Good morning everyone, and thank you all so much for being here to celebrate with us, the class of 2018!
Like many other seniors, I'm sure, I've spent a lot of time thinking about this day, this morning, this big white tent, which we've walked under as young, immature, excited but somewhat frightened high school students, and from which we'll exit less than an hour from now as young, immature, excited but somewhat frightened high school graduates. Something I've heard many, many times on our road to this particular tent is a countdown, a countdown that comes up in our conversations, is written in our calendars, and is displayed on the timers ticking down on our phones: 4 years to go, then 3, then 2, then 1, then 100 days, then 50 days, then 1 week, 1 day, one hour to go, leading all the way up to the rapidly approaching moment when we'll be blessed, cheered for, and officially sent out into the rest of the world, with deposited checks at our future colleges and our limited adolescent knowledge of how to exist as real, functioning people.
I don't think I'm only speaking for myself when I say that, at times, that ever-shortening countdown towards the future has been nerve-wracking, heart-wrenching, and just downright scary. But at other times, that ticking clock has meant hope, excitement, and optimism, as we sign letters of commitment to play sports at our various colleges, shop for decorations for our dorm rooms, and start imagining coffee runs and weekend trips with our future new friends. Honestly, I think that each and every one of us are fully prepared for these happy futures, despite the little elements of nervousness that come with them, because to me, St. Andrew's-Sewanee isn't just a college prep school--it's a life prep school.
In between frantically taking down notes in U.S. History, struggling to survive Mr. Diamond's conceptual physics project, looking up dozens of symbols in Mrs. Brunton's English classes, and desperately trying to understand what Tillich was saying in Dynamics of Faith, SAS taught me a lot of things. It taught me hard work and diligence, leadership and creativity, how to celebrate success and how to pick myself up from failure, how to learn from and come to appreciate the good times along with those not so good times. But what I believe makes St. Andrew's-Sewanee such a unique and remarkable place is that fact that this school taught me how to love: how to love myself, how to love my peers, my teachers, my coaches, my community, and my world.
When I say that in this place, we love one another, that doesn't necessarily mean that we always like one another. As with any family, we have our little disagreements, our miscommunications, our differences of opinion, but I believe there are bonds of community, friendship, and love at the core of this class and of this school.
There are experiences of love in this place that will be forever burned into my brain: bright, shining moments of a crowd running onto the court after a basketball game, McCrory filled with applause after a beautiful Creative Expression performance, and the smiles and celebrations at the sight of Mrs. Asmussen standing up with her wand to announce good news about our futures. But what I think I'll remember even more than the beauty of those moments of excitement is the love that I see permeating daily life at SAS, even the mundane, boring days and those days accompanied by disappointment and sadness. At SAS, we congratulate our players for their efforts even when their team loses a game. We cheer for student performances even when they go a little sour. We celebrate with the graduates here today, even if parents, friends, or the graduates themselves might be nervous about what life might look like beyond the gates of SAS.
This love has given all of us the freedom to try new things because we knew we would be supported; to make mistakes, because we knew that we wouldn't be judged for them; to learn and grow and sometimes embarrass ourselves, because we weren't afraid that somehow, someday, we would stop being welcomed here. In short, this love gave us an endless supply of courage—the courage to be ourselves.
Our class has a unique advantage in that each of us has spent at least two years at this school, which has given us the time we needed to fully experience the breadth of opportunities given to us and the depth of love felt for us by our teachers, peers, and the entire community. I know it may sound cliche, but I truly think that the time we've shared together has made a significant impact on every single one of us. We came into SAS as one thing and are leaving it as another--not as different people, but as more evolved versions of ourselves. Together, we've learned to be better students, better athletes, better artists, better friends, better people because of the foundation of love that resides in this place and which has supported us in all of our endeavors.
Now, as we spread out from California to Massachusetts, from Texas to France, from Indiana to right down the road, we're going to have to use a lot of the courage that SAS has given us. Like it or not, in a few minutes, we're going to have to walk out from underneath this tent. And as we do, I hope we can take our last few seconds as SAS students before the ticking clock runs out to share one final moment of courage, of love, of celebration of not only who we are now, but of who we're going to be.