2021 Sixth Form Commencement Speech by Artemis Köprülü

Mr. Casertano, Mr. Downs, faculty and staff, and, of course, the Class of 2021, thank you for giving me the honor of being your class speaker. To the IIIrd, IVth, and Vth formers, you had no role in electing me, so just sit back and enjoy. When I called my best friend to let him know I was chosen to deliver this speech, he said “You’re valedictorian! That's amazing!” To which I responded, “Not really, I’m the class speaker. It's like valedictorian without the grades.” To which he responded, “Sounds like you, Artie.”
Of course, the only way to start this speech is with Mr. Casertano. He took on headmastership in 1990 and has since grown the endowment from $6 million to more than $60 million and built over 228,000 square feet of new buildings. Like a fine wine or that silky silver hair on your head, you have managed to get better with age, sir. But that age has not slowed your devotion to personal fitness. I have never felt more out of my league than when I was invited by Mr. Casertano to join him for his weekly CrossFit class. I accepted because I thought, “Well, you definitely can't turn down the headmaster.” 

Twenty minutes in, I was drenched in sweat, seeing double, and in desperate need of an inhaler despite the fact I don’t think I have asthma. When I finally mustered the energy to raise my head, I saw Mr. Casertano standing with his hands on his hips, controlling his breathing, looking out at everyone showing that if he could do it, so could we. I do believe that this experience was a microcosm of how he has always led Millbrook School. Standing in plain sight, possibly as drained as everyone else but showing that he believed if he could do it, so could we. Mr. Casertano, Your leadership has never been clearer than during this unpredictable year. Thank you for guiding us through it and turning it into an incredible success.  

While Mr. Casertano is superman, he could not have done it without a cast and crew to support him. Along with our dedicated teachers, we have the hardest working dining hall staff, maintenance team, and zoo staff, whose diligence and determination were defining factors this year. I speak for the entire school when I say you are what makes this place feel like home. Thank you.

Now for the subject of the hour, the Class of 2021, my peers. Sixth formers, you are all about to graduate high school. Soon you will walk across this stage along with 97 of your classmates. In all likelihood, you will be looking forward to college, seeing your friends this summer, and doing countless other things. I know all those feelings. I’m feeling them too. But right now, I ask of you, if only for a moment, to take the time to reflect with me on your experience here. 

I’ll start. When I first came here, I was an immature kid with very long hair and bad grades. Many friends and one shattered collarbone later, I’m an immature man with short hair and middling grades. But seriously, these are the years that have changed me the most, and I know the same is true for many of my classmates because I’ve witnessed it. Among other things. 

I will never forget watching my three-year roommate, Sam Smith, fall out of his bed upon hearing a fire alarm go off at 1 a.m. in Case Hall—not to be confused with me falling out of my own bed five seconds later and landing on his back. Don’t worry, he can still walk. The Trevor Zoo taught me a lot too. Have you ever had a Rhea charging at you full speed? Because I have, and I promise you it builds character. Especially if you are in a banana suit when it happens. It was Halloween.

I’ll always cherish my time as a founder and leader of the Milly Hype Squad. Even when we may have cheered a little too hard. In my fourth form year, I was “spoken to” by Mr. Clizbe, a teacher who is, unfortunately, leaving us this year, about my “enthusiasm.” In the email he wrote to me after one game, he outlined some of my egregious offenses. “You even encouraged other people to cheer for a parent who had berated a referee.” What can I say? I am an agent of chaos. Sorry, mom. When I did follow up to have a conversation with Mr. Clizbe, I expected yelling and frustration. What I received was quite the opposite. Mr. Clizbe was far less interested in disciplining me but far more interested in teaching me how to be a better leader, which sometimes means shutting up. 

Here we were allowed to act like real adults without any real-world consequences. We were given the time, space, and attention to grow into ourselves. Millbrook is a place where everyone knows your name (and sometimes your business). Where the teachers are like family, and there’s a good chance your best friend might be in the grade above you. During your time here, you’ve been a part of building something. You weren’t just another cog in the machine, you were and are an essential part of this school’s community, its growth, and its legacy and that is something you should take great pride in. 

And in the years to come, in whatever career you may embark on, I hope that you will remember this place and our class like I will—that we were a class of people who loved each other and loved the school. I hope that you will take that love with you and share it with others and use it to build communities with just as much connection and spirit as ours. I cannot stand here and tell you all how to get straight A’s in college, how to get the job of your dreams, and I definitely can't tell you how to get through an hour-long workout with Mr. Casertano. 

However, I can tell you this: you matter to the people under this tent more than you know. As a graduate in this class, I believe you have the duty to give others the feeling of what it was like to be here, to make clear that you care about them. Until we meet again, thank you. 
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