2009 Needham High School Graduation Remarks from Dr. Barnes, School Committee Chair

Dr. Gutekanst, Dr. Richards, School Committee Colleagues, Faculty, Parents, Family, Friends, and most especially our soon to be graduates of the Class of 2009.

What a wonderful occasion…to be surrounded by classmates, friends, teachers, and all who are thrilled that you have achieved this milestone. At the start, my words may seem a bit incongruous to this joyous occasion, but please bear with me.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta was once asked to describe the worst affliction or condition she had witnessed in all her years ministering to the sick and destitute. She didn’t hesitate with her response. She said that w/o question the worst human affliction she had ever witnessed was that of lonliness...the feeling that no one cared...that one had no one to turn to. In fact the very desperate and impoverished in Calcutta, those who had little or no food, owned only the clothes on their back, and were riddled with illness and disease, these people did have someone who cared for them in the person of Mother Theresa.

What does the work of Mother Theresa have to do with all of us here today at the Graduation of the Class of 2009? Well let me see if I can make some connection.

When all of you young men and women began your education some 12 or 13 years ago, you began as part of a small group with other students… a pre-school or kindergarten class that was comprised of other wide eyed, eager young children. In this setting you began to learn some basics of education… maybe working on your letters, practicing your numbers, or developing good listening skills as you sat at the feet of your teacher as she or he read to you. Now just as important as your early academics during these years was your learning how to socialize, to play appropriately and to treat your fellow classmates nicely. You were beginning to learn about and to develop relationships.

As the years passed and you progressed through grade school to middle school, and later on to high school, you continued to learn and grow academically. You worked in school with some of those first classmates as well as new ones you had met over the years. In addition to the classroom, you would often see them after school, on the weekends, or at sporting events. These people became not only your classmates but also your friends. You had begun to form strong ties and solid relationships.

A well-rounded and comprehensive education is one that develops and nurtures the academic, social, psychological, and physiological aspects of the person. It involves gaining knowledge, competing against and playing with others in sports, learning to negotiate the sometimes treacherous waters of social life, and dealing with joys and sorrows…all part of the life long process of developing a sound mind and body.

As a school district we are proud of the foundation we have established for your academic growth. We have outstanding faculty, an abundance of resources, and 21st century facilities, like our new Needham High School.
As a district we have also focused on supporting the social and emotional needs of all of our students. The Responsive Classroom at the elementary level, the Advisory Program at Pollard, and the Mentoring Homeroom at the high school…they are all efforts to help young people connect to classmates and have an adult in their day that they can turn to . These initiatives represent the town’s commitment to educating the whole child…his or her mind, body, and spirit.

Your education to this point in your life is the product of study, hard work and relationships. And arguably it is these relationships that you have created through the years that may prove to be the most valuable.
Look around you. You are surrounded by classmates with whom you have laughed, maybe cried, and for certain, shared many memorable days. They are your friends now and they will be your friends tomorrow and the next day. They care for you now and they’ll care about you next month and next year.

You have parents, guardians, and family who love you dearly. They have been and will continue to be with you and support you as your life unfolds. As you look to your immediate past, you have teachers and coaches with whom you have developed relationships and who have come to know you both as a student and an athlete.

In the years ahead, you will all face challenges. Your school work may be difficult, relationships may become strained, or you may face circumstances that you never anticipated. But you know, these are challenges that all of us have faced. And like others, you will get through them.

Life will present many ups and downs, but you can be certain that you never enjoy the good times or face the difficult times alone.
You need not be destitute or live in the desperate conditions that Mother Theresa worked to feel lonely or bereft. Living in Needham, or off in college… you too can feel detached or lonely. Some say you can even feel lonely in a crowd.

For the many in Calcutta, touched by Mother Theresa, they had someone who cared…someone who reached out to help them.

As your former Pollard Principal, I ask you to indulge me and allow me to offer some advice as well as a challenge. You will all be off in the fall to many different places. You will meet many new and interesting people. Reach out to that student who seems alone at orientation, or to that new person you meet at your job. …a mere smile or a hello… calling a person by name can often shine a light on an otherwise dark day for someone who is feeling left out. Try to find time to visit or write to the elderly… maybe a grandparent or a neighbor. How they would love to hear from you. Your gesture need not be grand, just heartfelt.

The Dali Lama said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
As you depart Needham High School, you leave with much…
For many of you, you have your faith
You have family and friends and teachers
You have classmates that care deeply for you.
You will always have someone you can turn to… to share your joys … to share your troubles… or to seek advice.
Lonliness need not be a part of your life.

I wish you only the very best.
Be safe, content, and successful. And from all of us may God bless you.