are about to graduate as the 99th class of a school preparing to celebrate 100 years of teaching and empowering women to make their mark on the world. We may look the picture of grace, ease, and perfection up here before you in our white attire, but it has been one crazy and bumpy ride making it through high school.
Sometimes, when looking back on an era such as this one, we have a tendency to edit out the twists and turns because it is easier in retrospect to sum an entire experience up with the end result. However — as the Class of 2019 can tell you, and as I am sure that many of you know — life is rarely ever that simple, and the same can be said for our time here at Hewitt. And yet, through all of the surprises and discontinuity it has been this school — our teachers, our 28 sisters and the entirety of the Hewitt community — that has gotten us to where we are right now.
To give you all a little taste of some of our grade’s more wild moments at Hewitt, I thought that I’d share a little incident that I like to call “Bee Gate.” In my first year here, our seventh grade class went on its annual overnight trip to Blackrock Forest in Upstate New York. It was decided that our grade should take a hike through the woods and so, with trepidation, we set off down a winding trail in the forest. About 30 minutes into the hike, the front of the group unknowingly plodded right over an underground hornet’s nest. As you can imagine, the hornets were not pleased by this. So by the time the 29th pair of feet stepped on that nest, the hornets were out for vengeance. Luckily, I happened to be the 28th pair of feet, but my friend Gia, who was directly behind me, was not so fortunate.
Suddenly, as John Milton would put it, “all hell broke loose,” and hornets were flying right and left. Screams and shouts erupted from the entire grade as the stingers descended upon our line of hikers. Our grade scattered, and, without knowing the source of hornets, we began running back the way we had come, right through the nest for a second time. Somehow I, along with a handful of other lucky survivors, managed to come out of the whole affair unscathed. Unfortunately, as the remaining three quarters of our grade can inform you, others were not so lucky. In the end, I can honestly say that our grade emerged from that experience the stronger for it. And I came back from that Blackrock trip knowing that if our grade could survive “Bee Gate,” we could get through anything in high school together.
Before I continue, I would just like to take a moment to thank our teachers for all they’ve put up with, and all they’ve done for us over the past 12 or 13 years. As our parents can attest, dealing with us is not an easy task. Our teachers, along with the students, are what have made Hewitt such a distinctive and special place for me.
There are a lot of fantastic schools around the country — particularly in this city. And, like Hewitt, many of them do a great job of preparing us to be successful, to make our mark on society, and to achieve personal advancement, which too many in our society equate with money, status, or power. Although individual achievement and success are incredibly important, what most schools don’t prepare their students for is the reality that there is so much more to life than what one individual alone can achieve. At Hewitt, we have all had the privilege of receiving an education that offers profound insight into the movement from self-centered to other-centered, from independence to interdependence — in other words, commitment towards community that we as human beings can make so as to touch the deeper aspects of our being and truly help us and those around us flourish.
If there is one thing that I have never doubted once in my entire time at Hewitt, it is that through all of the ups and downs and twists and turns and curveballs and hornet’s nests that life has thrown my way, there has always been a community here holding me up. Through my time here, I have found that the key to conquering the chaos that is life is in holding onto the threads of continuity that run through it all. In my case, those threads are each and every one of the people sitting behind me right now and the values that they and the Hewitt community have impressed upon me. Values that I know I will carry with me wherever I go.
As one of my favorite Japanese haiku reminds us, “In the cherry blossom’s shade, there is no such thing as a stranger.” I hope you all feel, as I do, that this symbolizes the Hewitt community.
Before I leave you, I want to reveal one last gem. I can’t wait to get this off my chest. Many of you have asked me how I have excelled at Hewitt. And since I am about to graduate, I’m willing to let you in on my little secret. I have found that teachers are much more receptive to my ideas when I attribute them to…Gloria Steinem. So before I end my speech, I wanted to leave you with one final piece of advice from Gloria Steinem.
Never, ever, play leapfrog with a unicorn.
Truth be told, my grandfather taught me that when I was three years old and believed in unicorns, and I’ve been following his advice ever since. Thank you all, and have a great summer!