Creativity, civility and responsibility – graduation 2011

Giving a diploma to my daughter Natalie, a member of the class of 2011.

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 the Franklin school system – pre-k to grade 12 —  for making it all work so well.  The School Committee is happy to have this opportunity to publicly say thank you.

In particular, I want to say a special thank you to one of your assistant principals who is retiring in a few days after so many years of dedicated service to franklin.  He’s made Franklin high a great place and will be missed.

Joe Dilorenzo.  Thank you for such a great job!

I’m honored to be here on behalf of the School Committee.  But it’s also very special to be here as your classmate Natalie’s dad.  I know i speak for all the parents in the room when i say that we dreamed of a day like this; we are proud of you; and, we wish you the best.

Franklin high class of 2011, you graduate in a year of great challenges throughout the world – where unparalleled channels of communication foster freedom uprisings; where our leaders struggle to bring peace among nations; and when the very fabric of the american spirit is tested.

To meet these challenges, i ask you to consider three words – creativity, civility, & responsibility.

On creativity, a few years ago i stumbled upon a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes.  He said:  “Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them.”

Let me say that again:  “Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them.”

Please don’t be one of them!

Be sure to let that music out over the course of your lives.  Try to be that song that enhances a dramatic scene or brings a smile to others; that painting whose lines, shapes and colors add warmth to a room; that play that stops us in our tracks and makes us think again.

A few moments ago, Samantha, Dan & Amy shared some wonderful words with us.  A few weeks ago, Dan’s mother shared an essay he wrote on the impact of music in his life.  I want to share a few lines from it because it demonstrates the power of creativity and I am certain it will remind you of some of your experiences in music, theater, art, sports, or any of the clubs or activities you’ve enjoyed:

Dan wrote:  “Within the FHS jazz band, i was exposed to the ideas and interpretations of my fellow students. I listened to the other players bounce ideas off of each other and consequently respond; I began to feel the music, not just hear the notes and rhythms, but emotionally understand the nuances of every subtlety. It allowed for expression and creation unlike anywhere I have ever seen.”

Thank you Dan for letting the music out.

On civility, it’s unfortunate that we live in a heightened climate of anger, with much finger-pointing and a rush to judgment on the assignment of blame.    While there is bitterness in america, it is not an accurate reflection of the American spirit.  America has long been viewed as a miracle, and we can do better simply by showing greater civility and respect for one another.

As President Obama reminded us a few months ago, we have an “occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.”  and as one of your former Principals Mr. Lucas used to remind us, it’s as simple as being good to one another.

On the third word, please remember that we have a generational responsibility to one another:  to create educational, economic and social opportunities for young people through our public school system;  to care for those in the twilight years through social security and medicare programs; and for those in the shadows, to provide basic needs to ensure that they are not deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  That’s our responsibility to one another.

Today, our generations are gathered in this room:  children, parents, grandparents, and probably some great grandparents.  We are here for each other, celebrating a part of what we do for one another.  I hope the energy and enthusiasm for generational responsibility in this room continues after we leave here.

Creativity, civility, and responsibility.  It’s our task to put those words into action.

You can do that by doing what artists do best.  Be a part of the great world orchestra where you and those around you are the musicians.  Let your music complement your fellow performers, and create sounds that resonate, harmonize, and glorify the art of working together.

If everyone went about their business the way musicians do – where your actions complement others, think about how different the world would be.  It’s up to you class of 2011 to take us to that place.

Let the music out over your next 60, 70 or 80 years of living and never let it be said that the class of 2011 kept the music within.

Good luck class of 2011 and keep in touch.

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