Three nights ago ASB hosted our annual 8th Grade Ceremony. This event symbolizes the “Closing of Middle School,” and the “Beginning of High School,” for our students. The evening showcased two student hosts, and two class speakers. Sitting in the audience, watching and listening to these four fourteen-year-old ‘kids’ (with the help of their classmates) conduct the entire event, I was blown away and bursting with pride! It was more than just the poise and confidence with which they executed their roles and delivered their speeches that was so impressive, it was also the depth and insight of their thinking, their ability to use rhetoric and humor, their genuine gratitude and awareness of how fortunate they all are, and the tact and intentionality with which they engaged big ideas to craft a vision of their collective future.
Sitting here tonight, at the end of ASB’s 2014-2015 School Year, I cannot think of a better “Last Thought of the Year,” than to share a few excerpts from the speeches of our 8th graders. I have taken the liberty of slicing and pasting parts of their different speeches to form a single piece. Here are the words and thoughts of our 8th graders:
“Oprah Winfrey; a powerful, self-made female leader once said, ‘When I look at the future, it’s so bright, it burns my eyes.’ Before I joined ASB, I had a choice of many schools, and my parents chose ASB for me. I don’t regret it at all. [What defines ASB is] the atmosphere of our community. I’ve gotten to know almost every single person, be they students, teachers, or staff. The intimacy and coziness is what bonds us. We come from different backgrounds, different countries, different ideas, different visions, yet we are an undefeatable team.
Every single teacher in this school has challenged, helped, been frustrated by, and loved us at some point. Without their help, we wouldn’t have built the ethics [nor] learned the content that we need, and I don’t think we would be the people we are without their help. You know the part of ASB’s Mission Statement where it says ‘We inspire all our students,’ well, it’s true. [Our teachers] do.
Middle School has given us opportunities to go out of our comfort zone and pursue our dreams. It has allowed us to discover what we are passionate about, and what we want to try. Working with NGOs and underprivileged children has been an eye-opener. I’ve learned that we can offer so much to these children and they can offer so much to us–sometimes even more than we realize. Being at ASB, and living in India, we learned how easy it is to help and give back. We know we made a difference in the lives of the people we met. Whether it was building them a playground, tutoring them with schoolwork, or playing with them. It [was] difficult to bridge the language and culture gap, but once we succeeded, we made many new friends and learned so much from them. Hopefully, we ended up changing their lives, for the better, the way they changed ours. J.K. Rowling wrote that, ‘There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other,’ and I think this insane, impossible year has definitely been one of them.
I have learned many lessons [during my time] at ASB. One of the most important ones is nicely summarized by the writer Aaron Sorkin, who says: ‘You’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the numbers of times you get back up.’ I believe that every single one of us has the ability to face any challenge or obstacle that gets thrown at us. [And always remember that] no matter who you are facing, or how powerful they ‘Think’ they are, know that you are more powerful. Bette Reese, an officer and a pilot, once said: ‘If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.’ I completely agree! [Class of 2019], you don’t have to be big and powerful to make a difference – you just have to be you.
[In an appropriate conclusion, for a school, like ours, living in the land of Karma, I’d like to say this]: Everything happens for a reason. All our peers and all our teachers have been put in our lives at this intricate moment in time, during Middle School, for a purpose. Whether we’ve known it or not, we have needed each other in some way or another.
At the beginning, of this speech, I quoted Oprah Winfrey, who said, ‘When I look at the future, it’s so bright, it burns my eyes.’ Looking at us, the Class of 2019, I don’t think there is a single one of us who won’t be doing something great fifteen years from now. When I grow older, and see [you all doing what it is you will be doing] I will proudly tell my children that I used to go to school with you. [Until then] let’s continue to grow with ASB. Congratulations on finishing 8th Grade. Good luck in High School! And, thank you, ASB.”
So, that’s what ASB’s 8th graders had to say. I know I couldn’t do better (not today, let alone when I was fourteen). Well done kids, you never cease to amaze us! For those of you who have the time and would like to know what I told the 8th graders, at the ceremony, here’s a video of my speech:
That’s it for now.
Sincerely and gratefully,