A Message to the Graduates

A Message to the Graduates

by Joe Crawford – Director

We have come together to celebrate the achievements of these 17 young people. As a community, this is something we should always take the time and energy to do. A month ago I wasn’t sure how we would do this or even if we should. But standing up here today and looking out at all the people who have come here to support you reminds me of just how important it is to recognize and celebrate moments like this. We are here today because this community values each of you. When I say, this community, I don’t just mean your family and your friends. The Derry School District, the Hudson School District, Pinkerton Academy and the Next Charter School Board of Trustees all see the great potential that exists inside each of you, which is why they have supported you and invested in you for many years. Today marks a return on that investment, but it is not the final return. Each of you now has the responsibility to go out and deliver on that investment by being the smart, compassionate, idealistic, skilled, funny people you have become.

It goes without saying that this has been an unusual school year. I still sometimes catch myself saying things like, “we are in uncharted territory here…” But those words stopped being meaningful months ago. Although I don’t think it is fair that this is how your final year of high school ended, the truth is that life doesn’t work that way. Things don’t happen according to a predetermined plan. The great educational thinker and speaker Sir Ken Robinson once said that one of the biggest mistakes we make when thinking about life is that it is linear. We ask little children what they want to be when they grow up and we warn 13 year olds to get their acts together because, “that behavior won’t be acceptable in the workplace.” Life, he argues, is organic, not linear. It does not unfold along a predictable line. We change and adapt to our surroundings because the world is always changing. Perhaps the events of the past several months have taught us something about our need to be ready for whatever comes our way.

OK, I know that the only thing between you and your celebrations with family and friends is me right now, but I have one more thing to say. You all know I am a social studies teacher at heart and many of you have heard me talk about my favorite President, Abraham Lincoln. I want to share a Lincoln quote with you today because I think it is especially true at this moment. For those of you who aren’t big history buffs, Lincoln was president during the Civil War, perhaps the most disruptive time in American history. Speaking to Congress in December of 1862 he said, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” Now, the teacher in me really wants to talk about this quote, but I will spare you this. But I think Lincoln’s point still rings true – that we must free our minds from the constraints of the past and be willing to see the world for what it is and what it might be.

Graduates, you are the present and the future. Your knowledge, your decisions, your character will define what happens for you and others from this point on. I encourage you to use your powers for good, not evil and never forget what John Lennon told us, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Plans are great but make sure you relish each moment. I can’t wait to talk with each of you in the future so I can learn about the interesting lives you’ll be living and we will definitely be able to reminisce about the crazy end to the 2020 school year.

Joe Crawford is the director of Next Charter School. Joe has been a part of the team at Next since it opened in 2013. Prior to Next, Joe was an assistant principal and social studies teacher at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School in Derry, NH. Joe grew up in Derry and still lives there with his family. You can contact Joe at jcrawford@nextcharterschool.org.

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