MAILING : P.O. Box 8, Los Olivos, CA 93441
Presented at Midland’s Graduation 2021
In the floodplain of this sacred mountain,
with our feet on the ground of this rustic and beloved campus,
we channel the wisdom of our elders
as we gather together with profound gratitude
for the gift that is this moment.
Together… Let’s take a deep breath in… Let it out…
Let’s give thanks for the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.
And while we’re at it, let’s give thanks for these amazing people beside me,
Who have shown up, did what needed to be done, and who have delivered our kids safely through the most globally and locally harrowing year of our lifetimes.
And now, let’s give thanks for THESE people. Midland’s Class of 2021.
Who showed up, did what needed to be done… and who we celebrate today.
We are. Right. Where. We. Want. To. Be!
Few people have studied Midland’s Graduation speech as closely as I have had the enormous privilege of doing… for almost two decades. I have cried with the wisdom, the celebration, the stories, the history, and the joy of this rite of passage for so many Mighty Oaks. It gives me comfort that I can draw from that collective wisdom today. One in particular has echoed through my heart for years. It was what the speaker, Bill Poett, said to his daughter, Miranda Poett (Class of 2010), who had lost her Mom to illness in 9th grade.
It would be incomplete if I did not take a moment to acknowledge the profound losses we and all of our students have experienced this year, including the loss of normal plans and expectations.
I ask everyone to hold their palms to their heart… and to feel it… to acknowledge it…
Let’s take a moment to feel… both the grief of loss… and the gratitude for what we still have…
Let’s please take a moment of silence to breathe in the presence of each other and this sacred landscape as we imagine the future we want our students to have.
This year has reinforced for all of us the importance of being able to breathe… and of calling people by their names.
And now, I will say to these seniors what Bill Poett said to his daughter.
I will call each senior by name. [Names each senior.]
“There is nothing you can do
that would make us more proud
or love you more
than we already do.”
Parents, will you please join me in affirming this unconditional love?
Seniors, take this moment to look at each other.
This moment will not repeat itself, except in your memories.
Do you feel it?
Do you know it?
You have a superpower.
It is each other.
You don’t ever have to wonder if you can take that first step towards a goal.
Or stick with a project through its completion, even when it’s hard.
Or how to navigate complex social dynamics.
Or know when to listen, and when to lead.
Or whether someone will help lift you up when you fall.
Or how to craft a Plan B or a Plan C and to live it with all you’ve got.
You don’t have to wonder because…
You have ALREADY DONE IT.
And you’ve done it TOGETHER.
Soon you will receive your Midland diplomas. You will step forward alone.
And… you know that you step forward with the strength of a network, of an extended family, a Midland family.
What has Midland meant to us as parents?
It has been the place where Ziggy and Will have become themselves.
Last year, when Emma Munger was here helping in the Art Studio, I found an old journal documenting the boys’ first year, first words, their ways of acquiring language, and we howled at some of the funny things we found. One entry in particular stood out—January 2, 2003… 18 years ago. You guys were 2 months-and-one-week old. Combined, you weighed less than 25 lbs. I wrote, “A funny sense I have about these guys—they seem a little bored or impatient about still being babies, especially physically. They’re so strong, and their uncoordinated bodies seem to have an innate or phantom sense of what it is that their bodies are designed to do athletically. I can almost see these guys envisioning themselves running and swinging their arms, or unfurling and stretching out their wings.”
Will and Ziggy—these trails, these people, this team… have given you the space, the freedom, and the confidence to run AND to unfurl your wings. Our gratitude for Midland is beyond measure.
We could never have imagined that you would run so fast or so far.
We could have never have imagined that—
you’d become artists in the Rich Arts Studio…
Or mathematicians… or Spanish speakers… or scholars of history…
Or scientists (well, I kinda knew that was coming)
Or… Oh my God—great writers, public speakers, and authors of your own lives!
Midland has given you all—both—structure and freedom. I know it might not feel that way to you all, the freedom part. It might feel like discipline… but wait til you get out into the big world, and you’ll see that it was all along, very much, about freedom… Freedom to become who you are meant to be, in a community that loves you almost as much as your families.
So, now, on to the advice part of the graduation speech… advice for how to be and how to live in this world on the other side of the bridge.
I’ve had the opportunity to live it a bit myself this past year… to cross that bridge across the Alamo Pintado creekbed for the last time… or so I thought. I’ve found in those lurching, sometimes unsettling moments in my own life (and believe me, they’ve been many), when I’ve tried to define my values, they have landed right here, under the Oaks at Midland.
Here goes. You’ve heard it all before.
This is a Wizard of Oz moment, when the Good Witch Glinda says to Dorothy:
“You’ve always had the power…my Dear. You had to find it out for yourself.”
It’s really that simple. Channel your Midland roots. And you will be fine. In fact, you’ll become valued community members wherever you go.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of messaging around the lives of adolescents as being “on hold.” While that may have been true for a while, it is not so true anymore. Although this past year was hard, you are victims of no one, nor of circumstances outside your control.
My mom once said to me that hard times don’t just build character. They reveal character.
In living your education, you are EXACTLY what the world needs right now.
When you cross that bridge, you’ll probably see a world more disconnected, fried, and confused than it used to be, more glued to its screens, more out of shape, more living in fear… and also the opposite, living in a frenzied release of caution.
You will encounter people to whom you may want to give “laps” but instead you’ll have to draw deeper into your toolkit to find ways of interacting with odd and sometimes disrespectful behaviors, while staying strong and living your values.
We know you’ll figure it out. Let us know what you learn. We’d love your advice.
Here’s the thing, gang—you know how to assemble work crews and build teams to get the job done—whatever the job is. You know because you’ve done it. Continue to exercise these muscles. Build your teams and your crews. The world needs you.
You are enough. You are ready. You are Mighty Oaks.
Something else I learned after crossing that bridge… your connection to this place and these people is stronger than you think. You are welcome to come back, to give back, to stay connected in so many ways. As a matter of fact, you already built the place you’ll stay when you return. Do stay in touch.
In closing, I will turn to the traditional words from my college graduation, spoken by Stanford University president, Donald Kennedy, who himself died of complications from Covid last spring. For over a decade, Kennedy graced his students with these words from the politician and diplomat Adlai Stevenson:
Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs.
And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place,
touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven.
You will go away with old, good friends.
And don’t forget when you leave why you came.
By Lise Goddard
Parent of Will ’21 and Ziggy ’21
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