Bongo Goes to School (Explore! Adventure! Above and Beyond!)

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Keep that Cuban energy and expect live music and dancing each night including a private salsa class! For this customized jazz festival departure, you will be able to choose between two different lodging options. Opt for the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which is considered a symbol of history, culture, and Cuban identity with 87 years of history and prestige. The Hotel Nacional de Cuba was declared a National Monument, and with its privileged location in the middle of Vedado, the center of Havana, it stands on a hill just a few meters from the sea, and offers a great view of the Havana Harbor; the seawall and the city.

Families invest in making sure their houses are up to international quality standards, and they greet you with Cuban hospitality — but also give you the privacy and comfort you desire. Andrew was a pioneer in opening up travel to Cuba. He began leading groups there in and over the years has visited the island over a dozen times and has developed a network of Cuban friends and contacts. Andrew enjoys taking visitors to fascinating off-the-beaten path spots to enjoy great food, music, and art.

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While you will still have a Cuban guide with you along the way, Andrew has infused his own experiences into this itinerary for a unique and unforgettable experience! We offer several Family Friendly dates, to help families book travel around common school vacation times. Trip literature and turnkey customer support from preparing for your trip to arrival back home. All-access passes to the jazz festival, including full access to all activities, guaranteed seating, opening dinner and concert, a bag with souvenirs. Have questions about the logistics and legalities of traveling to Cuba?

Contact us at Repeat travelers and groups are eligible for discounts. Looking for a payment plan to help manage your trip? Learn more here. Let us create a custom trip for your group. Learn more about custom group travel. Volunteer alongside youth in a colorful Havana neighborhood. Engage in citizen diplomacy as relations improve between the U.

Enjoy Cuba's vibrant music and arts scene. Connect with Cuban artists and dancers while discovering its cultural heritage. Escape to Havana for a weekend of art, music and exploration. Experience the best of this vibrant city! Uncover the natural side of Cuba - lush countryside, tropical offshore islands and biosphere reserves. Your adventure awaits!

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Teutsch about nearly anything as he has generally pretty wise advice on everything. Teutsch took a moment to think. I find worthiness in the present, here with all of you. Teutsch, for helping me see the wonder in that. Senior spring has been a reminder to all of us just how fleeting the present can be. This winter, Ms. I love you and want to express my most authentic gratitude for each and every one of you. I would like to first take the opportunity to thank Dr. Curtis, the Board of Trustees, my family, my teachers, and, most of all, my classmates for allowing me to speak this morning.

It is an honor to represent my peers who, I think we all agree, seeing as you have travelled to Western Massachusetts on a holiday weekend, represent the greatest Deerfield class of all time. I have always struggled to make friends whether it be because of my old scraggly bowl cuts; because of my gross athletic inability; and, far and away most likely, because in second grade I dressed up as a cockroach for Halloween. I knew it was an issue when I was iced-out of the chess team. My friends always seemed to have closer relationships as, during four-square, I was left bouncing the jumbo ball on empty wall-space in case anyone chanced to invent five-square.

I cried a lot, liked to classify rocks, and had one of those bug vacuums so that I could run around the yard collecting poisonous spiders before accidentally losing them in the kitchen. In fact, I cried so much that my acquaintance Beau Getz told me it was his personal mission to exhaust all of my tears before I became a teenager. Scholastically, I was very distractible from the start. But there I was, all limbs and crooked teeth, the only cockroach on halloween; the worst chess player; and, to even my own surprise, an outcast among Latin students by the sixth grade.

To make matters worse, my Latin classmates reminded me that, if I had spent only an hour in Ancient Rome with my alleged friends, they would surely have killed me. Eighth grade at GCDS. After telling the first teacher I met, Mr. Savage, that I was excited, or excitatus , to be in his latin class, he began searching for a new job. School days surrounded by the quips of Mr. Silipo or the assignments of Mr.

Freda felt only shorter than their subsequent nights as, surrounded by socially aware classmates, I considered myself out of place. My previous inability to define myself as an athlete, a STEM guru, a humanities scholar, or even an able friend left me feeling like none as I floundered in a new environment, confined by my familiar lack of self-reckoning.

Whereas my isolation and amorphous identity never challenged me before, I became painfully aware of my shortcomings and absorbed in self-critique. Aside from my very weird relationship with the authors of Rome, school, to no fault of my teachers or peers, became a taxing profession as I plied my trade deep into the hours of the night.

With every poor assignment, I valued myself and, unfairly, Deerfield less. Searching for any sense of accomplishment, I clung tightly to past moments of triumph, moments where my character had shone through, moments where I could say I was uniquely Colin Olson, was uniquely that cockroach, that kid who gave haircuts in the hallways. I met Alex Alijani in physics class, but we really met on the night of stepping-up. I met Abby Bracken on a school trip that summer. Far from home, Abby made me feel appreciated, cared for, and worthy. It felt like she believed in me, which, after a couple of weeks crossing northern Europe, translated into the beginnings of my own self-confidence.

Back on campus, Mr. I noticed how, while perhaps remaining a nerd and while definitely remaining terrible at the sport, I truly loved soccer. I noticed how Latin really interested me beyond its ability to provide me with a false sense of friends. I hosted a FIFA tournament and people showed up. I started a club where the only purpose was to watch soccer on Sunday mornings and, sometimes, people showed up. I applied for things, got rejected, and then ran for positions with increasingly self-deprecating speeches. While my personal risk-taking was by no means instantaneous, that gradual process only speaks to the constancy of the support I received.

This year, I was the only stingray at Halloween. This past weekend, I bought a keychain from CVS of a plush banana with a graduation cap and put it on my backpack because, for some reason, I thought it represented me. Some of you may have felt out of place at Deerfield for more than 9th grade year, some of you may choose to remember our shared school quite differently, some of you may have found a home in the valley in September of While I am immensely proud of our class, while it is the greatest coincidence that we all might attend the same school at the same time, and while the conclusion of that miraculous coincidence represents a time to reflect and possibly even to mourn, your attitude towards people, your willingness to lift myself and others up to allow for epitomic moments of self discovery in no way needs to die with our Deerfield careers.

To those who have helped me along my way, and with that I speak to all of you, I fundamentally believe in your capacity to act compassionately. While we may struggle at school, at work, or even at defining ourselves, I hope that you rely on others and, in turn, let people like me rely on you. The most intriguing book I read this summer was Factfulness , by Hans Rosling— a statistician and global health expert. You may remember him from a TED talk or two. The book is so compelling that Bill Gates has offered to buy a copy for every college student in America.

The book sheds light on concerning trends in our society. Among them, a resistance to robust debate and critical thinking, which are foundational elements of academic institutions like Deerfield and serve as the very bedrock of our democracy. This emerging narrowmindedness has many causes, but it is clear that bias plays a central role. Biases are mental efficiencies that reduce the work of thinking. They are the often-hidden tendencies, mental shortcuts, and preferences that are hardwired into our brains, through evolution and conditioning.

In his book, Dr. Rosling discusses how our innate biases impact the consumption of news and information. Among his many insights, he describes a bias called the single perspective instinct. It is our tendency to assign singular causes, and suggest singular solutions, to complicated, variable, and nuanced problems.

Rosling cites this instinct as the reason people stridently support or oppose certain ideas without consideration. Taken to the extreme, this bias can lend superficial credence to outlandish assertions: the moon landing was faked, vaccines cause cancer, and climate change is a myth. We react to these bold headlines with legitimate incredulity. The world is not as simple as the memes suggest. It is full of complex and difficult challenges that defy basic and reductive solutions. Overcoming bias is an essential component of that work, and I can think of at least three ways in which our community engages this challenge.

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First, our academic endeavors emphasize critical thinking. A focus on asking meaningful questions—and carefully analyzing both the content and context of the answers. This helps to unmask bias and serves the pursuit of academic rigor and superior performance.

When we embrace discomfort and difference, and when we pledge to act with respect, honesty, and concern for others, we build a community of fruitful and productive interaction. These habits of mind and spirit help to replace our basic impulses and self-promoting tendencies with worthier intentions. Together, these practices predispose us towards lives of consequence. They help us step outside of our own needs to explore how we can serve others. As an essential part of leading a fulfilling, rewarding life for yourself, commit to serve as an agent of hope and optimism.

This role comes not from being granted a title, but rather from the way we behave. Everyone here has the opportunity to serve—and to prove Deerfield worthy as a result—wherever we go, and whatever we do. When he was your age, Dr. Rosling humbly aspired to a career as a circus performer. But when he died last summer at the age of 68, he left a legacy as a doctor who cured thousands of patients, a global health expert who improved millions of lives, and a thinker whose work influences both present and future leaders…and now that includes all of you.

Good evening! I would like to start off by saying that I am honored that all of you came to hear me speak at this required meeting. I want to welcome all the new students here to the Academy. You made it. We are all intelligent and masters of our own craft. If you are here at the Academy, you have something to offer, which is an undisputable fact. Some of us are great dancers or great actors or great test takers or great athletes. It is exactly these differences that bring us ever so close. Your success is our success. It will be rigorous. It will be tiring. But, it will be worth it. Returners, welcome back.

No more lights out, and now you have a sweet vantage point at every school meeting. No more study hall, and now you have extended Wifi. Use it wisely. Seniors, we run this school. Even though now I love Deerfield from the bottom of my heart, it would be senseless for me to say that this was also so. I felt there were so many illogical rules, undeserved punishments, and pointless justifications.

And anyone currently there, I know how it feels. But for me, none of them were able to strike the peculiar balance between work and play like Deerfield did. Why is the administration so approachable? Why do I miss Deerfield during vacations? Why do I have a three-page paper due on Monday?

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  7. I found my answer. Welcome to Deerfield Academy! Four years ago, I was sitting on the farthest bench away from the campfire at Camp Beckett, beside this girl whom I had just met. Where are you from? I tried so hard not to cry, but felt the tears well up anyway. When I got back to campus, I called my mom and told her I wanted to go home. Every day for the first few months of school, I called her, sobbing, thinking Deerfield was against me. That here, we have become ourselves, the very people sitting under this tent. And we have watched each other realize the same.

    In writing this speech, I tried to think back to a quintessential, Deerfield moment. But eventually, I realized that there is no one, big moment that sums up Deerfield—there is only the collection of all the small moments. When I told my friends back home I was going to boarding school, they joked that I was going to Hogwarts.

    But even though Deerfield is no Hogwarts, there is a sort of magic here. The magic of Deerfield lies in the little things, hides in the unlikely places. That magic envelops us, becomes the very oxygen we breathe, invisible after a while. Until we realize how soon it will be gone.

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    To me, Deerfield is more than just a place. A few weeks ago, on a Tuesday night when I was sitting in Dr. We have been clapping them every day. We clap our hands when we say hello to a stranger on Albany Road, or when we hold the door open for someone too far away to keep walking at the same pace and not feel bad about it. We clap our hands when we put our arms around each other and sway to the Evensong on Sunday nights—swaying that involves a surprising amount of colliding. If magic is what makes this place, that magic comes from each of us. As much as we have grown up here, and as much as Deerfield has defined us, we have also defined Deerfield.

    I thought to myself, this is it. This is when I start to be sad. In the sky, I traced my past four years, echoes of myself suspended in the stars. I laid there entranced by the shining remnants of things that no longer existed. After all, the stars we see in the present are really snapshots of the past. I imagine that some day in the future, looking back at Deerfield will be like looking up at the stars.

    Each time we come back to a moment from our Deerfield days, we might see something different, just as each time we look at the stars, our eyes make out different constellations. When we leave Deerfield, we will lose something: the ecstasy of being immersed in the magic of the little moments. This is a mere acknowledgement that, though we are losing a good thing, we will also be gaining a good thing.

    Dad told us that zone was known in physics as the boundary between turbulence and order. To my classmates, right now, we are dancing on that very boundary, knowing that the future could tip either way, towards turbulence or towards order. It could and probably will seesaw back and forth. We can only imagine. But that uncertainty is precious. Uncertainty is what makes life worth living. And beating on while being borne back, I think, will mean moving forward without entirely leaving this place behind. And as we go our separate ways, I have faith that each of us will do it even bigger.

    And yet the question remains, why do we clap? Maybe we clap because we care about each other. Because even when we are critical of our school, that critique comes from a place of love. While the act of clapping is one of believing, it is also one of questioning, confronting, and calling—a call to come into the engaging, the redefining. Clapping is loud —it is the opposite of silence, of sitting back. Our clapping is precisely what has prepared us to show up and to be generous, courageous, and attentive learners and leaders in the world. I would like to thank all the people who have clapped for me, who have had faith in me and challenged me throughout the past few years.

    Thank you to my loving parents without whom I would not be here. Thank you to the friends I finally did make for sticking by me, especially to Amanda Cui, for making this place feel like home. Thank you to the teachers who taught me to embrace uncertainty, to always ask questions, even if I might not be answering them any time soon. And thank you, especially, to the extraordinary class of , for the opportunity to speak today. It has been an immense pleasure to have spent what feels like both a lifetime and a blink of an eye with all of you. I remembered the second thing that surprised me at Deerfield was the School Spirit.

    I say second because the first thing that surprised me was when I showed up to Deerfield without knowing anybody and without introducing myself Mrs. I had never attended a school that cared about its students outside of the classroom before. Shocking I know, nobody showed up to their school games, nobody attended plays, and there was nothing even remotely close to Choate Week.

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    A senior told me to just go along with it and support the school; I sat in the shade and watched our soccer team for about five minutes before leaving to go to the Greer. Choate Week was even more of a culture shock. And I was right in the middle of it. I loved this transition. The bonfire came and I stood awestruck as the cheerleaders ran around the perimeter screaming and chanting as the flames burst up into the air. Needless to say the next day I could hardly speak and was proud of it.

    There are a lot of firsts for every Deerfield Student. My freshman year on our hall of about 16 we had only four returning students, all of whom had only witnessed the dorm madness. So naturally we proceeded to try our luck at making our own. We started out small and simple with the classic duct tape everything to the ceiling prank. Again, we were all unfamiliar with the concept. We took the massive grey industrial trashcan out of the hallway, haphazardly dumped the trash bag onto the floor and began to fill the beast in the shower.

    The director of my summer camp, a man named Vincent Broderick, we called him Mr. It was pretty hard for me to initially make friends as a freshman. I told my interviewer, when I was applying, that I wanted to find the place where I could balance an athletic life, an academic life, and a social life. That was something really hard for me to grapple with as I entered the winter. As our play performance neared, I thought nothing of the general outcome and figured life would keep going on as usual.

    Yet after that production people kept coming up to me to say that they appreciated the performance or what their favorite part of it was. I was completely blown away. After feeling so insignificant for so much of my time at Deerfield, people took the time out of their night to come and see what I had worked on for the past three months. For me that completely changed everything and to every student that buys in and shows up at anything, thank you.

    Honestly, Deerfield has been such a gift that I have had the pleasure to receive, but it would be nothing without the students in front of me today. You guys are what make Deerfield so special. Guys, We made it. As we all move forward into the next chapter of our lives, I am sure we will each try and keep the lessons we have learned here with us as we each go our separate ways. I hope that the majority of you keep in touch with one another.

    Keep that sense that Deerfield gave where everywhere you went, every hard decision you had to make, every tough time you had to go through, every AM Dining Hall grind, every night spent crying or laughing, there was always been someone in your corner. Friend, faculty member, or simply someone you just happened to live next to, there was always at least one person that you could turn to for support.

    Thank you, Margarita Curtis—members of the Board of Trustees, parents, friends and members of the class of …I am honored to be with you at this wonderful ceremony. Giving a Commencement address is an important responsibility. Or so I thought—until I reflected back on my own graduation in , and compared notes with my classmates. The Commencement speaker that day was so riveting… none of us can remember a single word that was said. And let me point out: the average tenure for a White House Chief is 18 months…and getting shorter all the time.

    You have been at the top of your game for 13 years. Time has lost all meaning. They are convinced they dropped you off here last week. When I was sitting where you are back in , I think I was wondering how in the world I got away with my so-called senior project—which, as I recall, consisted of playing Frisbee and blasting rock music on the lawn outside Pocumtuck. Would I really get a diploma? Any moment I thought maybe the jig would be up.

    It is unfortunate that he has put in the minimal effort. But there is no point in belaboring it at this juncture. I wanted to be a great hockey player, and hockey runs in my family. My brother-in-law, Terry Marr, played varsity all four years, and was made captain. No pressure. By contrast, my most memorable moment on the ice came sophomore year during a team scrimmage—when I was knocked unconscious after taking a stick in the face.

    This was nothing to write home about—but the infirmary did send my parents a letter:. Blank Whipple , your son blank Christopher was injured on date blank? Adding insult to injury, junior year, I got cut from the varsity—sent down to the j. I was totally devastated. And it gets worse. Journalism also runs in my family, and more than anything I wanted to be a writer.

    So sophomore year I tried out for The Scroll. Well, I flunked the writing test. Well, guess what? It turns out that failing is ok. A few years ago, Aaron Sorkin spoke to the graduates at Syracuse University. Sorkin, of course, is perhaps the greatest film screenwriter of our time. It did not go well.

    He flunked the class. But that was, he said, the single most important thing that happened in his evolution as a writer. Sophomore year he repeated the course…and passed—and he never looked back. The point is, there are screw-ups headed your way. The truth is, you are all incredibly well-educated dumb people.

    No matter how smart you are, you are going to mess up. And your life is not going to follow your pre-conceived script. The trick is to be ready for unexpected turns in the road. I am no Aaron Sorkin or Steven Colbert—but I stumbled into a career I never could have imagined when I sat where you are now: as a journalist I have covered apartheid in South Africa, revolution in the Philippines, famine in Somalia, hunger strikes in northern Ireland, war in the Middle East and Central America. And all the directors of the CIA. I have been a producer at 60 Minutes, made a film for Showtime, and wrote a book that has kept me on cable tv news for more than a year…and none of this would have happened if I had followed my original plan.

    When I graduated from college, the stars of the biggest journalism show in town, Time Incorporated—the publisher of Time, Life, Sports Illustrated, Fortune Money— were the writers. The writers never left the rarefied air high above Rockefeller Center. By contrast, the grunts were the reporters, who went out in the field and into the muck, actually covering stories. Well, I wanted to be a writer. And lo and behold, I was hired as one by the monthly Life Magazine. I thought to myself: I have arrived. But instead of firing me, my boss did me a life-changing favor.

    He demoted me—he kicked me out of my office—and told me not to come back until I had a story. I had a knack for getting into inaccessible places—and getting people who never gave interviews to talk. I wound up covering stories for Life on five continents. And eventually I became a pretty good writer, too. Whether you decide to become a doctor or a lawyer or a journalist or a banker or a candlestick maker…make a connection to something larger than yourself. So in college and beyond…look up from your iPhone or laptop and notice things.

    Pay attention to what is happening in this country. Imagine a president running the White House like a crime family…who has contempt for constitutional norms and democratic institutions…and demonizes anyone who criticizes him as an enemy. The rule of law—the main thing that distinguishes this country from a criminal oligarchy like Russia—was in jeopardy. Well, we got through it. The bad guys lost. The rule of law prevailed.

    But there was no guarantee what the outcome would be. And there are no certainties today. As it turns out, Watergate was just a warm-up for what is happening in Washington today. The rule of law is once again under assault. But there is a simple way to defend it: and that is to tell the truth.

    And to demand it from those who lie to further their political ends. Deerfield stands for many things: character, civility, integrity. But in my mind the most important is the pursuit of truth. Truth is not dogma or ideology or opinion. Facts are evidence-based. Without a shared set of facts, we cannot solve problems or create laws or govern effectively. Truth was the first casualty of this presidency—when the Press Secretary lied about the size of the inaugural crowd. Truth died again when the Chief of Staff stepped up to the lectern in the White House briefing room, lied about an elected representative—and then refused to correct himself.

    But worse than those who do the lying are those who go along with them. Truth will not prevail—unless you demand it. Be curious. Seek the truth. And I learned a lot from them. On December 5, , with the country in crisis, on the verge of another great depression, thirteen of them gathered at the White House at the invitation of George W. They were Republicans and Democrats—representing every view on the political spectrum, from Dick Cheney to John Podesta. But on this day, a moment of crisis for the country—with the auto industry about to go belly up, credit frozen around the world, and two wars mired in stalemate—they put their partisanship aside.

    They sat around a table and took turns giving Emanuel their best advice on how to run the White House. They wanted him to succeed. They cared more about the country than their own ideological agendas. I spent some time with a bunch of you a few weeks ago. And partly because of that visit, I am optimistic about this country. Compared to me and my Deerfield classmates, you are light years more self-aware and confident and diverse and tolerant. So congratulations, class of !

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    Keep falling on your face and getting back up, until you are. I hope you find a teacher or a mentor, as I did here at Deerfield, who believes in you more than you believe in yourself. I hope you reconnect with Deerfield classmates decades later, as I have just this year, and become closer to them than you ever were. Welcome to all our families and friends, and to the entire Deerfield Community! Seniors, we have gathered to celebrate your accomplishments, but before we do, it seems a good time to thank your families—and your teachers—for the role they played in getting you here today.

    Please join me in giving them a round of applause. You know, Commencement is one of few life events that allow you to pause and reflect, before you move into an unknown future… and I imagine this idea could make you a little nervous. But those butterflies signal opportunity. They indicate inflection in the path of your life. They herald the chance to grow — not only in terms of who and what you are—but more importantly, in what you think. I urge you to dwell in this sense of possibility, in this sense of uncertainty.

    Most of us eschew such discomfort, seeking a safer place. Instead of lingering to learn and grow, we want to make decisions and move forward—confident in our own assumptions and judgments. Taken to extremes, this mindset can lead to self-righteousness and a sense of moral superiority. When we occupy this particular high ground, we enjoy a lovely view, but a static one. This hubris has taken forms familiar to us in recent years. People protest a speaker before hearing the speech.

    They reject the new in preference to the safety of the status quo. They equate offensive rhetoric with physical violence—and popularity with merit. At Deerfield, we know that education begins and ends with who we want to be, not with what we want to know; our mission is to prepare students for leadership in a rapidly changing world. At some schools, leadership is about the skills of command and control.

    But WE believe leadership is about people. Daily habits of respect, honesty, and concern for others make our community special—and are the product of individual actions. In my role as Head of School, much of my work is to listen to people who have vastly different—and often vehemently held—opinions on topics that are personal, meaningful, and important to them.

    There is always divergence in what different people believe, and yet all feel their position is the right one. Now… I am not saying that everyone always gets a vote, and I am not advocating for design by committee. But I would argue that leaders need to explore ideologies with which they disagree—instead of seeking evidence in support of their own predispositions and predeterminations. Leaders sometimes assume they must select from the available options—that they must choose a side.

    When you recollect your most satisfying classroom moments at Deerfield, they share in their character a kind of collective engagement. In this way, we understand that decision-making is not an act of selection, but one of synthesis—of creation. Instead of filling space with our own voices and thoughts—our own sense of certainty—each of us strives to listen, to find common ground, and to connect with others—no matter where they come from or what they think.

    At Deerfield, we learn to lead with strength of mind and strength of heart, acknowledging the integrity of those who see things differently— translating critical thinking into clear communication, advocating for ourselves and others with purpose and respect. Each of you has played a role in creating an environment that fosters rational discourse and respectful debate. You accept uncertainty—and its associated discomfort—because you sense opportunity. In this way, you embody the school we have always hoped to be. I would like to wish good afternoon to Dr.

    Margarita Curtis, Dr. Manning Curtis, Mr. I wish to extend a special, heartfelt greeting to the members of the Illustrious Class of , to whom this talk is principally addressed. I last delivered a Baccalaureate address 23 years ago to the Class of and I feel that the intervening time has given me a richer perspective on the Deerfield Experience.

    However, I feel like I need to give you fair warning, a red flag that comes from one of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau. Lyons in the Language Department and Ms. Kelly in the Library. In a few days, your graduation speaker will focus on advice for the future. I, on the other hand, want to talk about the shared experience we have had.

    One of the points I will try to get across today is that though things have changed over the last 40 years, the essence of what makes Deerfield great is still very much intact. You—the Class of —have experienced Deerfield in its many forms: classes with demanding teachers, co-curriculars with coaches and directors who expect your best effort, dorms with pretty tight rules—and the best part, making friends and sharing your thoughts and feelings with them.

    Maybe not the best start to Senior Spring? Right Mr.

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    Students were just getting out of sports and they raced to the location where they formed human bucket brigades to help move furniture and paintings out the front door and across the street to the safety of the Historic Deerfield Tourist Center. There were wonderful photos posted in newspapers showing DA students and faculty pitching in to help. Be that as it may, there is something special here that is unique to Deerfield—something that sets us apart from many other similar schools. What I am talking about has been passed down through generations of Deerfield students.

    It is Deerfield Spirit—at times it is so powerful that you can feel it washing over you like a wave. Every time you cheer at a pep rally, every time you applaud another Deerfield student for a performance, or a meditation, or an athletic accomplishment or a service to the community you generate and reinforce our defining school spirit. It is the spirit of participation, a sense of pride in what you contribute as an individual and a sense of pride in what we do as a school.

    It is the choice to become actively involved with the knowledge that you will be supported in what you do. What has changed over the years is the form it takes on. There is an excitement in the air at all times that school is in session, a willingness to join in, take risks and contribute for the good of Deerfield. It is what students take to the fields, bring on to the courts, present on the stage, prove in and on the water—the sense that they represent Deerfield.

    It is the essence of what we hope every prospective applicant sees at Deerfield while touring campus and visiting—creativity and critical thinking in classes, sportsmanship and skill in athletics and a vibrant, ethical community. As Mr. Boyden often said, Deerfield days are not just preparation for life, they are life. Every time you thanked a Physical Plant worker, praised the Dining Hall staff, or recycled and composted correctly you made the community just that much better.

    It is then that you have shown awareness of your role as a member of an institution that stretches back over years into the past and extends forward into the future. I feel certain that the members of the Class of will not fall into this category. Your teachers, under the benevolent supervision of Academic Dean Dr. Hills have emphasized the importance of creativity, communication, critical thinking and collaboration in addition to the acquisition of factual content.

    The Faculty includes a number of Greer Chair recipients, like the indomitable Ms. Hynds, forever old school Mr. Marge, the irrepressible Ms. Friends and the forever young Ms. Claudia Lyons. The academic departments are capably led by the nerdy Dr. Acton in Science, the intellectual Mr. Schloat in English, the towering guidance of Mr. Barnes in Math and the Force of Nature that is Ms. R-L in History—to name a few. There is also a core of outstanding young faculty who are poised to propel the school through the next chapter in its history.

    Stallings and Ms. Steim are expert guides through the wilds of poetry and literature, Mr. McVaugh provides opportunities for research in Environmental History while Ms. Melvoin follows in the footsteps of her dad as a US History scholar. Bicknell draw students into Spanish speaking cultures, Ms. Calhoun and Mrs. McVaugh train young Math students for future greatness and Ms.

    Frank makes philosophy relevant for teenagers. Taylor and Dr. Thomas have added tremendous spark and intellectual power to the Science Department, while Mr. Carroll is aligning the Library with the changing curriculum. Miller, perhaps the most creative thinker I have encountered in my time at DA, is constantly reshaping the way Deerfield interfaces with the world through the CSCG and Mr. Payne—outstanding Architecture teacher that he is—must take on the heavy responsibility of continuing the days of glory of the foundation of DA soccer—the Quad Squad!

    I hope you take a minute during the next few days to thank the faculty members you have connected with. Because of their efforts, you, the Class of , are likely to make a lasting impact in the future. Your leadership will be essential in meeting the complex challenges of a changing climate, evolving antibiotic resistant strains of disease and the disappearing global reserves of fresh water.

    We need to be able to feed a human population growing at an exponential rate, address insidious social justice issues and fight the rise of anti-intellectualism. We need leadership in a rapidly changing world. We need the intellectual power of Kiana Rawji who can rationally analyze complex topics and communicate in language that clarifies them. We need the dedication to public service of Conrad Friere, who reminds us that we need to think of the needs of others in our extended community. We need the 21 st Century thinking of Mila Castleman who will use her talents to push the boundaries of art and technology.

    We need the well-rounded excellence of Theo Lenz to serve as a role model for those who want to make the most out of their opportunities for success. We need the clear insight and essential sense of humor that characterizes how Misha Fan advances discussion about gender. And we need thinkers like Marco Marsans who understand the value of philosophy in understanding different perspectives.

    We need the commitment to sustainability that Nic Labadan will bring to his entrepreneurial endeavors and we need artists like Erin Tudryn to make us aware of the environmental impact of our throw-away culture. We need actors like Maddie Wasson and Thanasi Tsandilas who can channel powerful messages through their performances. As a matter of fact, the gifts and talents of every single member of the Class of will be needed to provide leadership in this rapidly changing world.

    Seniors, tomorrow night you will be attending a gathering of your classmates with Dr. Curtis and some faculty—the so-called Senior Cry. At this time, it is traditional that the Head of School relates the Tom Ashley story to those who will graduate the next day. Since students are hearing the story for the first time, many wonder what the point of it is. Over years ago, Tom Ashley articulated Mr.

    Some of these goals can be attained by means of courses, practices and games, but the ethical and moral side of education must necessarily occur indirectly. The means of encouraging a student to stand for the right things must emerge from preserving the individuality of students and giving them an underlying, almost unconscious sense that the school stands for the right things. Make it one of your finest, as well. It is a chance to reflect on the totality of your Deerfield experience, a chance to stand up and say a word of thanks, praise someone, recount a funny story or a fond memory or simply try to express your feelings.

    I urge you now to think a bit about what you want to say, for your words are likely to be remembered, and perhaps treasured, for years to come in the hearts and minds of those gathered together. I feel this sentiment has been beautifully expressed in a work called Strength of Heart: The Bicentennial Poem by Peter Fallon, who was an Irish poet in residence on campus during the Bicentennial Year I urge you to read the whole poem, but the last lines are the most powerful ones to me and I hope you carry them with you into the future.

    Those lines read:. Be worthy of this life. And, Love the World. We, the heads of independent secondary schools comprising the Eight Schools Association, stand in solidarity with our students and with the families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We join with those voices calling for meaningful action to keep our students safe from gun violence on campuses and beyond. As many of our students have joined a nationwide movement to support the victims and survivors of gun violence in America, we pledge, as leaders of those schools, to help amplify their voices.


    Our students come from every state in this nation and from around the world to receive the very best care and education. We are moved to take action out of responsibility for the thousands of children in our care and out of compassion for children throughout this country. We have given witness to Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, among too many other instances of gun violence on campuses.

    Parkland is now added to that list. We as school leaders will do all we can in our power to keep our students safe. We call upon all those elected representatives — from each member of Congress to the President to all others in positions of power — to take meaningful legislative and regulatory action to make our schools safer for learning and teaching. I was seated in that seat—right over there—at my first opening convocation as a new sophomore, two years ago. I had no doubt that I was seated amongst the best and brightest of my generation—and to be honest, I was unsure if I was good enough to fit in.

    I was very anxious: about classes. However, with help from encouraging teachers and successful students, who were all willing to share their experiences, I made choices that helped me succeed. Now, here I stand at the start of my final year, more eager than ever to start a conversation, proudly channeling my own style sorry mom , and part of a community I always dreamed of; one that I am certain will last me a lifetime.

    Welcome back to school everyone! Whether you are here beginning your first days at Deerfield or beginning your last year on campus, together, we begin a voyage that will take us…wherever we choose to go…everything will turn on the choices you make. We all have off days, but the good days will out number the bad, and the incredible people at DA will always help you get through.

    Ninth graders: take it all in. You are small but mighty, and high school is going to flash by faster than you think. And finally, seniors! We are doing it big this year! As a student body…we will start early. We will work late. We will focus on our ambitions, our passions, new ideas, and new choices. We will reach out to those who are younger to guide them.

    We will reach out to those who are older to learn from their experience. Reach out to somebody you have never seen before today. As we serve others, we grow stronger. Choices you make here today, tomorrow, and throughout your time at Deerfield will change your life; your choices will change Deerfield; and your choices will change the world.

    Welcome to your future! Know that you are among friends, and please count me among them. Thank you, Mr. Mohammad, Amelia, and Dr. Hills—and a warm welcome to all of you as we begin a new academic year together. Today, it is fitting to reflect on the values and dispositions we embrace at Deerfield—those that lead us to worthy—generous ways of being in the world. But a natural phenomenon, witnessed by many of us this summer, may help illustrate the utter necessity of cultivating one key trait in our community life.

    In late August, a solar eclipse crossed the country from coast to coast. Almost 20 million people witnessed the mid-day darkness of totality, and virtually everyone in the continental United States experienced the eclipse in some form or another. It was a much anticipated historic event. But for some, these cosmic, mysterious events piqued curiosity. Over time, ancient civilizations gained the ability to predict the timing of eclipses. His calculations were accurate to within 20 miles and four minutes, demonstrating that through sheer curiosity, he persevered to shed light on the inner workings of cosmic geometry.

    Any remaining misinformation does little harm: We no longer perform human sacrifices to appease angry gods. For good or ill, belief in the power of the stars to govern our fate has been all but extinguished. The repugnant ideologies on display in Charlottesville last month are but one example. The people carrying Nazi flags are vectors of corrosive and hate-fueled fear. They declare—with disturbing confidence and certainty—that their fears are founded in a twisted truth—and they argue that a torch sheds sufficient light on the world. They dwell in ignorant and incurious darkness.

    Curiosity is the light that converts fear to familiarity. Curiosity illuminates the unknown and—when alloyed with a sense of humility—ensures we remain open to the truths we uncover. As I suggested to our new students and families at the Wednesday lunch, curiosity is the most essential attribute we can develop and demonstrate at Deerfield.

    It invites us to navigate the landscape of thought, separate right from wrong, winnow fact from fiction, and decide whom—and what ideas—to follow. At Deerfield, we spark curiosity in a special way. We connect our work here, in this historic village, with the duties we have as citizens in a modern world.

    We share experiences, face-to-face, to bond our diverse community together. We pursue big ideas from a foundation of common knowledge and fundamental inquiry. Together, we examine the challenges of the world, letting curiosity guide us to new answers—and new questions.

    Here we have the resources and support to venture anywhere our curiosity takes us. I hope that we can build familiarity with others, and with other ideas—so that we can affirm our common humanity. Respect and concern for others will continue to guide our words and our actions. Here I refer to the terrorism, political unrest, and human rights abuses that have shaped recent global news. Millions around the world go hungry, ingest pollutants, or seek refuge from violence or oppression.

    Our role in education is a human responsibility: Pressing problems face people everywhere. Here is what gives me hope: We know what we must do. These enhanced skills supplement the talent and commitment you all bring to the teaching life. In all seriousness though, it is an honor to be up on this stage today. When I was watching commencement my freshman year, I thought I would be lucky to walk across this stage. Now I get to walk and talk. Who would have thought?! What did you do wrong? Those Yankees better take care of you. I hope you have enjoyed your weekend in this place that I have grown to love.

    No matter what year we drove under the Elms for the first time, we all came here with goals, fears, and expectations. We all took different paths, did different things, and followed our dreams to learn a little bit more about ourselves and our talents. We all have grown so much in our own unique ways, and it has all happened in this valley, in these dorms, in the classroom, on the lower fields, in the dance studio, at the rock, in the river, during feeds, during those late night talks with your friends, at the sit down table… the list goes on and on.

    In one-way or another, we were all introduced to a plethora of opportunities, but through the busy, fast-paced life of Deerfield, we found our niche. Some of us found a nook right from the start, but for others it took a little bit more time. For me, it took three years. I am going to share three stories with you all today that helped me find my place— and myself— at Deerfield. My first experience was on the football field. I came here thinking I would be a great player.

    I came from the public high school in Virginia on which Remember the Titans was based. Not too shabby! So, I thought football would be easy and I would be a star. Well, boy I was wrong, just ask my JV coaches, Mr. Emerson and Mr. I got yelled at during every single game and practice, but I always knew that they yelled at me because they wanted the absolute best from me. And when I moved to varsity, I wanted to do my best for the team. In truth, I missed a lot of tackles; I mean a lot. During the Loomis game this year, the kick returner was running right at me.

    I decided to go for that big-time play. I ran at him, and when my chance came I dove at his ankles…Aanndd I completely missed. He went on to score, and I moped to the sideline, knowing that I was about to get an earful from Coach Barbato. Do not worry about mistakes, and just play football! I smiled, having heard exactly what I needed to hear. Coach Barbato believed in me more than I believed in myself. I realized that by playing afraid I had relied too much on my teammates. From then on, I held myself accountable. I suspect that all of my classmates have come to that same place of holding themselves accountable for their successes and mistakes as friends, classmates, teammates, hallmates, performers, and community servants.

    We have been accountable at Deerfield in seen and unseen ways. I remember even hoping to be an unsung hero freshman year; I wanted to be recognized so badly at school meeting. However, later in my years at Deerfield, I found a different satisfaction in a place I never would have imagined: the dish crew. The quizzes, essays, and sporting events all flushed from my mind as I focused on my one and only task—move the plates on the conveyor belt to Al.

    Move em quick! I had a commitment to Dish Crew just like the ones to my sports teams and classes, except this was an off-the-radar job. I would show up, buy in, and in doing so I learned a lot.