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To All Graduates - A Word from Peter Simons

5 June 2020

With all the events unfolding in our world today, I wanted to take a moment to offer my congratulations to the graduating high school class of 2020. This milestone, a rite of passage into adulthood, is the culmination of years of diligent work, showing resilience in challenging moments and a commitment to the Socratic belief that a questioned life and the search for knowledge, truth, and wisdom are worthy, lifelong ambitions. We are all so very proud of you.

To all the teachers, parents, and mentors, thank you. It truly does take a village to raise a child. Your dedication and generosity towards our children have set an example for us all. Please accept my heartfelt admiration and gratitude for your enduring efforts. Your tireless work has readied them to embark on their own paths, each with the potential to change the course of mankind. Your vocation, teaching, is truly the noblest of callings.

To the class of 2020, allow me to address you first as a father; my son, Nicolas, is graduating by your side this year. I can only imagine your disappointment at being denied the opportunity to celebrate your efforts, accomplishments, and friendships made over these past years in your academic community. My heart sincerely goes out to each and every one of you, and I wonder what words of consolation I can offer. What humble wisdom acquired from my life experience can I share?

Above all, remember that your lives will always be defined by the love, generosity, energy, and kindness that you invest in what is important and within your power to change. Dreamers, builders, change-makers, and all those who lead exceptional lives grasp what is meaningful and work to enlarge the scope of what is able to be controlled. It is their imagination and energy that can truly bring about change in the smallest and largest of ways.

Recent events in our world have revealed our humanity and our dependence on each other. Despite the circumstances, know that you are living during a historic time—not a fleeting moment, but a significant period that will live on in our collective memories for generations. It has been said that the graduating class of 2020 will be defined by these historic events. In truth, though, what will define you is not the current situation, but how you respond to it. Will you languish in loss or rise with resilience to effect change? Will you accept the new normal or reinvent it?

Use this moment to dream, to imagine the kind of world you want to live in, to define your generation and our future with compassion, generosity, and humanity for the young, old, infirm, marginalized, and poor. Social inequality, the environment, education, healthcare, combating racial injustice; historic moments are not about loss but about the opportunity to realize your potential and fulfill your destiny. 

Class of 2020, you leave here today with my admiration and respect for all you have accomplished. Yet most importantly, you leave with my hope. Hope that you will seize this moment for change. Hope that you will find the strength, resilience, and humanity to imagine and build a better world for those who follow.

Carpe diem,

Peter Simons