Firstly, I’d like to thank my parents, as you all truly are the only reason, I am on this stage today. When I told them I wanted to go to boarding school, they thought I was either going through a crisis or that they had misunderstood whether or not they had been good parents to me. My dad genuinely believed that boarding school was just a place for, and I quote, “rich parents too lazy to raise their bad-ass kids” …only sometimes true. But despite all this, with enough pestering I convinced them to hear me out and now we’re here.
Next, I want to thank our headmaster Mr. Downs, and my amazing advisor, Mr. Smith, for making sure I actually completed this assignment. Ms. Peterson would genuinely have to plead with me for me to hand in a five-sentence summary this year, so serious kudos to them for actually getting me on this stage. Lastly, and most importantly, I would like to thank my wonderful peers in the class of 2022 for electing me to be your commencement speaker. It is truly an honor to have such an integral role in this monumental moment in all of our lives. When Ms. Vollmer told me that I had been elected to deliver the commencement address, my initial reaction proceeded as, “NAH, BET.” I then warned her that there was absolutely no chance that I wouldn’t write this speech entirely the night before, and she goes no, no Elijah, and I go yes, yes Ms. Vollmer. And as I stand before you today Ms. Vollmer, yeah, yeah.
But who really cares about punctuality right? It’s about substance, about my class, our many triumphs against adversity. I mean there is just so much to say. So, let’s start at the beginning.
September 7, 2018. The heat is scorching, my mother is sweating, my father is yelling at my mother because she will not stop complaining about sweating, I am fourteen years old, and scared. We arrive to campus. There is a student in a horse costume despite the fact that it’s one hundred degrees outside—Ms. Grover, you should probably be imprisoned. We are directed to Harris Hall, and I am led to my room. I open the door and am greeted by a short, stocky boy drenched in sweat. His head bobbles as he speaks, and I swear he used the word “bro” five times in one sentence. He tells me that his name is Ethan as he extends his hand for a dap, and with one small swipe my hand is now soaked. I am disgusted. I could have left then and there. However, we stayed, unpacked, said goodbyes, and my Millbrook journey began.
Four-year seniors lucky enough to have had a freshman experience understand how unique this year truly is. Somehow, you’re both the smallest fish in the biggest tank and the little kid tapping on the glass just trying to understand how these guys are swimming. Your home is Harris, Clark, or more recently, Guest, and your job is not to be a leader anywhere outside of these spaces. Your job is to sit and watch. Get a good grasp of what this place is now, what the upperclassmen want it to be in the future, and what you want out of this experience over the next four years. And things will change. You’ll grow a little taller, you’ll find new passions, you’ll make new friends, and the school itself will change as well. My freshman year, we had a handsome, athletic, charming headmaster, I mean a true staple of the history and development of the Millbrook School…and now we have Mr. Downs.
Anyway, from that point on, the class of 2022 proved on many occasions that we were a class of resilient, strong-minded, classy, cool, and funky individuals. I mean harsh winters, roasted pork loin, acne, coronavirus—you throw anything at us, and we fire back baby.
And there were times when it was hard—I have one very distinct memory of quarantining my junior year. It must have been the seventh day of being confined to my single in farmhouse, only seeing the light of day when permitted to leave the dorm for play time. For about 10 minutes I danced alone in my room to Katy Perry, and I genuinely thought I was going insane, I mean serious concern for my mental health.
This year, with coronavirus being almost behind us for the greater portion of the year, we faced different challenges. There was that time that Mr. Downs got the student body rowdy in the chapel, as he removed the mask mandate on Millbrook and we all thought covid was behind us, until someone got covid the next day; but we don’t need to talk about that.
This year, as the final class to have experienced a full year of Millbrook pre-COVID-19, we had the responsibility of maintaining the core culture of Millbrook, upholding forgotten traditions, and reinvigorating a declining school sprit due to the burdens of the pandemic. If there was a class to do so it was ours. We care about tradition, we care about culture, and most importantly we care about making others care because we understand that that is where it all begins.
Of course, we weren’t alone. Throughout the year three individuals worked side by side with the student body to help rebuild culture. There was the dynamic dean of students duo Mr. Morrissey and Ms. Mac, AKA good cop, bad cop. And of course, we got Jon Downs in his rookie season. And again, so what if he doesn’t have the luscious locks of Casertano, the charm, or the everlasting figure of a Greek god; you guys don’t have to keep bringing it up.
Anyways, where I was going with that last thing is that often times as students, we fail to empathize with the hard decisions that adults on this campus have to make. We often forget that the faculty here truly do care for us and our wellbeing and development. And as shared recently by both Caroline and Ms. Goodale there will never be a time again where this many adults care so deeply about our success. So, will you all join in applauding not only the work that our headmaster and student life office do for us, but the care and compassion that all faculty exhibit toward us students on a day-to-day basis.
But anyway, back to the class of 2022.
This class is smart, social, beautiful, proud, cool, humble, awesome, sexy, and what wakes me up in the morning is the prospect of the joy that you all bring to me and that I hope to bring to you. Nobody makes me laugh more than Ashton Colangelo, nobody motivates me more than Freddy Hamilton, and nobody makes me feel shorter than Jo’el Emanuel. Now, as I look at each and every one of your faces, this much closer to becoming an alumnus of the Millbrook School, I truly do want to thank you all for everything you’ve done for this community and have contributed to its culture.
Whether you’re Evelynn Najork, whose curiosity and hard-work ethic have led her to be one of the most involved and essential members of this campus; Jason Weiss, whose honesty, whose willingness to be wrong have shown us what it means to truly be vulnerable, all the while never ceasing to make us smile; Tom Powell, whose behind-the-scenes work, and dry humor are both essential to the Millbrook community; Gabe Gersten, whose passion for lifting but more importantly whose passion for teaching others has facilitated a strong and supportive gym culture at Millbrook—whether I named you or not you important, you are needed, you are appreciated, and you are loved.
Two days ago, during the moving up ceremony, I bawled my eyes out in the middle of the chapel while appreciating all that my advisor, Mr. Smith, had done for me over the last four years. As applause flooded the chapel in support of myself and my vulnerability, I thought to myself “Elijah what is going on right now, are you actually crying in front of the entire student body and faculty, is Mr. G watching you cry right now?” And as I wiped the tears from my face and scanned the pews of the chapel, I saw the faces of those that I love but more importantly I saw a community that I treasure, that I adore. And leaving it feels damn near impossible.
I don’t want to leave Mr. G, Mr. Smith, Chris Diaz, and Pat Costin. I want to eat in that dining hall for the rest of my life no matter how much I complain about the food. But I can’t, and I probably actually don’t want to. But what I’ve learned is that it’s alright that I feel that way. Being scared is okay. Every pit in my stomach is normal, every tear I shed is human, and every last goodbye should hurt that much, because it’s only further proof of how beautiful Millbrook truly is. So, seniors, when you walk down that cry line bawling your eyes out, as your heart is in shatters saying goodbye to that under former that you love, I’ll be right there with you, and I promise you it’s all right. It’s supposed to feel like this. Thank you.