Busy week, busy two days: week of senior finals, beginning of everyone else's, Baccalaureate ceremony last night, graduation this morning, and just back from a few of the graduation parties all around town. A bit tiring, but the blissful peace that descends after the final sprint of the semester plopped down like clockwork last night and on into the day.
The seniors graduating today came in as ninth graders the same year that I began teaching at the Instituto, so it felt as if we had made the journey together: they move on, while I'll continue the journey on with the next round of folks. The school is small enough that we all get to know each other, and the bonds are strong.
Two years ago, I was asked by the graduating seniors to give the faculty member's Baccalaureate address. It was quite an honor and I felt very blessed, but in truth, I knew those seniors much less than I know this graduating class. The speech I wrote was a kick to write and give, but looking back, it felt more like a speech from my head.
I was deeply honored to be asked by this class to give this year's Baccalaureate address. The gist of it poured out of me on one of my walks on the Tobin Trail a couple of weeks ago. Here it is. (The only change I've made is to use the initials of the two student poets whose poems I read.)
Gjeniale është përgjojnë
On behalf of the faculty, administration, and staff of the Winston School, and especially on behalf of the senior class advisors Mrs. Hope Britt, Mr. Michael Canales, and Dr. Chris Gamel, I offer greetings to Families and Friends, Honored Guests, Members of the Board, All Students, and of course to the glorious - and bodacious - graduating seniors of the Winston School San Antonio Class of 2010.
I have entitled this speech GENIUS IS LURKING, and I would like to start by reading some samples of the kind of genius I’m talking about—these are four short poems by two of our departing graduates. The first two are by LDM and the final two are by CC:
The Second Horseman is Red and Always Will Be
When Pablo Picasso
painted a depiction of an impaled horse
we called it “art”
We all grow out of it eventually.
Revolution is never on the lips of
But, I’ll tell you a secret:
atheists in foxholes.
The God Switch
Ecclesiastes 1 verse 9 says:
There is nothing new under the sun
Black velvet comes on wing
I had a dream that my hair was
I brought the butterflies today
Brought the women too
It’s much easier to raise a box child than an external child
They don’t sleep, eat, love, be loved, make love, poop or anything. They just stare at you.
I’m a satisfied customer of box children, I have 8 box children of my own and going strong.
Look up at the stars and what do you see
I see nothing but a lonely sky and dots
Making dimples in the starry black night
The ones who came before us made the stars
Made of torches that lit up the dark blue sky
Belts, dippers, and dragons in the sky; all I see is Mother
Earth trying to cry.
You see the kind of genius we’re up against here. Winston fairly oozes with genius, and it’s not just on the papers we read that blow us away: the genius lurking in Winston oozes on canvas, on film, in the music room, on the playing fields, in acting class, in math, history, in all the extraordinary ways in which you seniors perceive the world around you with new eyes, fresh eyes, the eyes of innovation.
As I think about you all going out into your new worlds beyond Winston, I have really only one fear: that you may have missed the point of your being here. Many of you came here initially in a broken or a wounded state, battered by schools filled with boxes in which you simply could not fit your extraordinary limbs. For many of you, once you got here, it felt like things got easier. You watched your grades go up. You felt yourself breathing again, living again, loving again.
If you think you thrived here because you think we babied you and spoon fed you and made things easier for you, then you missed the point of how we envision learning. When you arrived at our doorstep, we knew something about you that deep down you knew too, even though the Big Box schools may have done their best to fill your heads full of amnesia. When you walked in the door here, we knew this: yet another genius was lurking in our midst. And when we were at our best, we gave you the room and the time and the affirmation to resurrect yourself. We knew that, rather than yet another box, you needed a big wild landscape to explore, and that big wild landscape was you.
Now, don’t go staring at your GPAs and SAT and ACT scores to see if you can prove me wrong. Genius does not lurk in boxes and GPAs and standardized tests. It lurks in your hearts and your minds and your bellies. And even your fingers and your toes.
We all know the mantra here at Winston. Advocating for those minds that learn differently. I know that some of you wince at those words when you hear them: you think they’re a hedge. You think they’re a cheat, that somewhere in there is the notion that you might be “less than.” While you may joke about being a “Winston kid” and all that supposedly entails, I know that for some of you there’s a seed of doubt that this is all a scam, just another set of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
Well, if you haven’t slain that doubt by now, then I’d say tonight is as good a time as any to put it to rest. Because I’ll let you in on something else: those of us who have worked with you through your time with us, all of us who have been mentored by you, do not stay at Winston to fix broken things. We’re there to watch you birth yourselves and startle us with your genius, wherever it may happen to bloom.
In truth, we do not JUST advocate for those minds that learn differently. We ALSO advocate for extraordinary minds and extraordinary hearts that teach us differently. And all of you have been our teachers.
Take your oozing lurking genius selves on out of here tonight and let the rest of the world see how it’s done. Teach them as you have taught us.
In closing, my buddy Bob Dylan called me this afternoon and asked that I pass this blessing on to you:
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
And may you stay forever young
Best wishes to all of you from all of us. And Peace.