Graduation Speech 2024

To all our special guests, faculty, staff, administration, parents, friends, and family members, whether here or online watching live – I offer you my thanks for your pride and presence as we come toward the close of this, our 31st commencement exercises for the class of 2024.  Thank you, Mr. Sheehan, for the introduction and your capable shepherding at this event and throughout the year.  You and your team always serve us proudly and with distinction.

Our additional gratitude to our past, current, and future board members who are present here or watching online today, led by Board Chair Sarah Kyle.  Thank you for your continued courage and leadership in guiding through governance the important strategic work of the school.  Your service and commitment stand as a testament to our mission and a model for all of us!!

Ines, thank you for bringing your voice to the podium today.  Our students are always central in our minds, and your message stands at the core of our recognition of your class.  It was a wonderful portrayal of your collective resolve.

Dr. Taylor, as we have come to expect, your wit and wisdom, articulately delivered, will be remembered as a highlight and powerful punctuation, more a semicolon than an exclamation, spurring the journey of your students as they continue writing their stories beyond your words.

And, Ms. Bechdoldt, as always, the voices lifted in song inspire and lift us, emanating from your guidance and inspiration that we all hold so dear. 

Whether here in this auditorium or watching from home, we thank the staff of ASW, for your continued and unwavering dedication.  Faculty, counselors, administration, and a wide range of support staff are true Warriors in all that they do to protect and nurture our students each day.  I thank you all for your continued demonstration and modeling of the core values we all hold in highest regard.

We know as an international community that many of our graduates have had other schooling experiences before joining us here in Warsaw. Some even stay with us for a time, leave for a bit, and then return. It is part of being an international school that we embrace this regular flux of change and transition. Over twenty nationalities sit on this stage tonight.  But, as has been our tradition, I’d like to recognize some Warriors, nurtured at ASW from the beginning of their schooling experience all the way to this graduation. As I call these names, would you please rise and remain standing so that we can recognize all of you as a group:

8 Students have been identified as having been at ASW since either Pre-Kindergarten (2010) or Kindergarten (2011):

  • 1 Lara
  • 2 Nicholas
  • 3 Jaejoon
  • 4 Philip
  • 5 Ipek
  • 6 Patryk
  • 7 Jakub
  • 8 Aleksander

Please recognize these students and their families as this year’s Warriors of longest standing.

70 years….  Birthdays are special and we should again underline that this school has now served students for seven decades.  That’s a lot to think about.  And, don’t blink, because that will be 100 years of service before we know it, and certainly will be realized in your lifetimes, graduates of 2024.

Let me share a couple of quick thoughts and a final plea before we move to distribution.  First, just a note about “Once a Warrior, Always a Warrior.”  I was thoughtful about this in recent days and, while it is true, also consider this.

For fun, I did a little inventory for myself and realized just how important mascots can be.  Here’s my list for your consideration:

In my life, I have been…

  • Stallion
  • Timberwolf
  • Tiger
  • Cougar
  • Viking
  • Lute – that would take some explaining, see me later
  • Bulldog
  • Tiger, again
  • Ram
  • Cougar, again, but this time in China
  • Ranger
  • Dragon
  • Redhawk
  • Penguin
  • And now a Warrior…

And here’s the great thing – For every one of those mascots, I can share a dozen memories of connection, accomplishment, friendship, family, and moments of both terrible sorrow and great joy.  My point is simple, carry the memories made under your mascots through life.  You will add more to your list, but some will be particularly special.  I fervently hope that your Warrior status will be counted as one of your favorites!

As being a Warrior goes, let me insert here special thanks to our guest, Trae Holland, my friend and partner from PSI.  First, I hope you’ll allow me to add an honorary Panther to my list of mascots, owing to our partnership with PSI, now through almost three years.  I’m so proud that we have continued to have your students and families in our midst.  4 graduates on this stage today speaks volumes about how we connect and support each other through continuing turbulent times.  I know we are not done and that hangs heavy on my heart.  I want to publicly declare my re-commitment of our support as a partner school until the day peace is realized and hopeful that it will continue well beyond.

Graduates, as I shared at the assembly on Wednesday, I’m aware of what you have had to traverse to get to this stage.  The challenges of the last 4 years both here and throughout the world have been daunting, to say the least.  You are resilient and we have covered that, celebrating your accomplishments in all ways possible!

But, I’m thoughtful that you need to embolden your hearts, as we all do, for what lies ahead.  In the spirit of “changing the world for the better,” I ask you to consider how you can prepare yourselves and others around you for the larger work ahead.  When the dust settles on the challenges that we all continue to face, it would be disheartening to think that we might find calm only for a brief time, while anger, resentment, and grudges fester, waiting for an opportunity to start the fighting all over again.  We’re going to need a lot of forgiveness in this world.  In the spirit of this reflection and a plea, let’s start this way. 

Parents, take a moment today to offer a round of forgiveness for teenage transgressions, for we know there were many.  Just whisper “your forgiven” in their ears as you hug them.  Graduates, grant your parents forgiveness for being tough on you sometimes and for the occasional embarrassments – they deserve this for all that they have done to nurture what today takes flight.  Use this opportunity to strengthen your relationships so that they hold you tightly to home and family, no matter how far you roam. 

And, through these gestures, prepare your hearts now for the forgiveness we will need when the world finds greater focus on the importance of peace. We need to be ready to adopt the message that all are welcome at the table of humanity.  It is my most fervent hope for the future.  I thank you for your kind attention and I remain inspired by our common dream for a bright horizon for our children, and lovingkindness for us all. Graduates, thank you!

At this time, I would ask Principal Michael Sheehan and the Chair of the ASW Board of Trustees, Ms. Sarah Kyle and PSI Director, Trae Holland to please join me on stage for the conferring of diplomas.