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. Never has this simple line been more meaningful and poignant than in this address to the great McCallie Class of 2020. And on a more specific note, two of your classmates and I have been trying to schedule a relic hunting trip, but for many reasons, including the CoVid 19 disruption, we had to cancel everytime we had it planned. I bought a metal detector just for the trip and I have promised them I will not open the box until we make it happen. Likewise, Men, the 2019-20 school year was not going to end until we could all gather back on the Ridge to collectively celebrate with you.
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 your parents, we thank them for partnering and sharing their sons with us during these formative years in your lives.
Back on August 21st of 2019, almost a year ago, I had the privilege to offer the first Chapel Talk of the year. I am pretty sure the title and message has been lost over these last 11 months, so if you will indulge me, I would like to remind you of the key points of the message. The title was: Honor Truth Duty: These Are Your Words. With these key points:
The choice is yours….Make decisions based on HONOR.
Proverbs 21:2 All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart.
Seek the TRUTH in all things like a relentless Warrior Poet, define your education, become who you want to be and gain wisdom.
Proverbs 18:15 The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
It is our Duty to “Be the Miracle for Someone Else”.
Luke 12:48 From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
You exemplified Honor Truth Duty in countless ways and it made a difference.
You men have come a long way since arriving on campus and have proven yourselves to be scholars, academicians, research scientists, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, thespians, community servants, servant leaders and 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 had in quite a few years. You men were the reason. My 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”:
Well, I had a good run.
I know you didn’t say that.
Where is the vegan option?
What are we/you going to do about that?
It is always a pleasure.
And of course, QUACK…..
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…..
Curious about the world and willing to travel to see it and learn firsthand
Able to engage in the issues of our time, interested enough to probe more deeply into challenging and potentially uncomfortable topics and learn facts and reality instead of simply accepting surface explanations
Stubborn in beliefs, but open to talking and hashing out differing opinions
Have a particular heart for young kids; willing to take extended time to play sharks and minnows or shoe-base baseball with the campus kiddies
It is easy to be there for State Championships and chapel talks, but the Class of 2020 took care of each through a pandemic and some unprecedented challenging times.
They responded to adversity with grace and perseverance, even when that adversity affected them directly. They kept their wits and their humor about them. And a special shout out to the guys who gave Zoom chapel talks; they kept the ship steaming through some very challenging seas.
These seniors got fewer demerits and walked fewer laps than any other senior class in the last 20 years, especially second semester.
The Class of 2020 probably came in thinking that they were better than they actually were, but then, they went out and proved that they were as good as they believed.
Gentlemen….you are...simply put....an incredible collection of young men. I truly mean that. Personally, I appreciate the fist bumps, crazy 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 couldn’t tell the difference. We 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 challenges our generation has left for you to solve.
Men, I hope the McCallie community has made a positive difference in your lives. The Class of 2020 has left a lasting, positive 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 in the most trying of times with vigor of youth and the heart 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 by the events of this spring.
Men of McCallie, congratulations on a job well done….Rest assured that when the diplomas are placed in your hands later this evening, 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.
Congratulations and Godspeed, Gentlemen.
We are proud of you. We will miss you. We love you guys!