June 24, 2013
The following is the text from Principal Klugman's Moving Up Day Speech, June 2013.
Among the best things that I get to do as Principal of our school is go into classes to watch you and your teachers. I consider myself truly blessed to watch all of you while you are so deeply passionate about the lessons you’ve learned. For example, this year I’ve watched you be moved by your social studies teachers as you’ve discussed profoundly moving pieces of our history like the holocaust. I have seen a sensitivity and camaraderie among you that is amazing.
I see this same dynamic in all of your classes. What you may not realize though is that I have also seen you make your teachers pause because you have profoundly moved them with the depth of understanding, tolerance, and courage you have returned to them. It is in this give and take that I have found you to be a most interesting class.
The observation that I continually have made is that there are many of you who have a totally different vision of who you are as individuals and as a group than you should.
I once asked a group of really bright students who had no idea of their potential if they could imagine that sitting with them, in that very classroom, was the most famous, positive role model they could think of. I asked them to imagine that this role model was with them, as an 8th grader, long before any of the amazing things they accomplished. I asked some of you during your lunches this week who that might be and I heard lots of familiar names. When one of you mentioned Martin Luther King Jr. it struck me because of what I have read of him when he was your age. I read that he was blessed with a great self-confidence. Some say he had a vision of who he would later become while others just say that he knew he wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.
What I’d like you to imagine is this same question but with one twist. What if you, sitting here today, have all the same skills and potential that Martin Luther King Jr. had with one exception? What if you don’t have the same self-confidence?
I’d like to illustrate my point with a few conversations I’ve had with some of you.
I had a conversation with one of you about how much you trusted the students you travel with. Specifically, I asked the following question: “how many of this group of people you call your friends would drop everything they were doing and even give up a special opportunity to come to your assistance when you need them.” The student paused and said “maybe two.” I then asked this student a follow up question; “how many of this group would say that you were someone who would help them.” The student answered with a similar number.
You might think I was trying to make this student feel guilty or bad about his decisions, but that wasn’t the message. You see this student sees himself in much the same way I do. He has a great self-respect and he recognized that he wanted many more of his peers to see that he is the kind of person that would help his friends and I think he was sad to admit that many of his friends don’t see him this way.
In a different conversation I had with several of your classmates I asked them if they saw how courageous they were. These students have very little fear to express themselves in positive ways in classrooms and in some distracting ways that compromise their self-image. It was clear to me that these students saw themselves as being “normal” and certainly did not have an understanding of their unique strength. It has been fascinating to watch those of you whom I talked with about this because in your own ways I have seen you exercise this talent after we spoke and I hope that you have begun to see in yourself what I and all of your teachers see.
And in one final example I pulled one of your classmates aside and I asked her how she saw herself against all of you. She looked at me puzzled, and I clarified. I said “if you had to rank yourself against the 400 other students in your grade where would you put yourself?” She said maybe at about 200. I looked her straight in the eye and said that the reason I asked her this was because I saw her do something extremely rare in someone your age. When I described to her what I observed her do and how it demonstrated a strength that I seldom see, the person naturally smiled. To really make my point I asked this student how she now saw herself and if it was possible that, because of her leadership, she might be at the top of her class. Once again, she smiled.
These are but three of hundreds of personal conversations that have happened with members of this audience throughout your educational experience. Your teachers have seen hundreds and even thousands of teens your age and they have a keen eye for spotting strengths in each of you.
But like I asked you earlier about Martin Luther King Jr., if we, the adults in this room, see all of this potential in you, and the world sees all this potential in you, how far can you go if you don’t see this in yourself? If you don’t recognize the strengths that you have and allow this to make you as confident as Dr. King was when he was your age it is certainly possible that you could accomplish great things but I think you’ll agree that it is less likely.
As we have prepared you for your transition to high school and talked a great deal about these challenges I would remind of one last important point.
High school is a time in anyone’s life where they begin to carve out the adult they want to be. As you go forward I hope you all remember that there is brilliance in all of you. I hope you remember that it is always a choice, and sometimes a challenge to show this. It will sometimes take courage, determination, perseverance, hard work, and sometimes take restraint. Most importantly, you should always remember that we, the teachers that you have had and the ones you are about to have, want nothing more for you than to support you as seek to challenge yourself to find the brilliance in yourself.
Lastly, when you all see yourselves and you think about the reputation you have as a group and as individuals I hope you realize that each of you has only begun to see a very small part of the peers you have spent so much time with. I hope that you can come to recognize the brilliance and genius in peers where you think it does not exist because if you do this high school will remember you as the dynamic group that you are extraordinarily capable of being.
Thank you for the profound ways that you have touched our lives these many years! Parents, staff, friends, please join me in congratulating the graduating class of 2017.
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