What a year! To be honest, I am a little overwhelmed at the moment. I am so used to seeing each of you in a small square with your associated Zoom background. I would also note, things were a lot easier when I could press the mute button, or just turn off my camera. But all in all, I am very thankful we have finally escaped those boxes! While I will certainly miss the mysterious noises from unmuted participants, and the unscripted introductions to all of your broader families as they tried to surreptitiously tiptoe by in the background, I believe we have navigated the complex ways of Zoom rather well together. In fact, although this year has been particularly challenging – as Dickens would have said, “The worst of times,” – I have been both amazed and inspired by the way in which we, both as individuals and as a community, have pulled together to grow, thrive, and create something closer to “the best of times.”
I have been repeatedly asked by friends and family how I was able to stay sane during this year, and I have consistently given the same answer: superheroes. For as long as I can remember, superheroes have mesmerized me - they have been my guiding light. Who could not be inspired by Wonder Woman as she lassoes the evildoers, Superman as he saves the world, and Captain America as he fights for justice?
Even as an adult, I will proudly admit I am a Marvel nerd. And trust me, I’m not the only one who loves Black Widow and Iron Man - it was a bustling and crowded room at the Marvel Club party that we held back in tenth grade. Since then, however, with all the time we have had this year for introspection, my view of superheroes has somewhat expanded. It struck me that there is really not all that big a difference between you, me, and the superheroes we see in movies. True, we cannot snap our fingers and expect half the universe to evaporate to dust, but there is a tremendous amount that we can do both as individuals and even more so as a community to improve the world, one small action at a time. A hero, as Joseph Campbell says, “is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Just imagine how different the world might be if we all did that.
While superheroes teach us all sorts of important life lessons, there are five that I have found particularly inspirational, and that truly seem to embody Hewitt and its community. The first is the connection between courage, compassion, resilience, and character. Steve Rogers was chosen to become Captain America, not because of his physical strength, but because of his refusal to give up and because his decisions and actions came from a pure and well-intentioned heart. The second is the ability to overcome prejudice and embrace differences. Humans despise the mutant X-Men, but instead of using their powers to crush humankind, the X-Men strive to push past these differences and live peacefully together. The third is strength in numbers. Both the Justice League’s and the Avengers’ members’ talents complement each other such that when working together, there is little they cannot accomplish. The fourth is that no one should be defined by her past. The Guardians of the Galaxy are a group of misfits and criminals with questionable histories who ultimately unite to work towards a positive goal. And finally, the fifth is the power of self-sacrifice. Time and time again, superheroes choose the greater good rather than their personal safety or financial gain. I have found during my time here that Hewitt has consistently defined itself around the above qualities.
Our teachers embody much of the superhero mentality I mentioned above; they inspire in us a love of learning, as well as a code of ethics that we will carry with us throughout our lives. Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And our teachers have done just that – they have used their unique talents and strengths to build strong and passionate girls and women. While we do not have time to cover all of our Hewitt teachers’ many positive attributes, I would like to share a few. No one can create a snazzy playlist like Mr. K, no one knows how Caecilius est in horto like Mr. Shapiro, no one has cuter dogs than Dr. Wall, no one can rock every outfit and bring as much pizzazz and energy into a classroom as Ms. Mulbs, and no one can enforce uniform regulations like Ms. Padilla (believe me, I have firsthand experience). On a more serious note, I want to make clear that without the support, wisdom, and care of each and every Hewitt teacher and faculty member, this year’s smooth ride would never have been possible. Sonia Sotomayor once said, “You cannot dream of becoming something you do not know about. You have to learn to dream big.” Hewitt has exposed us to what the world has to offer, to the possibilities open to us. Hewitt’s faculty has not only taught us and allowed us to dream big, but also, as Confucius once said, that “our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,” and for that, we will be forever grateful.
I also want to thank the broader Hewitt community, and particularly my friends and classmates. Over the years, it has become clearer and clearer to me that we collectively have our own superpower - we are stronger together. The combination of our varied skill sets makes us unstoppable. Think about the complete absurdity and unpredictability of this past year. Yet as a team, we pushed through, and even excelled. This collaboration is a talent we value deeply and hope to spread to the many future communities of which we are a part.
Hewitt has taught us well. We will all undoubtedly be successful as we enter this new phase of our lives and climb what David Brooks refers to as the first mountain – that of career wins and financial stability. But what about the second mountain – that of the superhero where a selfless focus on family, vocation, philosophy, and community amplifies gratitude, joy, and kindness? It goes without saying that every superhero has a superpower, and every superhero has a cause. As Arnold Bennett said, “The chief beauty about time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life.” So as you walk through these doors as a Hewitt student for one last time, and contemplate climbing that second mountain, you might ask yourself: what is my superpower, and how am I going to use it to make the world a better place?
Interested in reading more 2021 commencement remarks?
Read A Season of Hope…“At Hewitt” by Gia G., Class of 2021
Read Remarks to the Class of 2021 from Head of School Dr. Tara Christie Kinsey and Commencement Speaker Amy Walter