An inspiring message from Class of 2016 Valedictorian, Shaefer Bennett, as presented at the Santa Fe Waldorf High School Commencement Ceremony on June 3, 2016.
What does it mean to graduate? The dictionary states that to graduate means to complete a course of study and receive a diploma at the end in recognition of the completion. But is that all it is? A completion of series of classes that a person takes over the course of several years, supposedly leading to some sort of higher knowledge? Is a paper diploma really that important? Is it even real?
It depends on who you ask, but, if you ask me, I'd say no. No. A piece of paper, a robe, a ceremony, none of it means anything unless the participant, the pupil, me, my classmates, or a thousand seniors, take the next step and realize that we make the paper worth all its fancy lettering. We are stepping into the world, a world fraught with problems, with conflicts, with dilemmas so intimidating and huge that they take our breath away. It seems as though a single person can do very little to make the world a better place. But that's not true. Each of us can make huge contributions to creating a better world for the future. But we can't do it unless we, the participants, begin to act. And I don't mean completely changing the way we live, but instead making the way we live now a part of the way that we can make the world a better place. Each little thing we do has an impact, and no matter how small it may seem, if we are conscious about our actions, if we act with integrity and truthfulness, if we always ask ourselves "Is this what I really want? Am I willing to make a change and do something positive?" then we will always be active and contributing members of a new world order. An order in which people care about themselves, but in which they also understand the importance of community, of giving back, of a global awareness in which we make decisions based on the impacts that they will have, either positive or negative, but either way, consciously, so that we are aware of what the impact of our choices will be.
This is where Waldorf Education gets a quick and well deserved shout-out. As Waldorf students, we have been taught to think independently. We have been immersed in an environment that nurtures and cherishes creative individuality, while at the same time subjected to, at times a seemingly strange world of an all required curriculum. This, I think, is the key to Waldorf success. My classmates and I have, somehow, been able to learn about who we are as individuals, while at the same time focusing on a common theme. our classes, throughout our education.
I have spent the last 4 years, and in some cases, 9, even 14 years, becoming the person who I am today with these people sitting here graduating with me. I would not consider them my friends. I would consider them my family. And in this crazy world that we live in today, I could not be more proud to be standing here addressing you, at the forefront of this incredible senior class. I feel confident, that when each of us goes into the world, we will always bring with us an idea of the larger picture. We have been taught to think about the larger world community throughout our education, and if we can hold on to that sense of community, of family, then we won't be able to make decisions that put our future, the future of everyone here, and every person, and plant, and animal, and system, in harm's way. I am saddened to know that this is not the case everywhere. This is a rare and important opportunity that has been given to us through our Waldorf Education.
I am positive that each one of us will make the next step in our lives in his or her own way, but
each, as we move forward, will make the world around us a better place. Perhaps Gaby will
warm the hearts of her future fans in the pages of a novel, or five. Maybe Augie will become an
influential man of business. Evan might go on to show the world's hunks that being vegetarian is great way to build lean muscle, and Ivan might inspire others to follow their physical dreams.
Sean could design the next technology in aeronautical engineering, and Sienna could bring
beauty and creative genius to her future endeavors. Maybe Har Simran will create a handmade
skateboard or climbing company. Elle could continue to bring joy and life to elders in her
community, and Sundarta might bring her music and friendship with her wherever she goes.
And who knows what I'll do.
So, as we end this chapter in our lives and begin the next, I urge each of us, as well all of you,
to be active participants. Don't let this beautiful and amazing world pass you by. Find the beauty in the little things, and don't dwell on all the negativity. Do everything you can to make
yourself feel fulfilled, but don't lose sight of the bigger picture. Try to make everything you do
matter in some way, big or small, and don't forget to laugh as much as possible.
So please, reduce, reuse, recycle, and let's go make his(six)tory!