Class 2017, whether graduating from high school or university, we wish you the best as you meet the environmental and political challenges of your time. Your commitment and can-do optimism well match you to them. To this point, earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to work with five GOMI high school student interns at the GOMI teacher Summer Workshop conducted at the Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Their energy and contributions were inspiring. You will hear more of and from them in our next issue. I had the opportunity to attend my grandson’s high school graduation. His class Valor Victorian, Jackson Kealey, also happens to be a long time member of the Newburyport GOMI team.
Jackson’s message was as challenging as it was inspiring. I pass on, with modest edits, his “straight talk.” as to what his generation needs to learn and do as they grasp the baton of succession. It also serves as a reminder to us of older generations that, in building a sustainable, future we need to include our youth as rightful and engaged partners. This is a job for many hands and many generations. I turn the page over to Jackson
Jackson Kealey, Valor Dictorian, Newburyport High School, Class of 2017
In addition to being Valor Dictorian of his Class, Jackson has accrued hundreds of social service hours with Girls Forward, the National Honor Society, Mentors in Violence and the Newburyport GOMI Team. Jackson was captain of cross-country track team and competed in indoor and outdoor track. By self-admission, Jackson’s, most prominent activities included the cross-country track and his membership in the GOMI Newburyport Team. From the former, in his words, he learned “ … the importance of perseverance,” and from the latter his, “ … love for the sciences and a new and refined appreciation for the environment.”
Good morning, everyone: teachers, administrators, distinguished guests, friends, family members, my family, and, most importantly, the Class of 2017. I learned a whole lot in high school. Ethos is an author’s credibility in his or her writing; the Gilded Age held mostly complacent presidents; the surface of photographic film consists of silver halide crystals. But what do all of these tidbits of information really mean? Are they truly important to who I am or who I will be? Albert Einstein, the renowned physicist, once said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” So why would a scholar like Albert Einstein say something like this? Well, for one thing, Albert Einstein was not at the top of his class. In fact, he failed an entrance exam to Zurich Polytechnic School the first time that he took it. So maybe he had a little bad history with classical education. Ok. Fair enough. But Einstein also revolutionized what we once knew, or thought we knew about physics and the Universe. His creativity was unrivaled, and he questioned every current idea of the time, never taking anything at face value. There is no way he could have learned his discoveries in school, because, well, his theories weren’t even imagined yet.
You all have spent your four years in high school, memorizing facts and figures, writing essays, taking tests, but also learning skills, making memories, and hopefully enjoying yourselves. You have perhaps struggled through math courses, science courses, history courses, or English courses, asking yourself, “when will I ever need to use this,” and to be perfectly honest with you, I do not see how a business major will ever need to know a thing about Newtonian gravity or if a mechanical engineer will ever need to recite Shakespearean poetry in either of their respective fields. But never in a million years would I steer a future mechanical engineer away from literature, or a future business major away from the world of physics. Not only does a diverse education allow you to become more knowledgeable in a variety of subjects, but, more importantly, it will force you to think outside of your comfort zone. Life is not limited to the field that you choose to go into, so why should your education be? The mechanical engineer may one day need a romantic sonnet for that enchanting barista at the coffee shop.
There’s your Shakespeare. The business major may one day need an explanation for why his or her sales dropped this quarter. Newtonian gravity saves the day. Puzzles in life do not know the boundaries of defined subject areas, and sometimes, the answer to your problem may not be in the books you read every day. Do not be afraid to think beyond them.
Our class has shown that we certainly know how to secure amazing success in the classroom. Our beloved National Honors Society President Elizabeth had to read a record number of Gold Keys at the academic awards night. But we cannot become lost in the grades, the numbers, and the GPAs. In a world where often, we are no more than a barcode or a bubble in an answer sheet, we can easily forget the importance of learning as opposed to simply knowing.
I may now know how to use well over fifty formulas from the AP Physics equation sheet, but, more importantly, I have learned how to work under pressure, to slug through the mud with my fellow classmates and derive any formula.
You do not have to remember all that you have learned here. As I head off to college to study biochemistry, I may not remember that ethos is an author’s credibility in his or her writing, that the Gilded Age held mostly complacent presidents, or that the surface of the photographic film consists of silver halide crystals. Nobody will expect me to, and this will be much the same with many of you in your respective futures. But I can say this to you all; never discredit or discard learning because you do not believe you will ever use it.
I ask you to not worry about remembering every detail, every fact, and every formula from Newburyport High School. Instead, Class of 2017, take the tools that you were given, not the ability to remember, and spit back facts, but to question, to support one another, and to think, and to look beyond what we know today. One day, we could very well find ourselves in one of Mr. Cole’s (Physics teacher) vivid test scenarios: behind the wheel of a car, slipping around an icy bend. We may not remember how to calculate the centripetal force, the coefficient of friction, or the radius of a loop; but in the end, it may be something beyond the physics that pulls us out.
John P. Terry, founded the Gulf of Maine Institute in 1999. John was Editor-in-Chief, CYD (Community Youth Development) Journal from Aug. 1994 to Nov. 2002. John has broad teaching and administrative experience at the university level including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1969-1984, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, 1985-1992, and Union College, Schenectady, NY, 1964-1969. John received national recognition in 2006 when selected as Civic Ventures,’ Lead with Experience Program 2006 Purpose Prize Fellows. He is also a 2008 recipient of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment Visionary Award.