Convocation Address by Headmaster Drew Casertano, September 13, 2015

On Thursday during the First Night service, Chaplain Hardy described that which we are celebrating today as "the edge of possibility." Thank you Chaplain Hardy. I find that four word phrase so accurate and evocative. As we begin Millbrook's 85th year, we do indeed stand at "the edge of possibility". Or, as she and I agreed, at "the edge of possibilities."

There is possibility of getting smarter. That is the first of the objectives that we, your teachers, have for you, our students. We want you to learn stuff. We want you to develop the skills and attitudes that will help you learn. We want you to be curious and to open and engage your minds. We want you to work hard, likely harder than you ever have in your lives. And we want you to begin to understand that your mind and the ways you use it will determine, more than anything, the quality and character of your lives.
There is the possibility of becoming stronger and tougher. For this to happen, you must trust that you can do more than you think. You must push and stretch yourselves. And you must accept that falling short, failing even, is essential. When that happens, you'll need to pick yourself up, ask for help, look for ways to improve, and move forward. As a result, you will become more resilient. This, too, is one of our primary goals for you.
There is the possibility that you will become kinder. We, your teachers, want you to develop greater empathy; that is, an increased willingness to make yourselves a little less important, to see things from the perspective of others, to walk in their shoes, and to make a determined effort to understand. This does not mean you always agree with others. It does mean that you must work to listen first, to understand, and then to talk or act.
Students, we have other goals for you this year, but these three - intellectual growth and academic achievement, greater resilience, and an increased capacity for empathy - are the most important, I think.
To explore these possibilities and fulfill these objectives, I have one piece of advice: leave it better than you found it, whoever, wherever, and whatever IT is. Returning students, you may remember that I share this advice in my parting words to the seniors at commencement. I've decided that it is better to offer it as we begin than as we end.
Leave it better than you found it, whoever, wherever and whatever it is.
When you leave a conversation, time with friends, or a relationship, leave it better than you found it. When you are upset or annoyed with someone, when you are in a difficult conversation or a disagreement, do not make that mean or nasty comment. And definitely do not post it on social media.
When you leave an experience - a class, a rehearsal, a dorm meeting, a practice - leave it better than you found it. Respect the group by making your best effort and looking for ways to enhance the experience of others.
When you leave a space - your room, your dorm, a classroom, the Barn, the Quad, the Dining Hall, any place on campus - leave it better than you found it. Pick up after yourselves. Put the furniture back where it belongs. Fluff the pillows.  I mean that, fluff the pillows.
When you leave a place - an organization or community you have served - be sure that it is better for your service. Be sure that your experience is about others and that you contribute something that will last
This is not complicated. Leave it better than you found it. When you do, people will be supported and problems will be avoided. When problems do happen, they will be solved more easily.
In the 2015-16, struggle and strive to be smarter, more resilient and more empathetic. To achieve these worthy ends, I urge you to leave it better than you found it, whoever, wherever or whatever IT is.