Head of School Kathy Giles addressed the Class of 2016 on Monday, May 30 during the commencement ceremony. Here are excerpts from her remarks:
Having our graduation speaker be a Wall Street Journal guy turned my thoughts to business and investment. For the past few years, we have been involved in a fundraising campaign for the future of the School. Our value proposition is that an investment in the education of young people, present and future, is the best investment one can make for society.
As I have met with many good people asking for their help, I and we have asked ourselves – exactly how are we – Middlesex – worthy of peoples’ investment? What do people look for when they are investing? What do they need to see? What do they need to feel is important? What makes them want to make the investment? How to make those connections?
Here at school, we are in the people business – the business of growing great people – and so as the question continues to develop, it becomes the broader question: How can we help our students to be the kind of people other people want to invest in? As always, my thoughts turn to our students and especially today, our seniors.
As you our seniors go on to that next step, the same questions about investment go with you: how to set some worthy and inspirational and motivational goals? How to become connected, productive, and successful in your new place, with your new people? And unless you really want to go it alone as a sole proprietor, probably the most important question is how to get people to invest in you, to provide you with capital, whether it is emotional or financial or of any other sort, for you to turn around and invest in building things – relationships, organizations, teams, businesses, families, your life. More and more, people important to you will be less interested in your promise than they are in your product – in what you create, in what you contribute, in how you connect, in how you envision good next steps in ways that inspire others to want to join you. This will be true for people who want to hire you, who want to befriend you, who want to commit to you as investors and want to commit to you as partners, in business or in life.
We’ve had some good advice on being people in whom other people want to invest from local sources.
Jake Ronan: be a do-er (the early bird, etc.)
Hannah Beerman: be brave in pursuit of your dreams – don’t be afraid to go it alone, because you don’t have to be alone if you reach out to others.
Eliot Pierpont: don’t just stand there and take mean punches; don’t be scared off, because you are not the kind of person who runs away, but learn to counter punch, and challenge yourself doing hard things that make you brave.
Mari Herrema: let yourself fall in love with people (and let them fall in love with you)
Kojo Edzie – know how to make changes to meet priorities and be a problem-solver for other people, not just for yourself.
And Kojo’s advice is a throwback to Emmanuel Jaal, the young peace activist we met last winter and with whom Dr. Erickson, Dr. Schaeberle, and I made our dance debuts. When he asked us what the biggest problem facing our society is, the answer was most definitely not “ourselves.” Being able to overcome personal challenges and indeed, not making personal problems the center of one’s life is a true pre-requisite for having something to offer others for their investment.
So with all of this good advice in the water in which we swim, so to speak, I couldn’t help but make the connection with faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love –advice that is common at weddings and unions and times when people want to affirm the most important kinds of investment in each other – the faith, the hope, the love. Today you launch into a world that will ask you cynical questions about whether it isn’t better to take than to receive, to tear down rather than build, to criticize rather than encourage – in short, to be a raider rather than an investor, to seek only profit for yourself without any of the productivity, to look only to your own benefit and not care about what happens to others. On a fundamental level, we all know better than that; and yet, that question of what is worth our investment seems to be a topic for debate, these days, in the environment in which you will build your relationships, your lives, your careers, your legacies. We’re happy that we invested in you, and as we wish you well today, we’re confident that you are well-equipped to address those many questions. In fact, our investment has never felt more promising.