Opening Commencement Remarks to the Class of 2018

Members of the Class of 2018, we began your senior year talking about superheroes and superpowers, and I am pleased to say I have watched you act the superhero and exhibit your unique superpowers throughout the year.

But this evening we launch you into the real world, and unless you are vigilant and generous, you will see these powers more frequently at the movie theater than along the paths you might walk.

So, for this moment, let’s be real. How are you going to summon up and use your uniqueness when you leave Carlisle School, a place where we all believe in you and encourage you? What will you have to do to remain a hero? And is it even worth the effort to try?

A main character in Lloyd Alexander’s fantasy novel The High King explains,
“Long ago I yearned to be a hero without knowing, in truth, what a hero was. Now, perhaps, I understand it a little better. A grower of turnips or a shaper of clay, a common farmer or a king–every man is a hero if he strives more for others than for himself alone.”

In Jodi Picoult’s novel Second Glance, the narrator notes,
“Heroes didn’t leap tall buildings or stop bullets with an outstretched hand; they didn’t wear boots and capes. They bled, and they bruised, and their superpowers were as simple as listening, or loving. Heroes were ordinary people who knew that even if their own lives were impossibly knotted, they could untangle someone else’s.”

If you pay attention to these two writers — and you should — the key to being a hero is caring. And the question I should ask you is not “How will you use your superpowers?” but rather, simply, “Have we taught you well enough so that you truly care about others more than yourself?”

I hope that answer is yes.

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