Words from Mr. Cary Dupont ’72 – President/Chief Administrator of St. Paul Catholic High School – Class of 2021 Commencement Ceremony – June 8, 2021
On behalf of the Class of 2021, the school board, administration, faculty and staff, I welcome you to the 52nd Commencement Exercises for St. Paul Catholic High School. As we all know too well, influenced by an unexpected pandemic, this milestone moment didn’t come easy, acknowledging for some it may have been harder than for others. But regardless of the path traveled, we have arrived.
To the Class of 2021, tonight, we celebrate each of you, fully understanding that your journey did not come without sacrifices. While the effort and accomplishments are ultimately yours, they were not achieved alone, that’s why your family, friends, teachers and coaches … why all of us share in your celebration.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that you came to an open house or shadowed for the day. Sophia aptly described the personality, accomplishments, life-long friendships and emotions endured by your class. During the last four years, there has been much happiness, some sorrow, many victories, some defeats, much love, laughter and heartaches for sure. And while the pandemic has forced an unwelcomed and awkward distance at times, the irony is it taught us some valuable life lessons.
A few weeks ago, I asked you to reflect upon your senior year and share lessons learned living and attending school during a pandemic. Allow me to share a sampling of your thoughts:
- Anything can be taken away from you at any point … be grateful.
- Never take anything for granted, your family, friends or even school.
- Always persevere.
- Be grateful, kind and patient … better days are coming.
- Appreciate the small things in life.
- Even when times are tough we can find a way.
- Everything happens for a reason, but what happens isn’t always what you expect and often you don’t know the reason.
- Appreciate life and those around you.
- Keep moving forward.
- I can’t control how people choose to act, only how I respond.
- Cherish every moment, it can be taken away in a second.
- Many students experienced what it feels like to live socially isolated.
- To appreciate what I have because at any moment it could all change.
- Cherish the people you have around you.
- Although it is tough, anyone surrounded by a great community can get through any adversity they may face.
- I can always rely on my family, my friends and God to get me through.
- The world is a socially connected place.
- Nothing lasts forever and can be taken away in the blink of an eye.
- Say I love you. Say I love you.
What impressed me most about reading your responses was, while there were understandably inconveniences, disappointments and frustrations felt, there was little “poor me” attitude coming from a class that never saw this health crisis coming on their first day of high school but spent nearly a third of their career navigating remote learning, wearing masks, staying physically distant, dealing with the stresses of COVID and quarantine protocols. For the most part this year, you were just grateful to be back in school with your friends.
It’s often said, that a grateful heart is the healthiest and most powerful of all human emotions. I caution you though, that as John F. Kennedy once stated, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Not to utter words … but to live by them. It’s not the words themselves but our authentic actions, responses, choices that sets the tone for our lives.
Therefore, it’s not simply good enough to know or utter our five core values but instead essential to live by them. Let’s reflect on your transformative journey or personal growth the last few years. To do so, I went back to read your writing samples when you took the placement exam as 8th graders. If you remember, at the time, the writing prompt said, “At St. Paul Catholic High School, we have five core values. They are faith, character, community, excellence and service. Which one of these core values would mean the most to you any why?”
- You said, “Faith means the most to me because it’s just like the pedals on a bike, you can’t go on without them.” I ask, is your spiritual journey defined by a “no room at the inn” or a heart longing for a “welcome home” attitude?
- You said, “Character means the most to me because you can have good grades, be very athletic, study and work hard but people will only respect and look up to you if you have good character.” I ask, who do you say you are? Are you living your Christian values recognizing that they ultimately define who you are?
- You said, “Community means the most to me. I am considering St. Paul not because of their delicious lunch but because they are so welcoming you feel like you belong there.” Together we are stronger. I ask, do your actions foster/contribute to a culture of belonging understanding that it takes a village?
- You said, “Excellence means the most to me. It is pushing yourself to your limits and beyond. It is expecting greatness out of yourself.” St. Paul wasn’t created to be ordinary. Nor were you. When you have a choice, take a chance knowing that you are capable of more than you think. I ask, are you committed to hard work striving to find the greatness that’s inherent in you by virtue of having been created in the image and likeness of God?
- You said, “Service means the most to me. It takes a kind heart, a well-formed conscience, and a strong love for God to serve others.” Tonight, you’re graduating from St. Paul with a diploma and a servant towel fully knowing knowledge without service is fruitless. #bethelight I ask, are you a spark willing to ignite the light in others?
Reading these essays reminded me how impressive you were as incoming freshmen and blessed to have witnessed your growth both individually and collectively as a class these past four years. I truly believe each of you is in a different place than when you first arrived at St. Paul, how could you not be, but our journey together the last several years wasn’t just to prepare you for tonight. More importantly, it’s been to prepare you for the rest of your life. The reality is that better days are ahead and your future is waiting for you to embrace it.
Tonight, my personal wish for each of you is a life filled with purpose and passion; a life filled with deep concern for the less fortunate in society; a life so filled with conviction and the values of Jesus Christ, that people everywhere will know more peace, more joy, more respect, more justice because they have come in contact with you.
Well done thy good and faithful servants … tonight, light has indeed overcome darkness. The time has come for you to leave the comfort of the nest, to spread your Falcon wings and soar following the exciting and diverse plans that lay in front of you. And as you leave remember Emma’s words, “you don’t need to have those plans all figured out but trust in yourself and keep moving forward one step at a time … just doing the next right thing.” Simply put, be a source of good in the world.
May God grant you the courage, wisdom and mercy to continue to grow more fully in His humanity and as Ben proclaimed, may you be blessed with an abundance of the greatest gifts that life has to offer: faith, hope and love.
Lesson learned … Say I love you.