Well men, you made it, at least to the first part of graduation weekend. This line has opened every one of the Baccalaureate Reflections I have had the honor of giving over the years. While these words had a different meaning and feel for the men of the Class of 2020 which was about finally celebrating their McCallie graduation, for the remarkable Class of 2021, this statement is much more meaningful and packed with more than we could hope to cover if I spoke for the next two hours…..which I will not do of course…..You might remember the opening Chapel back in August when I shared with you the frustration and exhaustion I felt on the first day of school encouraging, cajoling and scolding you guys to mask up, stay apart, wash your hands, etc. I ended that day by “catching” one of our coaches with his mask down as he worked with his team. Suffice it to say, my approach to him required an apology later that afternoon. I realized that, while my intent was doing whatever was necessary to keep you guys on campus, my motives were confused with a self righteous personal investment, fear and pride. I had to admit that my approach wasn’t sustainable and that it was….and I quote from the words of Abraham Lincoln….up to you through the better angels of your nature. Suffice it to say “you made it” is certainly something for the McCallie Class of 2021 to celebrate, because none of us would be here today without your leadership, cooperation, maturity and encouragement.
As I have said many times before, I am grateful and honored to have been on this path with you. Your unique approach to life as a group and your willingness to be kind, understanding and selfless was the key to remaining on this Ridge together for the entire year. So, it has been an honor, it has always been a pleasure, and it has been a unique challenge to be with you on this journey. And to the parents of this great class, we thank you for partnering, trusting and sharing your sons with us during these formative years in your son’s lives.
In that same Chapel Talk, I asked each of you to consider Honor-Truth-Duty in a different light as we found ourselves in unprecedented circumstances.
Honor: Comes from Living Responsibly with Freedom
Galatians 5:13 "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."
The words of Eleanor Roosevelt: Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.
Truth: In the Form of Love and Forgiveness
1st Corinthians 13: 1-8*
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
Dr. Martin Luther King once said: He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
Duty: As Relentless Selflessness
Leviticus 19:18 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
Selfless is defined as: being concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one's own.
Gentlemen, you modeled these foundational principles under trying circumstances throughout the year.
You men have come a long way since arriving on campus and have proven yourselves to be scholars, academicians, research scientists, entrepreneurs, athletes, adaptable musicians, creative virtual thespians, community servants, servant leaders and repeat champions….on regional, state and national levels…and most of all McCallie Men of outstanding character, understanding, empathy and wisdom. In this environment of learning that is the Ridge, we hope that you gained knowledge from us, but have no doubt that we learned much from you as well.
While every school year has joyous and challenging times, this one, while having its own set of unique obstacles, was still one of the most enjoyable I have experienced in quite a few years. You men were the reason. Conversations with your teachers and deans were in the same vein. You were great partners with and stewards of the school community both in tangible ways and in spirit. The faculty and administration want to thank you for your leadership, understanding, resilience, encouragement, bold candor, and joy throughout the year. I will remember you as well for some of your recurring “one liners”:
I forgot my mask.
When can we have a dance?
I have an idea.
Boarders: When can we leave campus?
Day Students: When can we come back to campus?
Can I make an announcement?
You need to cull the herd…..
And of course, QUACK…..great Duck Day by the way
When we think of your class, we will remember young men who were selfless, wise beyond your years, givers of unconditional love, happiness, support…….and courageous, yet vulnerable and even a bit irascible….
Your accomplishments are far too many to name in the time we have, but I would like to share some words your faculty use to describe this great class….And I quote…..
The seniors thoughtfully looked out for one another. I'm not sure if it's a result of COVID and appreciating their senior year, but they really did look out for another and had each other's backs. Seniors holding their peers accountable seemed more apparent this year.
These guys crammed a semester's worth of extracurriculars and support for each and they grilled and consumed a year's worth of hamburgers and hot dogs in about a two week window in the spring. They enjoyed spending time together and didn’t take it for granted.
This Class of McCallie Men led without needing to be seen as being in control and instead of just retreating to "how can we get through this", they actively looked for ways to make this a great year….and did so.
Where some people see obstacles, the seniors saw opportunities. This class embraced the oddity of a socially-distanced school year and made it uniquely their own. For example, the obstacle of the face-coverings became an opportunity to grow a mustache and/or beard. This spirit of making the best of a bad situation will be one of the memorable legacies of the Class of 2021.
Gentlemen….you are...simply put....an incredible collection of young men. I truly mean that. Personally, I appreciate the fist bumps, crazy “fake” handshakes, words of encouragement, and sincere questions about how I was doing on any given day. When I first came to McCallie, I was about the same age as the students and was treated as such. Now I am old enough…..barely I might add…..to be your grandfather…..When hanging around with you dudes….I can’t tell the difference.
I will fondly remember you for that...along with many other things….Thank you for being encouragers.
It is comforting to know that you will be leading us in the future and helping to figure out how to fix some of the seemingly daunting challenges our generation has left for you.
Men, I hope and trust that the McCallie community has made a positive difference in your lives. The Class of 2021 has left a lasting, positive, and memorable impression on your school:
You created a vibrant and supportive school culture….and a very unique one at that.
You set the bar high for future McCallie classes in many areas of school life. Your school is better because you were here.
You truly helped your school community navigate an ever-changing world and a pandemic with vigor of youth and the heart and wisdom of an old soul.
You most certainly did so in your own special and dignified manner.
You truly are a worthy, but unique and beloved class of McCallie men and you will not be defined, labeled or remember by CoVid 19.
Men of McCallie, congratulations on a job well done….Rest assured that when the diplomas are placed in your hands tomorrow morning, it is done so with pride, gratitude, and anticipation of the remarkable things to come in your lives.
Now for the last time, if you men will so kindly indulge me, I feel compelled to give you one more rendition of Words To the Wise as you leave us to embark on your new and exciting journeys.
1. Be where you really are…..don’t be distracted too much by the clutter of technology and social media or hurry through your days.
2. Commit to something larger than yourself….put yourself in situations where others are counting on you.
3. Don’t take yourself more seriously than your work...be willing to laugh at yourself, don’t be easily offended and strive to be self aware.
4. Keep your ego in check and balanced so you can gain wisdom along the way.
5. Next year be it, your freshman year in college, a gap year or beginning your career, find a healthy routine and stick to it….get plenty of sleep, eat well and move. The freedom of the college experience, alone, will be intoxicating enough….Be Well and Do Good....
6. Love God with all your might…..and Love your neighbor as yourself…….Everything in life hinges upon this commandment and promise.
7. And of course….Continue to endeavor to overcome your underdeveloped, but most promising frontal lobes.
Finally, come back to visit us often in the coming years...and we truly hope you will...Know that all you have to do to make us proud is to strive to become good men who will further what you learned and earned on the Ridge. And….because we all spent the year with most of half our faces covered….be sure to tell me who you are and I will do the same….
Congratulations and Godspeed, Gentlemen.
We are proud of you. We will miss you. We love you guys!
And even though you cannot yet stand up and be the first to leave…... as you are accustomed….I can’t help but say it one last time…..Seeeeeenyahs…...Thanks Men!