Graduates: Make the Future Yours

Head of School Kathy Giles addressed the Class of 2015 on Sunday, May 31 during the commencement ceremony.  Below are excerpts from her remarks.

Eleanor Roosevelt said: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Everyone here has learned to dream big. But what makes for beauty in one’s dreams?  What makes for beauty in which one can believe? Believing is important.  We know beauty when we see it – in part, because we’ve become trained to certain images of physical beauty, through the media, through arts, through our work in biology and physics and literature and mathematics and language and history – and, at least I hope, in part because of our own experiences with beauty.  The English Romantic poet John Keats told us in his “Ode to a Grecian Urn”: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” So we know it when we see it and when we feel the truth of it – but with apologies to Keats, that isn’t necessarily all we need to know, that isn’t necessarily enough to believe.  There is for all of us the sense that dreams are bigger than goals – they are worth more to us, they are dearer and more intimate and more risky and more inspirational and more worth whatever it takes to pursue them.  We plan with our heads, but we dream with our heads and our hearts and our spirits.  There is something more powerful that makes dreams worthy of our belief.

Plato’s muse Diotima, as a character in the Symposium, tells Socrates that the real purpose of love lies in “giving birth to beauty, whether in body or in soul.  … Beauty is in harmony with the Divine.  …  And what is fitting (for a soul to bring to birth)?  Wisdom and the rest of virtue, which all poets beget, as well as the craftsmen who are said to be creative.  But by far the most beautiful part of wisdom deals with the proper ordering of cities and households, and that is called moderation and justice.”  Poets, artists, craftsmen, politicians, wise people, mothers and fathers – beauty belongs to all who create, who inspire, who serve.  Beauty, then, is a force, a discipline, a habit of being, as well as a feeling or observation.  It is generative, giving birth to other goods; it is creative, and it lies in the creation of love, wisdom and justice.  Dreams that are beautiful, dreams that inspire us to believe in their beauty, are by their nature not just about us, or what we want, or what fame we can win or what prizes we might earn.  I hope the dreams you build can incorporate the beauty that inspires your belief and that of those around you, that they can create love, wisdom, and justice in a world that needs your help, your leadership, your belief.  

And finally, I hope that you will be able to believe in the beauty of your dreams.  Dreams need to be able to somehow incorporate everything we learn about life, from surreal joys to disappointment and perceived failures, all of which become part of our full humanity.  All of the experiences you have can be incorporated into your dreams – the dreams you can continue to adjust throughout your life not because you suffer defeat but because you know more, you love more, you understand justice better, you seek and learn wisdom.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.  My final wish for you is that you will make it yours.