Speakers launch this year’s graduates out into the world with messages of kindness, confidence, support and gratitude
The vocabulary of graduation oratory is often assertive and forceful, celebrating achievement, ambition and action. But the words that echoed through the Estes Athletic Center on Saturday, May 25 came from a different lexicon: one that celebrates gratitude, support, kindness, comfort, and fun. The graduation speakers all spoke from the heart, and each found a way to anchor their remarks firmly in the Trinity culture of compassion and community.
English and theatre teacher Chris Williamson ’00 stole the show with his trademark mix of sentimental sincerity and dry wit — interweaving cogent maxims with fantastical anecdotes about how to make (and live with) life’s endless choices. There was laughter and there were tears.
“I want to talk about gratitude, which is a subject I don't think we talk about enough here at Trinity, and the reason is obvious — it's because there’s no G in [the word] Titans,” said Williamson to roars of laughter. “We all know that Titans are Trustworthy, Intentional, Tough, Altruistic, Neighborly and Sincere, but think about all the attributes we are leaving on the table because of our short mascot name.”
Shifting to the sincere, Williamson publicly thanked his own parents. “They knew that Trinity was the right school, even before I did. My mother and father placed my priorities ahead of their own,” he said, before extending that gratitude to all the parents and grandparents in attendance. “I've seen firsthand the sacrifices you have made for your own children and grandchildren. Watching all of you has made me a much more grateful son and a wiser father."
Board Chair Rob Methven, who had taught the class of 2018 about the Maori word whanau (family) last year, had a new word from his home country of New Zealand for this year’s graduates. The Maori word aroha [uh-RO-huh], which means compassion and kindness, is perfectly suited to Trinity’s philosophy, said Methven. “Each day you wake up, choose to lead with aroha — with compassion, with empathy, with kindness — and with a willingness to listen to those around you,” he said. “Lead with what it means to be a Titan.”
Caroline Benedetti ’19, valedictorian, compared the moment to the experience of the title character of Disney’s The Lion King. “We are all a very young Simba. High school was our time to explore ‘everything the light touches,’" she said. “Like Simba we are about to experience a radical change in our lives. Whether you are going to college, taking a gap year, or pursuing other interests, you are about to leave behind the structure, support and comfort of a daily routine and the amazing people on this campus –– you may have to rely only on yourself for the first time... I challenge you to lean into this uncertainty.”
For Hannah Collier ’19, salutatorian, rising to the frequent, varied challenges of high school, could not have been accomplished without the help and support of her “running buddies,” both literal and figurative. “Running isn’t fun,” she said. “Anyone who tells you it is, is probably faking it, or just used to it... having someone right there next to you, to motivate you, to propel you forward, and to share your burdens is priceless, and makes it all the more enjoyable.”
"Here at Trinity, we are all fortunate enough to be surrounded by individuals willing to listen to you,” said Collier. “In my experience, every faculty member I've approached has always been willing to be that buddy for me and those around me when we seem to be lacking. However much of my support and my drive has come from my class, the class of 2019. ... I feel as though I have been pushed forward by all my peers in one way or another."
In a fitting preamble to each these varied, yet thoughtful paeans, Head of School Rob Short reminded them that the key to life is all in maintaining the right perspective. “Life is full of surprises, bumps in the road, wrong turns, and flat-out failures,” he said. “Reflect on your journey constructively. Recognize where you missed an opportunity, but don't wallow in missteps.”
"You will be the ones to architect the future,” Short concluded. “Do it with the right perspective, and you really can't fail."