To all of our special guests, faculty, administrators, parents, friends, and family members — you honor us with your pride and presence as we celebrate this important moment for the individuals seated before you on this stage.
I offer my deepest gratitude to Ambassador Cooper for his words in honor of our graduates. The Anglo-American School of Moscow continues to thrive on our sense of community and your participation validates our commitment to the students we collaboratively nurture and educate. Thank you!
Sai, you brought a message that is an important one for all of us. You gave us insight into the heart of your class — a sample of what they can and will become. Thank you for the memories that your words will inspire.
With only a few minutes left until you begin your journey across this stage and into life, let’s capture some final thoughts. Inspired by a cartoon character named Johnny Bunko, the creation of celebrated author and researcher, Dan Pink, let me share his 6 essential lessons for life. They are simple and concise.
#1 – There is no plan!
This is a cautionary tale about overly planning your life. Statistics tell us there are many changes ahead for you. In your lifetime, five career changes are imminent. Careers that you are seeking now may soon become obsolete and replaced by jobs we cannot now name nor imagine. You are emerging into a generation challenged by a constant state of change. Change will be your normal and you should embrace it now.
But, most of you already know this. You come here from countries from around the globe. You have learned through profound experiences how to dodge and weave in a complicated and dynamic world.
Accepting that there is no one plan means that you make decisions for fundamental rather than instrumental reasons. When the time comes to flex and move with the tides and waves of life, seek your core values — the ones we taught you, the ones your parents instilled in you, the ones that give balance and meaning to life.
#2 – Think strengths, not weaknesses
Ask yourself — what do you do consistently well? What is it that you would choose to do over other things? What is it that gives you energy?
This class is filled with talent beyond measure. Sitting on this stage are artists, mathematicians, scientists, authors, researchers, publishers, musicians, vocalists, actors, athletes, and leaders. Look into their eyes and see the strengths that will build one upon another in the months and years ahead.
#3 – It’s not about you
The most successful people in the world improve their own lives by improving the lives of others. Your many service projects were reviewed yesterday at our assembly and the wide array of accomplishments is a testament to your understanding of the importance of giving something back to the community and to the world. The fondest wish of our mission statement is that you contribute in equal measure to what you receive.
#4 – Persistence trumps talent
This may seem inconsistent with thinking about your strengths, but it is simply an additive message about the importance of augmenting talent with perseverance.
This class understands commitment. What sits before you is the entire class that started at our opening ceremony in August. Not one person has gone missing since the day we carried the flags of many nations into the gym at our opening. Those that began this year finished this year — and graduated. That’s commitment!
But, let’s stay on that theme for a moment. Phillip Sadov is our longest attending student on this stage. He started at AAS in Pre-Kindergarten and stayed with us until today, only the second to have done so in the school’s entire history. More than a dozen others have been here since elementary school and a few more were here for a bit, left for a time, and then returned to finish high school with us.
This class knows persistence. You understand persistence through rigorous classes. You understand persistence through your studies and demonstrated success. You understand persistence through your patience with and regard for each other.
Another group also understands persistence. Your teachers, counselors, and administrators have stood beside you through every incarnation of student engagement. Graduates on this stage have reflected with me on how the adults at AAS committed themselves in unlimited ways to their learning and development. They shared stories about countless hours of additional time outside of class. They reflected fondly on the sense that their teachers really know them. They remember the willingness to offer additional chances and the important woven conversations about learning and life. It is clear to me that this class loves and respects the faculty and staff of their school.
#5 – Make excellent mistakes
You have already learned that the key to success is not getting bogged down in the failures. When you recognize that mistakes are learning opportunities, you balance failures against the benefits of what you learn.
Therefore, as you graduate today, I give you permission to fail. Go out and fail! And, from your failures, let opportunity emerge. In the words of Beverly Sills, an American Opera singer:
“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”
#6 – Leave an imprint
Johnny suggests that you only have a finite time in this world. In the time that you have, you should seek to do something that matters. You should seek to make a difference.
It is the sense of doing important work that keeps us connected to our core – something that helps us find deeper meaning in life. At our roots, we want to do something distinctive – something with higher purpose. It is my fervent hope that you find a vibrant and rewarding pathway through life. I’m absolutely confident that you have the skills and talents for the task. You have impressed us all. Now go make your mark on the world!
You are and always will be, the class of 2013! My congratulations to all of you!