by Sam Sattin Torres '08
Good Morning All,
I’d like to extend a warm welcome to the families who have traveled from near and far, welcome to friends, loved ones, staff, faculty, alumnae, trustees, and honored guests. Seniors, welcome to your graduation ceremony! Today, the people in this room are gathered here for one purpose: to celebrate you. We’re all here today to honor you and celebrate the biggest win of your educational careers thus far: your completion of high school. We’re here to recognize the big achievements, the small ones, and the principles that have helped you get yourself here today. Because even with all of the support from the people in this room, this moment would not have been possible without your hard work, persistence, and spirit. Well done.
As you become alumnae today, you’re becoming part of a family. A family that no matter the distance between the years in which we graduated, will always be here for you, and there will always be something we will understand about each other. When I look at you all, I can’t help but feel inspired - not only because of your wit and collective sense of humour, but through your senses of self, your conviction, and your dedication to each other and this school. You have been an impeccable example of what it can mean to be a Stoneleigh-Burnham student. From someone who is dedicated to the preservation of what that means, I thank you.
It is a tremendous honor to have been asked by these seniors to speak today and share in this moment with them. To each of you in the class of 2018, I want you to know, I am extremely honored to be here. Thank you for asking me to be a part of your day; you have given me a gift and it is a memory I will not soon forget. Endings are never easy. But today is also the beginning of something new. There’s a big void of unknown that looms over what you’ve imagined will be next. The path you’ve been following for years has finally narrowed, and it’s time for you to begin your journey in another direction. While I’m stricken somber by having to say farewell to you all here, I also know it is but a mark on the page of a new chapter you will all be writing on your own.
In my own life, I feel like I’ve picked up a few things that make up the recipe for an earnest attempt at becoming the best version of yourself (and no seniors, they’re not vine references). Having followed these tenets in my life, I’d like to think that I’m on track to meet and exceed the goals I’ve set for myself. I know all of you can too, and I think these examples might be a good place to start.
First, always do the right thing. No matter what. Especially when it counts. Even if you lose everything. Even if it means you have to start from zero. Whether it brings great cost, dishonor, or alienation. None of that matters. Because doing what is right means more than the repercussions.
Next, be giving. Give your attention, give your love, give your energy, to others and to yourself (but know that it should be in equal measure). This is part of knowing your own worth. You have to give to others, but can’t forget about yourself. Giving shows your strength, and you are powerful.
Understand that your most valuable commodity- is your time. Your TIME, is the one thing you can give to people that you can never get back. You can’t get back the time you spend thinking about what you could have done or should have done, because the reality is you should be thinking about what you can do right here, right now.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, be nice. If there is one gift that you can give to every person you come into contact with in your day, it is to be kind to them. You wouldn’t want someone taking out their crumby day on you just because they don’t know how to unpack their own emotions and find a way to decompress, would you? No. You wouldn’t. So be nice. Because you should always treat other people the way you’d like for them to treat you. Do it. I swear you can still be cool and empathetic. It’s worth it in the long run.
I know for sure that the experience of being a student at Stoneleigh-Burnham has made an indelible mark on you as individuals. It sure did on me. I walked through these halls for the first time feeling like I was being dragged. And I was certainly kicking and screaming. I don’t think I made the greatest first impressions across the board, but what is so unique about this place is that somehow, you can quietly break away from the constraints of your own self-inflicted limitations, get out of your own way, and grow into someone more than you were. Which is exactly what I did. Hopefully, you’ve done it already, and if not, this is your opportunity to keep at it.
Take the strength of will you’ve cultivated while being a student here, look bravely at where you’re about to go and ask yourself, “Okay, so how do I want to do this?” I encourage you all to check in with yourselves like this intermittently. Being aware of who you are and the person you’re presenting to the world at large and yourself is important. You deserve to be your best, you deserve to be proud of yourself. Every day you should feel like you can amplify the immortal words of the Queen herself - Beyoncé; “We gon slay." You’re welcome.
Seneca - an ancient stoic philosopher and statesman said, “The duty of a human is to be useful to your fellow-human; if possible, to be useful to many of them; failing this, to be useful to a few; failing this, to be useful to your neighbors, and, failing them, to yourself: for when we help others, we advance the general interests of mankind.”
Set out today and commit yourselves to not just becoming a better version of who you are but to being useful to the world and contributing to making it a better version of what it is. We need you. Go slay. Thank you.