During assembly on Thursday, August 25, Mr. Abbott welcomed everyone to the first day of our 94th year. He spoke about beginnings, about reflection and about hope. He encouraged everyone to think about friends, family and faculty who help us be our best. He said education is a belief in humanity and that, together as a community, we can be our best selves.
Abbott was followed at the podium by senior class president Aidan Reid and student body president Luke Lamb, whose remarks follow. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a brief video.
Good morning Mr. Abbott, faculty, students, and the class of 2017. I am thrilled to be able to open another school year here, the 94th of this institution and the very last one for the students up on the stage. Before addressing this class’ last first day, I would like to talk about my first one, back in 2011.
I had managed to survive the first 8 periods of the day and was feeling pretty good about it after PE was over. I decided to sit down in the commons at what looked like, at least to my young eyes, an open bench. I laid down on the bench and was feeling pretty relaxed when all of a sudden I heard a deep voice call to me “this is the junior commons, you gotta go.” As I faced my opponent, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, I weighed my options, I could either meekly back down or fight for what I believed to be my right to sit down where I pleased. Despite my opponent not yet being in possession of his college football championship, the size and age difference alone should have been all the convincing I needed. Nevertheless I soon found myself standing on top of the bench and not so politely telling the number 4 pick in the 2016 NFL draft that perhaps it was he who needed to move. I was promptly hoisted onto his shoulders and then unceremoniously removed from the commons entirely, laughing the entire way out.
This first day experience is demonstrative of some of the most wonderful aspects of Burroughs. It shows the great things that can happen when you stand up for yourself and get out of your comfort zone as well when the older grades take charge and lead the school. Those of us up on this stage may be pretty removed from the fresh new faces on the balcony, the days when Jay Kanzler’s age was smaller than his shoe size have sadly come to an end. However, we shouldn’t let that distance stop us from having a meaningful impact on the new wave of students coming through Burroughs. Our time here grows short, and so our legacy may very well be determined not by what we do but how we mold the others who are just beginning their journey.
While our time left as a class may be limited, this year still affords an opportunity to break free from the routine and make it special. We have all come to expect certain things from a year at Burroughs, whether it is Ms. Lorencz’s eternal question “how many cats is too many?”, or John Harry being 15 minutes late for any given event. While the typical year at Burroughs is great, by letting ourselves fall into these old patterns we run the risk of not realizing our full potential as a class. Maybe one day Luke Lamb will get on a first name basis with the class, or Matt Woodruff will wear closed toed shoes in the winter. Maybe we can come together and serve as role models and make this year the best one yet. I have tremendous hope for us this year.
Coming out of our shells and being leaders this year may not be easy. There will be setbacks and everything may not go the way we had planned, but I know that we can persevere. We faced the elements at Drey Land, and managed to make even the near constant rain into a fun weekend, despite hypothermia, settlers of catan rage, and a vengeful, tent-stealing flood. No matter the surprise whether it be Hannah Stroup watching a movie BEFORE reading the book or a regular schedule school day, this class is well equipped to take it in stride. The 101 of us on this stage may not have much time left, together or at this school, with which to make our mark so we must use it wisely. We must lead, and we must learn to move beyond the comfortable. I have high hopes for this year and I know that if we live up to our vast potential it will be our best at Burroughs.
Like Mr. Reid, I’ll start with a little anecdote. I was 13 years old and on my way to the doctor’s office, in the elevator going up on a Tuesday, with my mom. Knowing my irrational fear of needles and anything blood related, she teased me as she told me I would have to get a long, painful shot. I hated it. I absolutely couldn’t stand the idea, I was nervous out of my mind, and THEN she gave me the tiniest pinch of my life on my arm. My mom said I was bawling… I’m pretty sure I just teared up but it’s her word against mine. This was in the seventh grade, mind you. I was no small child. I had broken bones and taken it much better than a little pinch in an elevator. I have also certainly had hiccups more painful than that pinch.
It was in this moment that I felt so out of my element. I was “weaksauce” ...at least that’s what my seventh grade self would have said. And by the time the shot came, I could hardly feel it. But I tell you this story to illustrate a bigger picture. My fear of the needle was irrational. All I needed was that TINY little pinch from my mom, to realize that the thing I was most intimidated by was purely mental.
As an obvious role model of mine, she helped me get past all the anxiety and uncertainty that I came across in my life. She gave me the confidence to become my own person, to do whatever I wanted and not care what people think. And honestly, Burroughs itself is a lot like my mom. (Which is a strange analogy, I’m aware) but it’s true. You won’t find a school or community that’s more supportive and loving and “free-to-be-yourself”.
So this is me giving everyone of you that pinch, those of you that might need it. In this school, this family, you are free to be whoever you want to be. That’s why this school is so unique.
And what is so crazy to me is that, a place that creates such independence, has also created the best unified community I have ever been a part of. A place you can feel the most like family. The coolest thing we are capable of at Burroughs is creating that sense of family. An absolute squad of independent students, all able to feel that John Burroughs spirit, all able to feel that renowned respect for one another. That feeling in the stands at the MICDS basketball game, all crammed in and sweaty, yeahhhhh that’s the feeling we strive for — it’s connection. When the beautiful faces of John Burroughs come together to create or perform something extraordinary...I think we all feel a sense of connection. Connection and unity are traits that each and every one of us should strive to embody.
And a lot of you may find it easy to feel the connection with your classmates. As classmates we learn to know each other for our own special interests and talents as we have no choice but to learn and grow beside one another. The bond that's created is natural and expected. I feel this bond with the class of 2017 and I’d also like to give my own welcome to all of the newbies up there in the back of the balcony and promise them that soon they will start to understand this feeling of connection. Yet while this unity is natural on a class scale….how do we grow together as a Student Body? How do we build a sense of community with those we may not normally interact with?
I was talking to the new students yesterday and I told them, from my experience, “It's really easy to be self-focused, but some of the coolest things that happen here will be things that your classmates accomplish. Brandon Miller breaks a world record - now I feel cool. Bella Strawbridge kills it on the ukulele, you go girl, happy birthday. Teddy Martin learns how to tie his Crocs, good for him! When things aren't going well, encourage each other.” I told them that because I see it happening nearly every day here. Let’s keep the Burroughs culture alive and cheer on our fellow Bombers of all grades, no matter what they are doing.
When I think about leadership, I have come to realize that most of the real leaders I know are able to see past their fears and past the obstacles. They handle issues quickly, pull people together and move forward. They foster unity. They exhibit all the traits of a ship’s captain. There is a job to be done. Big job. Small job. The captain doesn’t shrink in fear, but faces it head on and takes care of business.
Every school year, we pick a theme to rally behind. This year, the 94th year of John Burroughs School, will be deemed the Year of the Captain. We rally behind the captain and hold the captain up as a model for our own leadership.
Now I’mma be real here, our student body is filled with some of the most ridiculous kids in the country. I love that. And in all aspects of life we as students, individually, have passions. By ourselves, these passions can have little meaning. Yet when the captain lends their hand out to help and pulls together their team, that is when a passion becomes a goal, a goal becomes an achievement. It is the captain's job to lead with words, to lead by example, to lead to any and all communities. The captain is passionate. The captain brings her team together to strive, to fight for a common cause.
I challenge everyone here to become their own captain. Pick out some students from outside of your class to take an interest in. Encourage them. Be their fan. Take it on yourself to build someone else’s confidence and let them know that you’re watching. I want you to go behind their backs….. And compliment them! Just let the compliments flow. Hamaad Raza I love you! I really do.
The beautiful thing about The Captain is that anyone can embody his/her characteristics. The captain is responsible for bringing out the best in everyone. The captain has to care about every single person on their team. So encourage people to be supportive, to attend all different sporting events and plays for their fellow Bombers.
Captains are leaders in big and small ways, but most importantly, the Captain brings together their team. Every single member. And a team with everyone on the same page can achieve absolutely anything.
I love this school and I love all of you, so thank you for this opportunity I’ve been given. On this day, and as always, I am very, very proud to be a Bomber.