Members of the School Committee; administrators, faculty, and staff; parents, family, and friends; and, most importantly, members of the Class of 2020 – it is an honor and a privilege to address you this evening.
I truly wish I were looking out at you in person right now. While graduation is always a very special event for me as superintendent, this year it is doubly so. As many of you know, my oldest daughter, Sheila, is a senior, and so I feel twice the pride I typically have for a graduating class. As your superintendent, I am very proud of all that you have accomplished as students. As a Class of 2020 parent who has watched you grow up, my pride and affection for you run very deep. Like my fellow parents, and like you, I have imagined this particular graduation ceremony many times with great anticipation, and it is disappointing that what we assumed we would all experience together cannot be.
But, like many things in life, we cannot choose our circumstances. We can, however, choose our response to those circumstances. Stephen Covey wrote that our ability to choose our response is extremely powerful, as “in our response lies our growth and our freedom.” The requirements to stay at home during this pandemic have made us feel an acute loss of one kind of freedom, but it is important to remember that nothing can take away our freedom to choose how we react to the challenges we face.
That’s not to say that choosing is easy, especially when the right choice is a difficult one to make. An author you are more familiar with, J.K. Rowling, once wrote: “Dark times lie ahead of us, and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” Those words, spoken by Headmaster Albus Dumbledore to the students of Hogwarts about a fictional challenge, apply to you as well. We are living in an extremely challenging time, and over the course of your lives there inevitably will be others, some that affect all of society and some that will be personal to you. I am confident and proud that your education in Shrewsbury has equipped you well to make not only smart choices, but wise ones. Smart choices require using your head, but wise ones mostly require your heart.
As a class, I believe that you have shown tremendous heart in how you have achieved, competed, performed, and – most importantly – how you have supported and served others. Your class motto, “Refuse to lose,” represents the choices you have made to persevere, especially now. As I shared with the community recently, I believe that while it is true that you did lose celebrating your graduation in the traditional way because of this terrible pandemic, I hope and believe that you will refuse to allow these circumstances to define your class and yourselves. I urge you to choose to use this experience to become stronger, more resilient people who go through life with a greater appreciation for what so many of us take for granted – family and friends, health, the security of a home and a job, the opportunity to be educated and the many other opportunities that we all have living in this time and place – then you will not have lost, but gained.
Speaking from my heart, with great pride, I wish you all the very best. On behalf of everyone in the Shrewsbury Public Schools, congratulations on your graduation from Shrewsbury High School.