Sunday, June 5, 2011

Congratulations To The BHS Class of 2011!

It was a beautiful afternoon as we celebrated the graduation of the Class of 2011 on varsity field. You can see the photos I took from this afternoon above.

My words to our departing seniors and those in attendance were as follows:

Good Afternoon - Burlington School Committee, representatives from the Burlington Board of Selectmen and other town committees, Teachers, Parents, Grandparents, Friends and Family, and especially the Class of 2011. 

I am aware that there is a perception in some academic institutions that school officials should give long inspirational speeches to outgoing graduates and their families. While I am sure I could deliver on the length requirement, I am equally confident that I would fall short on the inspirational component.  

Therefore, I will guarantee one thing...brevity.  Our time to impart words of wisdom, as your teachers and administrators, is ending.  Knowing this certainly creates some anxiety as we wonder if we forgot anything important. But after spending the last four years with you, we at BHS have both pride and confidence in what the members of the Class of 2011 will accomplish.

However, there are a couple of things I would like to say today before you receive your BHS diploma.  First and foremost, don't internalize negative generalizations about you or your generation. It is human nature for people to question that which they do not understand and with things in our world changing more quickly than ever, understanding this grows more complicated each day.  I would like to share an excerpt about this phenomenon from NYU professor Clay Shirky's book Cognitive Surplus which describes how Baby Boomers looked at my generation which was labeled...Generation X.
"Young people born in the decades after the Baby Boom were labeled Generation X and they began entering the workforce in the late 1980's. Generation x'ers were said to be "slackers" because they didn't exhibit the straightforward work ethic of their predecessors. Commentators wrung their hands about the slackers in our midst...Then in the early 1990's a funny thing happened: Generation Xers started founding companies, joining start-ups, and working round the clock in pursuit of new opportunities. Generation xers weren't slackers at all - they were entrepreneurial! How could we have gotten it so wrong? It's simple: we didn't factor in the environment in which the then twenty-somethings were living." 

Well in case you haven't heard yet, your Generation has been labeled as well and due to the growing complexity of things, more than one label was needed. You have been designated Generation Y, Millenials, Generation Next and of courseNET Generation. Wikipedia says the following about your generation: "it is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies."
This penchant for using technology is one of the major misunderstandings that many have with your generation. However, I have faith that you will use new resources to improve our world. We have certainly seen a number of examples of this in our world this year. Again if I may go back to Clay Shirky who has comforting words about your behavior for those who do not understand:
"Although so much of what kids are doing online may look trivial and frivolous, what they are doing is building the capacity to connect, to communicate, and ultimately to mobilize."
So as you prepare to mobilize, I do want to remind you to take time to be thankful and reflect on what you have accomplished. Surely you have all overcome bumps in the road to get to this point and these obstacles cannot be navigated without some support from friends, family, and your great teachers.  Congratulations to the Class of 2011 and all who made it possible for these young men and women to arrive at this point today.

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