Lessons learned in time

Good afternoon,

For the past 13 years most of you had daily family conversations at the dinner table. In your earlier school years my guess is that many of you were brimming with information about your school day that you couldn't wait to share with your parents. However, I suspect that during your adolescent years these conversations might have gone like this: Loving, solicitous Parent: "How was school today dear?" Distracted and perhaps annoyed Child, "Fine." Your parents would then earnestly follow up with the question: "What did you learn in school today?" In an effort to forestall this line of questioning, you may have sometimes responded "Nothing."

I would respectfully suggest that nothing could have been farther from the truth and in this time of celebrating you and your accomplishments, I hope that all of you graduating seniors have taken some time to reflect on what you truly have learned in school these past four years.

Your growth is, in no small way, is attributable to the years of preparation that led you to Wilton High School. In partnership with your teachers, coaches, parents and community members, the Wilton Public Schools have offered you a curriculum of coursework and experiences designed to help develop skills, habits of mind, character and an understanding of the world and yourselves that will prepare you for your life journey. The metrics we have gathered on you suggest that you have achieved at very high levels in the classroom, on the concert stage, in debate, through the arts, on the athletic fields, and in service to others. Along the way, I know that many of you have found some truth in the words of humorist Tom Bodett who said, "The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson."

Today's commencement will be followed later this evening by the Post Graduation Party your parents have planned for you. As you all know, the theme of the celebration is "The Times of Your Life." On this note, the lyrics of the Green Day Song "Time of Your Life" seem appropriate:

"Another turning point;

a fork stuck in the road.

Time grabs you by the wrist;

directs you where to go.

So make the best of this test

and don't ask why.

It's not a question

but a lesson learned in time..."

In the spirit of lessons learned in time, I asked several members of the Class of 2012 to identify the major life lesson they take from their years at Wilton High School. The truth of the matter is whether or not you choose to talk about them, each of you has learned some lessons about life. Some of the lessons may have been painful, but hopefully most of them helped you develop deeper insights into yourselves, your relationships with others and the world you live in.

In the interest of time, I will not share the student statements in their entirety. Having said that, here are some of the life lessons your classmates reported:

One individual wrote, "Perhaps the most important and valuable life lesson I've learned during my time at Wilton High School would definitely be that trying new things and experimenting outside your comfort zone can bring you endless rewards." He recognized that often our fear of failure or discomfort can keep us from having new experiences and growing from them.

Another classmate talked about a growing awareness and appreciation for the many opportunities presented by living in Wilton and attending WHS. He expressed his gratitude for the work of parents, teachers and community members, and vowed that he would never take such opportunities for granted.

To some degree, many of us are guilty of living for the future and in so doing ignore what the writer Spencer Johnson has called "The Precious Present." In this spirit one of you wrote, "Oftentimes we think of various stages of life as preparation for the next one - elementary school is preparation for middle school; middle school is preparation for high school; high school is preparation for college, etc. We think the 'real world' is coming sometime in the future, but if you think of it that way then you've wasted a big portion of your life waiting for life to begin. Start living now!"

This was echoed by one of you who wrote "...a simple lesson that I have learned through my career as a Wilton Warrior is that life is not a question to be answered, but a reality to be experienced. He mentioned a line from the movie "Ferris Bueller" "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

One of you reflected on the importance of keeping things in a healthy perspective. You advise us to appreciate our past achievements, and to avoid expending unnecessary energy obsessing about past failures. You remind us about the long term value of developing positive lifelong relationships, acquiring practical knowledge and skills and developing a passion for one's work.

On commencement days the speakers often talk about the importance in following one's dreams. On that theme one member of the Class of 2012 explained that the most valuable life lesson she learned is that "small steps equal big dreams." A lot of times, people are looking for this huge life-changing step that is going to directly lead them to their dream. In all that time they are waiting for this solution, they could have been taking the small steps to create a solid foundation for achievement. She learned that the only way to accomplish large goals is to take the preliminary steps, work hard each day, and stay patient."

Two graduating seniors commented on the wonderful support you have received that has enabled you to face challenges. One said, "There will always be obstacles and times when you feel like you'll never be able to stand up again, yet there's always someone there willing to offer you help. Sometimes you just have to ask."

Continuing on this theme another said, "In reflecting upon my years at WHS, it's struck me that for all of my proudest moments--whether in terms of my academic or athletic pursuits--I have always had a strong group of supporters who have encouraged me, advised me, and congratulated me at every step of the way. Whether they were... parents, teachers, coaches, or peers, their presence has been an integral part of my success. In realizing this, I've come to the conclusion that throughout our different journeys, we often can't "go it alone"-- and that by opening ourselves to collaboration and input from others, we not only improve ourselves, but raise our entire community to a higher level of achievement."

Finally, one of you wrote about the countless and inspiring life lessons you learned from your classmates. You said "My simple, valuable and all too often overlooked lesson: be good to each other.

What I find most remarkable about my graduating class is our eagerness and willingness to help each other. Students expect nothing in return and derive such satisfaction from their selfless deeds. The genuine selflessness and consideration of my classmates amazes me time and time again. We have students passionate about helping the fish of Long Island Sound, students passionate about a healthier living through organic gardening and exercise, students passionate about making elementary, middle, and high schools inclusive of children with special needs, as well as students passionate about helping their peers succeed academically, emotionally and otherwise. The gratification that comes with such kind acts is second only to the sense of community these acts create. A passage from John Wellesley describes the attitude of the Class of 2012 well: "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."

Parting with Wilton High School, for me, is less about leaving an educational institution and more about separating from a second family. Wherever my classmates go -- to college, to the military or to the work force -- I hope they find an equally loving and caring community for themselves." You concluded with the words of A. A. Milne "How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."

I think that sums up how most of us feel about you all.

In the words of Green Day,

"For what it's worth,

it was worth all the while.

It's something unpredictable

but in the end it's right

I hope you had the time of your life."

Mr. Likly, it is an honor and a privilege to present to you the 316 members of the Wilton High School Class of 2012 for the awarding of their diplomas.