I want to share a few thoughts with you tonight about your learning here, the School’s hopes for your future and how you might apply your Kent learning to the “real world”, and, finally, gratitude.
I will be brief in part because you have done a lot of listening in your time at Kent School. In fact, we trained you to be good listeners—in our classrooms and in the many other spaces where learning occurs here. Your presence in St. Joseph’s Chapel this evening is in one way evidence of your success in listening to others. Especially this year, it would not surprise me, if you were weary, if not flat out tired, of listening to others. Tired of being told what to do. I ask that you indulge me tonight for around seven minutes and, more important, Father Schell tomorrow as he launches you with his wisdom on Prize Day. You are actually entering a phase of your life where your skills as listeners will become more helpful— and much more important.
This year I have met many Kent School alumni and alumnae and almost to a person they recall their experience at Kent as students as transformational. That they were transformed—changed from one thing into another—while they were at Kent. The first of our readings tonight from Acts describes Saul’s transformation from being a persecutor of Jesus to literally becoming his biggest fan, his chief salesman. Saul’s transformation offers an easy and obvious metaphor for your transformation here, although I do not think any of you were transformed as dramatically as Saul—by getting struck by lightning. I suspect it will be months or even years before you begin to understand your Kent education and your experience here as transformational.
Believe it or not, I chose this reading from Acts, not for the easy metaphor of transformation it provides, although it is obviously convenient, but rather for this one line: “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what to do.” This is the two-part commandment of Prize Day and your leaving Kent School.
The first part--tomorrow it will be literally time for you to get up and go. You are ready to leave.
The second part of this commandment is to again listen, but not to others as you have done so well at Kent, but to yourselves—to the voice you have developed here. I find the phrase “Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do” to be inspiring, commanding and true. It will require all of your skills as good listeners to hear this voice that will tell you “what you must do” because that voice will be your own. It will be your own voice, your own heart, telling you “what you must do.” My highest hope for you as you leave Kent School is that you have confidence in that voice. Listening to that voice, your voice, will be the key to your living a good life—a fulfilling life. The faculty, staff, your families, your friends, and all who supported you in your time at Kent share this belief: you are ready to listen to your voice.
Tonight’s second reading of the parable of the sower is the subject of much theological debate and interpretation. I wanted to include it tonight because I believe you will leave here as sowers--planters—capable of planting the seeds of community wherever you may go. I actually believe you are uniquely qualified to do this given your experience at Kent during a global pandemic.
You may not yet have recognized this, but you will leave tomorrow with an understanding of how a community works as deep as those students who studied at Kent during the Great Depression and the World Wars. You understand that building and maintaining community requires care, love, and intention—providing care, love, and intention often at your own expense or in the place of your personal gain. Putting the common good above yourself in as simple an act as wearing a mask is the foundation of servant leadership and of community. You are very well-schooled in this kind of leadership. You have learned that successful relationships and the communities they support require intention, diligence, and above all love to maintain.
Like the sower, spread your knowledge of these things generously. The mustard seed reminds us of humility—and the great possibility small beginnings provide. Your small beginning at Kent School is full of possibility, full of promise.
I want to finish my remarks with a practical reminder. We are all here tonight—all of us—because our family, friends, teachers, coaches, advisors, and countless staff members supported us. These people are our angels. In the rush and chaos of activity and emotion in your last hours at Kent please remember to give your angels thanks. They have done much to support you.
On a personal note, I want to thank you all for making my first year at Kent School so rewarding. I am grateful for your leadership and the kindnesses you extended to me and Mrs. Hirschfeld. We are proud of our association with you. And we look forward to welcoming you back to the School as alumni.
Finally, I have been eager to paraphrase for you a portion of the apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Paul is concluding this letter and he writes, “…the hour for my departure is upon me. I have run the race, I have finished the course, I have kept faith.”
Class of 2021, the hour of your departure is upon you. You have finished the race. And you have kept the faith. Well done and congratulations.
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