A glorious and warm afternoon provided the perfect setting as many community members gathered on the upper field to celebrate and recognize our Eighth Graders at BFS’s Graduation Ceremony yesterday, June 10, 2021. A gentle breeze arrived and for three hours, our hearts and minds were captured by the beauty of the moment, the presence and maturity of our students, the warmth and support of our parents and community members, and the bucolic setting of our campus; it was as if the pandemic had been blown elsewhere and was a faraway memory.
It was meaningful for me to witness each student be so present, engaged, and, supportive of one another – a reflection of the vibrant community that we are and everything our talented teachers do to build and sustain it every day. It was poignant and meaningful to take in each graduate’s reflections about their experiences here. It was in keeping with our mission of “honoring the Light within each person” and special to listen to our faculty speakers, who spoke from the heart about each departing graduate. I could hear and feel how powerfully they know about, care for, and love the students. The quality of each individual voice and the character of every speaker was an affirming reflection of everyone else who works at Buckingham Friends School.
A special thank you goes to Melissa Clayton for her superb vision and extraordinary work (again) in making today so special, to all of the parents who helped, and to Rich Cox and Karen Kemp for their preparations and complete involvement – thank you!
I offer the following from my remarks to the departing Eighth Graders:
Eighth Graders, each of you has met with success in the areas we value as a school – as learners, as original and critical thinkers, as leaders and members of the community, and in your ability to develop as individuals and express your originality. You have approached learning with creativity, taken risks in the pursuit of excellence, and each of you has flourished.
As you depart and take with you all that you have learned, I want to encourage you over the summer to reflect upon the unique and varied character traits within yourself that were nurtured, in many venues and in many ways, during your time at BFS. One specific quality that I want to you to ponder is your capacity to be mindful of the common good – by this I mean, your ability to put the needs of others ahead of your own, to look for and act upon what is in the best interests of the group, and to work for personal satisfaction rather than for credit.
The ability to be mindful of the common good is a state of mind and a state of being that requires a lifetime of practice.
BFS is fortunate to have (and have had) community members – teachers, parents, staff members, and trustees – who have exemplified this capacity for caring about the greater good. They have impacted our community in countless and invaluable ways, influencing and shaping the essential culture and future course of our school. Perhaps no greater example has existed before us today than the lessons offered and the contributions made by your former Fourth Grade teacher, Nancy Sandberg, who is retiring and graduates with you today.
In so many ways, Mrs. Sandberg demonstrated that she has the special ability to be attentive, to notice what needs to be done, and to step forward and initiate action without being asked. She’s done this countless times – for example, when a student needed extra help or just to hear that someone believed in them, when a committee needed a leader, when a friend’s concerns required a sensitive response, when a colleague needed support, when something needed to be done right away, or when her own laugh or disbelief or empathy was the perfect antidote to a trying situation.
She has taught all of us to look for what we can do to help, to seek opportunities to serve others and the common good, to strive for the ways we can support others, the school, and the needs of our community. She has modeled the importance of holding an unwavering regard for each individual; of being present and mindful of who needed attention, encouragement, and help; and in expressing her belief that it was more important to look for the substance and qualities of worth in someone than it was to criticize them. She delighted in the successes of others, contributed to the achievements of countless community members, and was always attentive to the needs of those around her – to include this head of school on innumerable occasions.
One word comes to mind that sums up Mrs. Sandberg for me. That word is integrity. I first consider it in the original meaning of the word. An integer is a whole number, or complete entity. Integrity is the state of being whole. A whole person has poise, sincerity, alertness, and intellectual, emotional, social, and physical vigor.
Please remember, that you can learn facts and skills, develop talents in and outside of the classroom, and fill yourself with knowledge and expertise, and if you lack sincerity, empathy, compassion, and independence of mind, your growth is not healthy; you are not gaining in integrity.
Integrity is an ideal, a goal to strive for. And, to walk in your integrity will require effort, self-awareness, and discipline. To be complete in your integrity, your heart must be in the right place. Your standards and morals must be high. Investing in your character over time will enable you to deal ethically with the challenges of today and to make conscious decisions about how you will approach tomorrow, and how you will accomplish our mission and become a caring citizen of the world.
The associations you keep, the peers you choose, the mentors you seek, the organizations you affiliate with will all help to define your character. However, in the end–you will be judged on your integrity as an individual above all else – not on what group you are a part of, what job you have, or what you have been able to accomplish, acquire, or attain.
Graduating eighth graders, the moment that everyone has been anticipating is now upon us. Although your departure from BFS has always been a part of the master plan, please know that we are all here today balancing our excitement for you and your future prospects with a measure of impending loss.
We celebrate and acknowledge you today as you embark on the new adventures that lie ahead. We encourage you to go forward and continue with the work and effort required to succeed and make a difference – in big and little ways – to the things that matter most to you, to further develop your pursuit for knowledge and the truth, to be generous in all ways and especially in who you are, to extend yourself and your sincere interest in others, and to maintain quality in your relationships with one another and the many new and different people you will encounter along the way.