- Progressive Education
- Inside Putney
- Putney People
- Support Putney
- Summer Programs
Graduation 2012: Addendum
Submitted by news on Jun 11th, 2012
Putney Graduation 2012
Emily Jones Welcome
Welcome to all of you: Parents, grandparents, family members, alumni and friends, to The Putney School's 77th graduation. And welcome to the Class of 2012.
To the seniors, before we begin, please take a minute to thank the faculty and staff who have nurtured and cajoled you through to this day.
I hope that you will also take the time today to thank your parents and whoever else it is that has made it possible for you to be here.
And parents, I want to give you my thanks and the thanks of all of us who live and work here at Putney. You have been wonderfully supportive of the school and our community, you have trusted us with your children, and you have been helpful in so many ways. Your children will always be your children, but they are now also adults, and you also deserve a diploma for having guided, cared for and put up with them for the last 18 years.
To the seniors: Your class has been a powerful force in the school. You have done 720 projects among you, played on a couple of dozen teams, including 3 championship soccer teams, been in 4 musicals and a dozen plays, taken something like 1,192 courses, and by my estimate, done somewhere near 29,788 hours of physical work on this campus—in the barn and in the gardens, in the woods, in the KDU, in the dorms and classrooms—and that was only in the work program. In the process you have learned a powerful work ethic, an ability to collaborate and to argue convincingly, and gained an enormous amount of general competence and capacity to be useful.
You have also had a significant influence on the school, and you are leaving it a better place than you found it in all sorts of ways—I told you at the start of the year that you would be role models whether you liked it or not, and you have done this really very well, primarily by being your funny, intense and caring selves. You have had quite an impact here—we didn’t have an outdoor program before you pushed for it, there was not a Putney service corps linking the five schools in town. We didn’t have a skate park, a feeding rack for the sheep, a new float in the puddle or a labyrinth. We didn’t have many beautiful tapestries and sculptures or a stained glass window in the KDU lobby. You are leaving a lot of yourselves here, and for that we are very grateful.
The thing that sticks out most to me about your class is that you are a bunch of hardcore idealists. Good was never good enough for you—you want to make things better, and you care enough to argue about it – and yes, I’ve used the word "argue" twice so far. And this idealism is the thing that I most hope you can hang on to when you leave here. You have hung onto it through thick and thin here, even when you have been disappointed in Putney or in yourselves. When you have been unhappy here it was because you felt Putney was not living up to your ideals of it, rather than because you wanted Putney to ask less of you. You very rarely resorted to cynicism—which is, after all, the last refuge of idealists who are disappointed.
There is a myth that there is a "real world" out there—one that is more real than a place where you have to look after yourselves and others, where you have to produce food and figure out how to live closely together with people different from you, where you have to make choices about how you will spend your energy, where you have limited resources and limited time. It turns out that all these things are pretty real, after all.
You certainly can find places out there that are not very real, places where you can ignore the laws of nature if you want, at least for a while, and live like a goldfish in an aquarium, with everything you need piped in for you, without your having done much to make it happen. For many of you college may feel rather like that. But even there, you will have choices to make about how you spend your time and what you choose to care about.
You will encounter people in college—and all your life—who will say to you, "You have to be realistic"—and I want to tell you that this should set off your warning bells, because it almost always comes along with an effort to make you let go of your ideals. When someone says, "You have to be realistic," they are often asking you to give up something you are working towards, or to kowtow to someone you know is doing something you don’t respect. It often comes with a dose of cynicism pretending to be maturity.
You can tell yourself to be realistic as you pursue your goals, and you don’t want to live in a fantasy land, but I suggest you be very careful about anybody else that uses that phrase to you.
My hope for each of you is that you will join the thousands of Putney alumni who are making a living by doing what they love and what they care about, and creating ripples of disruption in places they find people taking things for granted or working only for their own gain. I will be proud to give you Putney diplomas in just a few minutes, and I think you will use them well.