Middle School Closing Exercises Address 2016

Welcome students, teachers and families to our 2016 Middle School Closing Exercises. It’s been a fantastic year in the Middle School, and I am pleased to share a few words with you today before we head into the summer.

Recently, the creator of the American musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, gave the commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania. In his address, Miranda told the crowd that there are over 22,000 words in the show—all specifically chosen and placed carefully and purposely to create his story of Alexander Hamilton. “The simple truth is this,” Miranda said. “Every story you choose to tell, by necessity, omits others from the larger narrative. This act of choosing—the stories we tell versus the stories we leave out—will reverberate across the rest of your life.”
 
The last day of each school year is an important moment. It’s an opportunity to think about where we’ve been and where we’re going. As we ponder this moment today, I ask: what story are you creating? What message are you projecting in the classroom, in the hallways, on the athletic fields or in your home?
 
The story that your life tells is commonly known as your character. We all know the big pieces of character: honesty, respect, kindness and other related virtues. But, it’s the finer points of your character that tell your authentic life story.
 
Consider these examples. When someone shares mostly untrue and divisive gossip with you about another person, do you join the fray and pass it along, or do you bring it to a close and choose not to share?
 
When two of your friends are in an online dispute over friendship, do you add negativity to the group chat, or do you attempt to find common ground among your friends?

Do you help clean your table in the cafeteria even though you didn’t make the mess? When the coffee maker is empty, do you refill it or leave it for the next person? Do you go out of your way to congratulate a friend when that person receives recognition, or when they land that part in the play you were hoping for?
 
These choices define the core of your character. They are the acts that may go unnoticed in the short-run, but added together they paint a colorful and genuine picture—of you.
 
I don’t for a moment stand here advocating perfection. We all have our flaws—it’s the nature of being human. However, over time, the choices you make around the edges of character matter—it’s the aggregate of these decisions that truly define who you are. And, the good news is you get to make these choices each and every day. We are constantly in the act of writing our stories—sometimes revising and always editing.
 
You are the author of your story, so choose wisely. As Lin-Manuel Miranda proclaims “Rise up. [Be] young, scrappy, and hungry, and [don’t] throw away [your] shot. Be in the Room Where it Happens. History Has Its Eyes On You.”

Before I wrap up my remarks this morning, I would like to take a moment to recognize a special teacher—of the highest character—who is retiring in a couple of days and moving to Oregon. Mr. Orr is being acknowledged internally at school, but please join me in thanking him for his tremendous work over the years at GSB. Best wishes Mr. Orr.
 
Thanks for a great year in the Middle School and best wishes to each of our eighth graders as they begin the journey toward Upper School. This summer, take time to swim at the beach, read a good book, play golf and visit with family and friends. Most important, create your story with pride, dignity and respect.
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Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a vigorous, meaningful and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.