Thank you, Mr. Archer. To Governor Patrick, Mr. Bloom, Mr. Bland, Mr. Ball, the faculty, staff, parents and trustees, and to the Class of 2012, thank you.
I met someone this year. My friends thought I was obsessed; I would daydream about our time spent together when we were apart, and when we were together, nothing else could grab my attention. My teachers thought it was unhealthy and distracted from my academics, and it did. My parents thought I had a major crush. But I knew. I knew it was love.
Now, Mom and Dad, my relationship wasn’t with a boy. It wasn’t with a girl, either. It was with The Milton Paper, Milton’s independent, weekly publication. Our six-person editorial board had an energy that surpassed most others I’ve found at Milton. We were driven.
At the end of junior year, when my co-editor Adam Beckman and I had been given our positions, we sat down in Cox Library to discuss our visions and goals for the Paper. It was safe to say we were annoyingly optimistic in what we thought we could accomplish: our fundraising goals, our quality of writing expectations, creating a Web site from the ground up.
Armed with the best and the brightest, we succeeded, somewhat. We added a photography section and formed a layout super team. The fruits of our labors began to show themselves over time.
Now, it’s easy to point to the hours we spent working tirelessly on an issue and say “There, that’s how we succeeded.” But, ultimately, we felt accomplished not because of our sleep deprivation, but because we were happy with our work. Our optimistic attitude was what made us succeed.
We’ve all been swayed by the power of optimism. We like to do what we’re good at, and we’re optimistic when we are bound to succeed. But sometimes optimism can eclipse our lack of experience. We’ve all been shoved out of our comfort zones at one point or another; we’ve all gone into situations ill prepared and unsure. I’ll be the first to say that it’s hard going into something new with a positive attitude, an attitude that not only thinks, but knows, that you can succeed. It should be considered a moment of strength when we bring optimism to tasks for which we have nothing else to offer.
We could not have picked a better environment to learn how to be optimistic, and therefore, how to succeed. We have been able to experiment and fail in a microcosm that picks us up when we lag and awards us for trying.
Our teachers, in particular, fuel our optimism. They hold us to high standards and believe that we will reach their goals. They help us realize that hard work and a positive attitude are both necessary to achieve our desires. When we’ve stumbled, they have picked us up by our suspenders and said, “Do that again, but better, because you can.”
At Milton, we’ve all had that night or two when we think it’s so bad that we can’t continue. Our world crumbles under the English essays that we should have written instead of watching TV, the math homework we are finishing the morning it’s due. But it’s never been so bad that we haven’t tried again. It’s safe to say that most Milton students who have pulled an all-nighter have pulled at least two.
If our teachers or our classmates have taught us anything, it is to always have faith in our optimism, however naïve. Milton has shown us what optimism can offer, particularly in the face of struggle.
I learned this when I joined an elite squad in the fall of my junior year: the JV soccer team. I hadn’t even seen a soccer ball since I was 7, but I was full of myself: how hard can kicking stuff be?
My optimism was the only skill I brought to the team, and it turned out to be a valuable one. I head-butted the ball in every single game, and I always went in assuming I would play better than I had in the last game. The truth is, I would, and I did. I was so bad at soccer that my improvement was easy to track.
Most of you wouldn’t consider this success, and I’m not sure it should be. My intent was simple: to attend all the practices, and to play hard in games. I reached those goals and had a good time, and that’s the best I could do in that new experience.
On a larger scale, being optimistic will be more challenging. But optimism in insignificant situations helps us learn optimism in the significant ones.
It’s easy to say that Milton has coddled us, but that would be de-valuing our experience. Our teachers, advisors and friends have not been proud of us for trying; they have been proud of us for trying with zest. Without optimism, we would not have the passion that defines Milton students. We would not have true success.
Optimism, of course, has to be balanced. On the Paper, our balance was Christine Cahill, a complete realist. We’ve all met a Christine: at first, her failsafe sense of practicality dampens your spirits, but once she has made a clutch decision for the fifth time, you respect her unconditionally.
We would spring lofty ideas to the board: Let’s hold an all-staff meeting tomorrow! Let’s get the Web site finished in October! And Christine, no less optimistic, would say, “Get used to disappointment.” She would point out to whom we needed to speak and what we needed to plan in addition. She would rewrite editorials on cue and consistently balance our lofty goals. She wasn’t naïve. She was our rock, but no less inspired.
It took our October Web site goal to get the site running by February; it took our urge to have a Paper meeting as soon as possible to have the all-staff meeting at all. We reached our goals by balancing diehard optimism and a realistic perspective.
Our parents, our teachers, the board, our fellow graduates and rising seniors look at us and expect greatness, or we suspect that they do.
We deserve these expectations as long as we can look at them knowing we will succeed. We shouldn’t feel burdened—we should feel inspired. Our Milton education is so strong that we don’t have to stray from what we love to “change the world,” however cliché. All we must do is keep doing what we’re doing with dedication and good spirits.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work harder, because we should. The difference is we won’t have our teachers telling us to do better; we’ll have to rely on ourselves.
Although we may not find or desire an environment as supportive as Milton in the future, we will take snippets from our time here to help guide us. Our attitude is just one of many snippets.
I hope that we will meet our parents’ expectations through our outlooks as much as our actions. More importantly, I hope that we will meet our own; it would be a failure not to. I hope that we don’t lose our zest and that we grab what we want. Just like our diplomas, it’s all within our reach.
Back to Graduation 2012