Americans look out for one another – graduation 2010

Fellow school committee members, Ms. Sabolinski, Mr. Light, members of the faculty, graduates, parents, and honored guests:

Welcome, congratulations, and greetings.  Thank you all for your continued commitment to, faith in, and support for, the public school system in this town.

And thank you to the administration, faculty and staff of franklin high for making it all work so well.  We are blessed with so many dedicated and talented professionals in this system, and we are happy to have this opportunity to publicly say thank you.

Franklin high class of 2010, you folks were born at the time of the meteoric rise of the man from hope, Arkansas — when  Bill Clinton rose to the presidency.  Your adolescence saw great economic and population growth, but ended with tabloid scandals and the impeachment trial of a president for only the second time in our nation’s history.

You grew as the internet became a way of life.  At age 8, you graduates survived y2k and helped us usher in a new millenium.  I don’t know if you remember, but y2k was a time when people were convinced we were in danger because the world’s computers couldn’t transition from 1999 to 2000.

In your ninth year, you experienced one of the most heart-wrenching attacks on American soil when the twin towers were brought down by terrorists.

As you entered your teens, our nation was engaged in war.

And you have also happened to come of age in one of the worst economic crises since the great depression.

To top it off, you’re now living in a time when america is angry.  America is angry at government, angry at bankers, angry at the media, angry at immigrants, angry at television, angry at traffic, and today, rightfully angry at bp.  There are many varieties of anger permeating the land.

You folks truly have been exposed to much in your short lives.  And it is in that context that i must offer something to suggest to you that all is right in the world and that good things lie ahead.

That’s a challenge.

But let me remind you that despite all of these obstacles, you are Americans at heart.  And while you may not feel it at times, you live in the greatest nation on earth.

Some of the events I described earlier speak to moments when people lost sight of the virtue of working together.  They resulted from greed; from leaders who looked us in the eye and lied;  from terrorists who thought nothing of the lives and families that they were destroying.  In short, they resulted from people who decided to just go about their own business, fend for themselves, and leave problems for somebody else to solve.

But that’s not what Americans do.

We look out for one another.

In that context please remember that, in an interdependent world, we all need to work together.  We need to pull together as families, as the class of 2010, as a community, as a commonwealth, and as a nation.

I used to coach youth sports and I remember one team in particular.  That team had girls of all levels of talent — some very good athletes, and some not so good.  Some big girls, some small girls.  Some meek, some loud.  I wondered how this group would come together.

We assembled one day for practice and i asked the girls to go out into the woods and grab two sticks each, and then come back and sit around in a circle.  They returned with sticks of many shapes and sizes.  I asked them to each pick up the first stick they had and break it.  No one had any trouble snapping the stick.

I then had them bring the second stick up to me so that i could gather them together in a bundle.  There I was standing with 15 sticks of all sizes joined together as one.  I gave all of the girls an opportunity to break that bundle of sticks wrapped together. No one could do it.

And i reminded them that that is how a team works.  You come together in all shapes and sizes and if you stick together, you will succeed.

That group of girls went on to have a great season.  They all showed up for the games and practices and they looked out for one another.  They truly cared about each other and achieved because they were a true team.

And that’s what you folks can do.  Come together for the good of your family, community, and country.  Make the world into the place that Carolyn described.  Fill it with empathy and compassion for others.

As you leave the Franklin public school system, don’t be afraid to take on this call.  Throughout your time here in Franklin, you have given to the community in many ways, and it is certainly our hope that you will continue to do so.

In that spirit, always remember where you came from, and the people who have touched your life.  You will find it helpful in making your decisions about where to go next.

Good luck class of 2010 and keep in touch.

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