Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Graduation Address – Class of 2003

The Waldorf High School
Lexington, Massachusetts
June 8, 2003

Good afternoon everyone.

I am so happy to be here today among my former colleagues, parents, families and friends of the Waldorf High School, and most especially my former students to join you in celebrating the graduation of the class of 2003.  Congratulations on your accomplishments.  
  I also feel very privileged to have been here for each of the graduations since the inception of the H.S.  I believe the world is and will be a better place for these and other Waldorf students going out into the wider world with this very special education—and of course, with the love and support of their families and friends, and their own inherent and unique gifts and potential.
  I want to thank all of the high school students for teaching me so much, and giving me such hope and affirmation of my long held belief that ideas are real and beautiful and powerful.
  When I was a young girl I spent a lot of time in the library.  Back then I chose a book by its cover.  One I remember had a fuchsia cover with black silhouetted figures carrying little umbrellas, and strangely shaped letters that read, Silk and Satan Lane. I felt it was a book about everything that was not me and my world.  And, indeed, it was a book about a Chinese family living on Silk and Satan Lane.  I remember another book too, with a picture of a young girl, not much older than I was at the time.  Her eyes shone with a sadness and kindness and, though I didn’t realize it then—a wisdom way beyond her years.  I took that book home, and that is how I learned about the Holocaust.  It was The Diary of Ann Frank.  
     And while I learned about the worst that humanity could engender, at the same time, I also learned the best.

     It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality…I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder….It’s a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals; they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart…. I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I'll be able to realize them!

     This insight impressed itself upon me so strongly then and has been a touchstone ever since.  There was such a certainty in her belief that an idea can become an ideal.  She not only believed, but KNEW that realizing ideals is possible—even if she herself could not realize them in a certain place and time.  That certainty is a power that moves and shapes lives, and has moved and shaped lives throughout the history of humanity.
     We could say that she was just a young girl, just as we sometimes dismiss the thoughts and feelings of young people today.  Most of us have heard that quip:  “Hire teenagers while they still know everything,” which reflects the frustrations we may feel at times with their growing independence and wish to do things their own way.  But there is a lot of truth in that little phrase:  It isn’t so much that teenagers know everything, it’s just that we forgot how much we “knew,” or, at least, held as ideals when we were this age.
     Last year this class and I took up a question that became a theme for the year, in all of things we read and discussed.  The theme was “What is Truth?”  We approached that question through the essays, stories, books and poetry,  bringing in historical, social, political and psychological perspectives.  And I imagine that in every one of their courses, the high school faculty also approached this question as well, in one way or another.  We had a lot of fun, but also delved very deeply into how one knows, if one can know truth.  They thought, felt, spoke and wrote most profoundly on this topic—truth being another way of looking at ideas that become ideals—Ideals which expand souls and become the potentiality of deeds (Steiner).
     Did we answer the question?  No, of course not. Truth cannot be defined, it can only be known by a very individual, self-reflective and world interactive experience.  Knowing what is false or untrue allows us also to grasp and embody truth.  It’s been noted that:
     The search for truth is but the honest searching out of everything that interferes with truth.  Truth is. It can neither be lost nor sought nor found.  It is there wherever you are, being with you. Yet it can be recognized or go unrecognized
     I feel certain that Max, Soren, Katie, Dado, Daniel, Sara, Chloe, and Malcolm all have recognized truths about themselves and about the world and have begun to explore and make those truths their own.  No one else can do it for us can they?  It is a great responsibility and a lifetime’s work to do so.  It begins with education—and education that has as its intention that human beings become free and moral both according to a process of self knowledge. There is a story told that: 

     God and Satan were walking down the road. God bent down to pick something up. He gazed at it glowing radiantly in his hand.  Then Satan became very curious and asked, “What’s that you have there?”
 “This,” God said, “is Truth.”
 “Satan said, “Here, let me have it; I’ll organize it for you.

     If I have any words of wisdom—they would be:  Don’t allow anyone to organize truth for you.  That is too easy and too dangerous for your morality and for your freedom.  That would mean that you abdicate responsibility for acting on those ideals.  You can only act on ideals that are truly part of your being.  Einstein said:
     To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made
     me authority myself.”

  Fate has made all of us authority for ourselves, whether we recognize it or not. We do not have to act out of instinct, genetics, desires or fear, or handed down traditions or perspectives. Rather, each one of us must reflect, see our relationship to the world, to each other to our true self and live out of that orientation. 
  This is what we have discussed in our classes.  Class, this is what you have been given in the great works of the philosophers and authors, but more significantly, through your own humanity--living and acting out of ideals that you have made your own, becoming your own moral guide and authority.
  Remember in your main lesson with Mrs. Wells, you read The Divine Comedy. After Dante comes through the inferno and purgatory, he stands at the top of the mountain, and his guide, Virgil, leaves him, but not before he gives Dante a crown and mitre—symbolizing that he is now the priest and king of his own life—He is now authority himself—not as a matter of course, but through seeing and understanding the consequences of abdicating that right and legacy which he was shown and learned through his journey  
  At every moment, here and now, you are the only who can recognize truth, take ideas, make them ideals and live them.
     I would like to close with a poem as a gift to the class of 2003. Excuse me while I turn to the class. 

Here and Now
Now when there is no truth
Here where everything and nothing is real
When and where all paths lead to everywhere
And nowhere
You have refused to stand at either pole
Or be forever lost in between
You know one thing is clear
You are the fixed star
You navigate with your soul consciousness
Whoever, wherever you are
Above, below, around—and into all things
All things exist in relation to you
Orbit in your sphere
Are held in balance by you
Live by your warmth and light
You have become the Sun
Here and now!

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