Thank you Ms. Lillis. To Mr. Bloom, Mr. Bland, Mr. Ball, the faculty, staff, parents, and to the Class of 2012, thank you.
I’d also like to thank everyone who said, “Marty, you’ll be great. I can’t wait to hear it.” Thanks for taking the pressure off.
Milton teaches us to ask, “Why?” Here are some of the “Whys” I’ve come to ask over the past four years: Why do couples feel the need to snuggle in the Student Center? Why did I ask three girls to homecoming my freshman year? (They all said no, by the way.) And over the past four years, many people have asked me, “Marty, why the hell are you doing that?”
We’ve done a lot in our time here, and I find myself today asking why we all do what we do at this place. Why does The Milton Paper’s board sit for hours on end in the computer lab every Thursday night trying to put together that week’s issue? Why do we work so hard in our classes?
The easy answer is that we do it all to get into college. But if the exclusive, or even primary reason we work hard here is to get into college, I don’t think our experience would be as fulfilling. Leaving here with the idea that my efforts were just to secure my own future, and to please an institution of higher education, is not satisfying. That goal is an important part of our motivation to succeed, but there is a bigger answer. The real answer, and what makes Milton the incredible place that it is, is that we are invested in what we do here beyond ourselves. At our best, Milton is a place of service—not just in terms of community service—but what we do here is, on our best days, in the service of something greater than ourselves.
Starting in the classroom, it’s easy to see that college is a motivator to do well. It motivated me a great deal during my first three years. Before high school I looked to my parents for academic motivation. When I was younger, I didn’t really ask why; I just worked hard because that’s what I was taught to do.
But in high school, and especially as a senior this fall, that motivation became about something more for me. I started to care more about the material. I wanted to do well in Globalization and Islam because I absolutely love studying the Middle East; I wanted to write good papers on James’s novels because those were some of the best books I have ever read. The material was important to me, and Mr. Emmott and Mr. Fricke, my teachers, were important to me. I admire them immensely, and I worked hard for them as well.
This attitude didn’t change this spring, even when the college process was over. I remember Ashley Bae talking during check-in of my Senior Transitions class in April about how she was excited for a big biology lab. As more of a humanities person, I was a little confused by that. But Ashley loves biology, and she was looking forward to spending her senior spring in the lab, just like Adam Beckman was still stressing out about an English paper in the middle of April. Academics still mattered to us, even when the college process was over, because what we do here is meaningful in itself. We aim to do justice to the work we’re assigned.
Milton instills this attitude in us—these values of being passionate about the work we do and the academic exercises we take on. Our teachers care immensely about the subject matter. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with Ms. Dey about the Robert Kennedy campaign and the Vietnam War. There was so much emotion behind her comments, because she was teaching her life. There were moments in Biology when Dr. Eyster’s eyes would grow wider when she said, “Yeah,” and proceeded to explain something about DNA replication. How can we not care about the material when our teachers are so passionately invested?
I’ve talked a lot about investment, and in the words of the nerds and the incredibly attractive women on CNBC, “You invest because you hope for a return.” The return on our investment is doing justice to the material, serving our teachers so that their eyes continue to widen, and we find personal satisfaction from doing a job well. The return isn’t the acceptance letter, but rather the feeling you get when you do something right and have mastered the material you love.
The same themes apply to the activities we do outside the classroom. Last May, many seniors earned leadership positions, and we, as a class, all became leaders of the Milton community. By the end of last year we knew what our jobs would be, and we knew what we could or couldn’t put on our resumes.
On athletic teams, it wasn’t about getting recruited. From what I saw as an impartial, extremely unathletic observer was that you play for something greater. You play for your teammates, your coaches, and your School. You are invested and passionate. You serve.
On publications, it is about supporting each other and the community, as we all choose to stand up for something we believe in. We invest in the Milton community. We serve each other and the School. The staffs of the school newspapers lived for the days when their editorials sparked meaningful discussion on campus.
My ultimate point is this: Milton is a place of invested people. It is so easy to get wrapped up in yourself here. We all have those days when we want to put on a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt and not talk to anyone. But we don’t do that. We extend ourselves academically and extracurricularly because we care about our fellow students, the faculty who give us so much, the material we study, and the School we represent.
Those of you who will be back next year: Remember this when you get up in the morning and a vanilla soy latte is the only thing that will get you through the day. Remember you’re working hard to make this amazing place what it is. Continue to serve this place—whether that means working hard in your classes or running for head monitor. Remember why you do what you do.
For those of us departing today, let’s be as invested as we were here wherever we go. Hopefully we’ve all made Milton a better place, and Milton has prepared us to go out into the world. We may not change the world the way many expect us to, but our challenge is to go out into the world with the same energy we’ve brought here and contribute. Give yourself to what you want, but make sure you’re still committed to something greater. Bring the spirit of service with you.
I’ve given you my answer as to why we do what we do here. To all of you here today, continue to ask “Why?” It makes life easier, more enjoyable, and more rewarding to know, on those late nights, why you’re still awake and working. The answer may be an evolving one, but what’s most important is continuing to ask the question and to find an answer that you can be proud of.
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