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Jordan Joe '20 Makes Inaugural Steven Plax Thanksgiving Address

November 26, 2019

During assembly on Tuesday, November 26, Jordan Joe '20 delivered the annual Thanksgiving Assembly remarks. For many years, the senior class has selected someone from their class to make this address. Before Jordan spoke, Andy Abbott announced that this annual tradition will now be known as the Steven Plax address, honoring and remembering past parent and grandparent Steve Plax. Mr. Abbott said, "Over time, what I have observed is that (Thanksgiving) speakers have varied in style and accomplishments, but they have all, in one way or another, embodied many of the qualities that so many of us admired about Dr. Plax — and that you all seem to admire so much in so many members of your classes — humility, integrity, gratitude and, of course, kindness."

Here are Jordan's complete remarks:

Good morning, JBS Family. Now before I start I’d like to thank my son, Jordon Ryan, for being here today. It’s always great to have family support you in moments like this. In all seriousness though, I’d like to thank the class of 2020 for honoring me to be the Thanksgiving speaker this year. I could start off by saying how Thanksgiving means spending time with family, sharing good food and love, which are all true. But instead of trying to tell you what Thanksgiving means, I think it would be better to use my Thanksgiving experience to try to see if there’s some type of lesson in it that we as a community could use in everyday life.

For most of my childhood, the Thanksgiving routine had been the same. Until I was 11, I lived in Michigan, and every year my family traveled down to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with my mother’s side of the family. On Thanksgiving Day, we planned to start the four-hour drive at around 10 so we would be on time for dinner, which starts at 3 because 3 o’clock means dinner time on Thanksgiving for some reason. And for some reason, every year we end up leaving roughly two hours later than planned. As some of you already know, being one of the younger relatives at Thanksgiving comes with its ups and downs. For me, it involved the yearly rotation around my Auntie Tan’s house for my parents to showcase to the older relatives how big I’ve grown, and how much I looked like my mom. I had to “endure,” as I would have described it then, the multiple hugs and embarrassing kisses that I would try to wipe off my cheek without my parents seeing. But, being younger also meant constantly bothering the teenage cousins. Back then I wasn’t asking if they had games on their phones, but I was probably just as annoying because I was constantly asking to play Madden 07 and NBA Live on their PlayStation 2, and I followed them all around the house no matter where they went. And of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without the food. Look, I know everybody’s gonna say how their family’s Thanksgiving food is the best, so let me just settle this now. All of your family’s food is equally OK … my family’s food is just on a whole other level. My aunt’s mac and cheese and collard greens and my great aunt’s red velvet cake? It’s like Qdoba vs. Chipotle. Chipotle’s here, while Qdoba is here … your food’s here, my food is here. Y'all get the idea. (Yeah, I just came for your food AND Chipotle ... y’all can see me after assembly if you have a problem. It’s just facts). So overall, Thanksgiving was a slightly chaotic yet well-oiled machine, and the trip down to Chicago was something I looked forward to every year.

Sadly, it's something I also took for granted.

When my grandmother passed away, I learned a couple of things. I learned that even my dad could cry. You never truly learn how to cope with losing a loved one, but that was the first time I lost a relative. But most importantly, I learned the impact one person can have on a family or any group of people. My grandma helped keep the family together in so many ways that I never realized until I got older. Her soft yet powerful smile and funny jokes made every Thanksgiving dinner conversation interesting, and her loving heart brought the best out of anyone she came across. I’ll never forget the countless times sitting on her couch watching Winnie the Pooh, crying with laughter with her funny impressions of the characters. She kept the family together physically as well, however. Only later on did I learn that she helped pay the rent for the apartments of the family members in the building, and Auntie Tan’s house which was right next door. So when she passed away, a huge piece of that well-oiled machine of not only Thanksgiving, but our family was missing, and it changed both of them dramatically. Relatives started to leave the family community on Sawyer Avenue and began to scatter across the city. Connections between loved ones were lost ... and they all lived no more than 30 minutes away from each other.

Thanksgiving no longer consisted of the same routine. For the first couple of years, our family was still able to get together to have dinner where and when we could. Unfortunately, a few years after my grandma passed, my mom lost her six-year battle to breast cancer in 2010. I would like to think that both she and my grandmother were the heart of the family. So when they were gone, the glue that was keeping the family together seemed to be gone as well. Thanksgiving became a marathon. Now there were multiple dinners to attend, each with a certain group of my mother’s side of the family. And like a marathon, it was tiresome to deal with, both physically and emotionally. Even though I was young — and I’m still relatively young — it hurts seeing family who live in the same city, seem so divided on a holiday like Thanksgiving. And I think the reason why it hurts so much, is because I know that they still love each and every member of the family. I feel like if someone vocalizes that love, and they remember that their love for each other is going to be there no matter what, the family might come back together again like it used to. It could be as simple as giving someone they haven’t talked to in a while a call. I’m still figuring out how I can try to bring everyone in the family together, and I recognize it’s something that will require intentional effort. That’s the journey my family has gone through and continues to go through today, and I’ll see if we have made any progress on Thursday. 

But what does this mean for you?

For us?

I believe that it’s so important for us as a community to remember that no matter what happens around us, or what happens within the school the bond that we have with one another can never break. It’s important for us to be able to keep that in mind every day. Like any family, things happen that can seem to divide us, and there’ll be some family fights every now and then. I challenge you, however, that while we’re dealing with these family feuds, that you know that the fight can never actually divide us. The fight can never take away the love that’s in this school, from the teachers to the staff, to the administration and definitely throughout the student body. I see it in our crazy student sections at the games. I see it in the hallways when students greet teachers with a smile. I see it in the Commons when we encourage each other before a hard test. Now, I’m not saying that you have to go right up to 2cold in the hallway and say “I love you,” although I’m sure he would appreciate it. A simple “you got this” when you see somebody nervous about auditions, or just saying “what’s up” to someone sitting alone in the Commons can go a long way. A lot of you already do these things, which is what makes this school so great. But it’s something we can always get better at, and it’s something I know I need to work on.

To my class of 2020: I know I’m not the most talkative person, but don’t confuse the silence with discontent. I need every single of one of you to know that I love y’all so much, man. I promise you the ups and downs that we’ve encountered in this journey at Burroughs has only made that love even stronger, and I appreciate you guys for being supportive of each other and even me during these hard middle school and high school years. Whether it be cheering on each other’s performances during Commons Cafe, or supporting a future Olympian at his signing day (which I expect to see every one of y’all at, it’s at 3:30 in the Newman Aud where he’s gonna finally quit playing and go to Michigan ... we need you, bro!). But seriously, I’m so glad to have been able to go on this ride with the class of 2020. To the kids in the balcony: I know y’all have been hearing this ever since you got to Burroughs, but I’m telling you, you’ll learn to appreciate everybody in your class by the time you graduate. The nature of this school simply won’t allow you to go through your years at Burroughs and not get close to the people sitting next to you right now. You’re going to hit some turbulence along the journey, but like I said before, that bond you guys make isn’t going to go away. And to everyone in the room right now. I know it’s a little cliche, but I’m going to ask you to be thankful for where we are. This community is special. This journey here doesn’t last forever. Express that love you have for the people around you. Do it today. Trust me, you never want to have to look back when it’s too late, and say you wish you could’ve. Thank you guys so much!