The John Bapst Class of 2014 Baccalaureate was held Friday, May 30, 2014 at the All Souls Congregational Church in Bangor, Maine.
The evening began with a welcome by Rev. James L. Haddix, Ph.D., Minister, All Souls Congregational Church, followed by opening remarks by Mr. Mel, MacKay, Head of School.
Violinist James VanKirk, accompanied by his father, Dr. James VanKirk on piano, performed “Gabriel’s Oboe” by Ennio Morricone, followed by a performance of “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros with Jane Branch on vocals and Maryam Kashkooli on vocals and ukulele. Mingnan “Lucy” Du performed “Flowers” by Pu Shu and Stephanie Colavito performed “For Good” by Stephen Swartz.
The annual keynote was delivered by Ms. Melissa Burns, beloved visual arts teacher, was joined “unexpectedly” by Mr. Patric Hamilton of the English Department.
Mrs. Melissa Avery-Burns: What a complete honor this is to be asked to speak to this amazing class. It’s probably much more of an honor for me than it is for you… but hey, at least you don’t have to listen to Hamilton!
I have to say this is one of my favorite classes in my 20 years of being at Bapst. You became near and dear to my heart when you first walked through Bapst’s doors because my nephew Tommy Burns is a part of your class….Tom, I’d be amiss if I didn’t say how proud I am to see the man you have become today.
My heart broke into pieces for you (and us all) when you lost a sweet, fun-loving and incredible classmate… most classes are fortunate enough to not have to shoulder that kind of burden, and you guys did it with grace and great maturity.
And my heart soared with pride when you, Yoshi, pummeled Mr. Hamilton with a pie to the face…and when you all tinfoil-wrapped Mr. Hamilton’s entire room.
You guys are clearly my favorites.
And now here you are… at the end of this journey you’ve forged through for the past four years. I hope you can leave here saying “This was a great experience. or…at the very least, I learned a lot.”
I hope, in the grand scope of all that is John Bapst, you can leave with incredible experiences under your belt, positive memories, life long friends, and an education that will make your life far easier.
I hope you all leave Bapst with a dream in mind. I know a few of you have made college decisions to make that happen. For example…After much prodding and lots of repetitious banter (and a plethora of Christmas Cats invading your art work) I’m proud of you, Colby Kohn, for furthering your passion and talent toward a career involving Photography. Thank you for being our school photographer the past few years.
Matt Hammond, I hear you are planning to pursue a major in writing. You are so creative and funny….and this is a good fit! Thank God you had Brassel because I’m sure it wasn’t Hamilton that inspired you!
Jane Branch, I hear you want to pursue a major in Veterinary medicine. I can’t think of a kinder, gentler person to take care of our beloved family pets. I’ll be at your door with Demon Kitty when you open your practice.
I think I speak for all of your teachers when I say, It’s wonderful to have been along this journey with you… to see you grow… to see your passions start to light a fire under you…. to have pushed and prodded you… and to see you accomplish so much.
Mr. Patric Hamilton – Okay, okay, okay … (to the mic) Seniors, I’m glad to see you here tonight with your family, your friends and your loved ones. And I’m going to be even more happy on Sunday afternoon when I see you marching out the door. But I thought I better show up tonight to keep Burns from doing what she is clearly getting ready to do . . . give you one side of the story.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that you’ve accomplished high school … but the best & the most work is yet to come…this accomplishment is not enough. Bapst might have been tough, but life is tougher. You are heading out into a world filled with challenges and pleasures that you can’t even conceive of, yet.
Mrs. Burns: Oh great. Are you kidding me? Are you really going to interrupt my speech?
Mr. Hamilton: Yes, I am going to interrupt your speech because you’re my friend, and you clearly need help. AND, I don’t want these graduating seniors to get half the story. You can’t be all sweetness and light, Burns. One, it’s not the whole story. And two, it’s nauseating! We need to give them LIFE advice… We need to show them what’s really coming at them out there. Now, can I trust you with the mic?
Mrs. Burns: Alright… my advice will always be better, but…. let’s play good-cop/bad-cop. I’ll give ‘em sound, solid advice and you give ‘em…. “Hamilton-isms”. And then they can glean take what they want from our (my) wisdom.
Mr. Hamilton: Fine, let’s do it.
Mrs. Burns: It’s on. So Class of 2014, let me start with this bit of advice ….If you haven’t decide what you want to do with your life… don’t rush into a rash decision. Figure out what it is that you love. Then choose a field of study that will allow you to do it.
Don’t pick a career choice because it’s expected of you or you just don’t know what else to do. You (or your parents…) will be spending 100s of thousands of dollars on this career choice… choose something you WANT not something that seems to fit at the time. The last thing you want, even if you’re making a ton of money, is to dread going to work each and every day.
Out of all of my college friends, I can count on one hand those of us who really chose the right path. I have way too many friends who hate their jobs…and even worse, hate their career path choice. Most of them complain about how “bad” it is or how little appreciation there is. Well, frankly, let’s face it, jobs aren’t full of appreciative-gestures. So it’s important for you to choose something you love.
I literally get up every morning excited to go to work. I love my job. I love the people I work with, (well… most of them)… and I especially love and adore each and every one of you. Because I chose a career where I get to do something I love… all things art… and I get to expose young minds to a subject matter that is used daily, no matter what job you have, I go to work happy and leave at the end of day fulfilled.
Mr. Hamilton: That’s a nice idea to find a job you love. And it would be awesome if that was the way that the world worked, but most of the time, it’s not. In this day and age, you can’t spend a lot of time figuring out what you love to do. You need to work and work hard. You need to find a good paying job and lock it down. Let me tell you something. No one is going to take care of you, but you.
Choose something that pays and choose it quick. Time’s wasting. So what do you do if you’re not sure what you want to do? First of all, you work. One way to do that would be to go to trade school. Learn how to be a welder or an electrician or a carpenter or a nurse. Be a plumber. Get a job that has a proven track record. A job where you can pull down a serious paycheck every week.
When I was a teen-ager, I wanted to be a writer. When I thought about making a living, I had no idea what that meant. I knew how to work hard, but I couldn’t conceive of how to have a career. I went to college because my folks wanted me to. I studied English because I liked to read and then I graduated, and I had no idea what to do. And I floundered for the next 7 or 8 years until I went back to graduate school and began my teaching career.
In those middle 7 or 8 years, I pumped gas and mowed lawns and worked construction. I gardened and bar tended and waited tables. And I fell behind. I worked hard, but I did not work smart. I had no paying trade.
If I could do it over again, I would not have gone to college and wandered for those years. Instead, I would have gone to trade school and worked a steady job, made a living and a life until I figured out if there was something else I wanted to do.
Find a job, graduates, a good one, work hard, and make a living.
Mrs. Burns: On that note…. Here’s my second bit of advice. The world isn’t perfect, and neither are we. But no matter what, try to do the best you can each day….
There are going to be days you don’t want to get out of bed. Just do it.
There are going to be moments you want just want to beat someone you work with. Don’t.
There are going to be hours when you just want to pretend to work and let others do it for you. Just get up off your butt and do it…
Do it right. Do it with honor and integrity.
How many of you have passed in something that’s… crap? Come on. You all have. How many artist journal entries did I get that my 8 year old son could have done? How many papers have you written that were done the study hall before class? How many times did you copy someone’s math homework? We all know you did… but you need to know, we all breathed a sigh of relief when we received something you did that was worthy…. and You can’t deny that, after passing in something you worked hard on, you felt pride, maybe a little exhaustion, but also fulfillment.
Go beyond the norm of what’s expected of you. Do your best each and every day. Push yourself and give your work integrity. You’re the owner of whatever it is you do… so take pride in it… if you try your best and complete any job you have with honor and integrity, you will actually feel complete, and be excited to forge on to the next problem or job at hand.
Mr. Hamilton: This is gonna hurt to say . . . but, Burns is right. Do the best you can every day. But sometimes, your best isn’t enough. Look, everyone wants to tell you that you can do anything you want. They say, “Follow your dreams–you can be an astronaut; you can be an astrophysicist; you can be a world famous actor, writer or politician.”
Listen, you can’t do it all. You can’t be anything you want to be. We are not all the same people destined to do the same things. We do not all have the same strengths and weaknesses. But one thing each of you can do–you can be yourself.
I’ll make this personal. I can’t do it all. At my age, I’m never going to be a world-class marathoner or an astrophysicist. But I can be an excellent teacher. I can be a working writer. I can be a long-distance runner.
Let’s look at the small picture for a minute. Let’s look at the daily grind. Some days, it’s all I can do to be calm, kind and civil to other people. Some days it has to be enough that I got up, went to work and was kind to my students. Seniors, be aware of who you are. When you begin to figure out who you are, how you fit into the world and where you belong then you can begin to be the best person you can be. You might be an astronaut or a writer, if that’s who you are. But don’t beat yourself up for not being who you aren’t meant to be. Be yourself with discipline and passion.
…..And another thing–Take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself. Look out for yourself first. I’ve learned in my life that no one is going to look out for you. You have to do that job. So here are a few ideas that have molded me and saved me in my life:
1. Practice a spiritual life. Find a way to make connection with God, a Higher Power, the Divine or the Universe. Call it what you want, but make connection.
2. Practice physical fitness. Make a habit of running or walking or canoeing. Make a habit of weight lifting or yoga or spinning. Get off the couch and on your feet.
3. Practice alone time. Different people need different amounts of time, but if we avoid ourselves, how are we going to know what we need?
4. Practice reading. Reading teaches us who we are, where we are and how we fit. Read.
Mrs. Burns: Ok, Hamilton is actually right. Taking care of yourself IS important. But allow me to add another important point to build upon his thought is how important it is to be a viable member of any community. Be sure to pay it forward… Doing for others will make you even happier than doing things just for yourself. My favorite paying-it-forward moments are the ones that become a sacrifice. Those moments make me feel alive and complete.
I have been on the giving and receiving end of this ideal, and though I was ever grateful to receive, nothing made me feel more genuinely happy than giving to the friend or person in need.
I love hearing the stories of people leaving huge tips in a restaurant or paying for the person behind them in the drive through line…. but paying it forward is much more. Helping a friend move (trust me, you’ll always have a friend who needs that…even when you’re 44!)… helping a friend paint their house… helping a person in a wheelchair reach for something they can’t quite get in the grocery store…. being a helper at a fundraising event for an entire afternoon… sit with someone who is dying, to give their family members a little rest… help someone plant their garden…
Our world is a tough, mean world… but if we make the effort to help others, it sure can be a lot more bearable.
Mr. Hamilton: I hate to give in to this one, but I think Burns is right. Being a member of a community gives us strength and context. It helps us to live. At John Bapst, you were a part of one community. And now you will eave this community to join others.
One community I’m involved in has helped me through all different parts of my life. They were there when I had cancer, when I got divorced, when my grandfathers passed away. They have been there for my birthdays, the holidays and just everyday, run of the mill occasions. In a real sense, I would not be alive without them today.
BUT, We need to be careful how much of our time we give away. It is important to maintain our focus.
I’m 42 years old, and I’m starting to realize that time runs out. I’m not sure you can know that at 18. I’m not sure, but take my word on this one. When I was sitting by my grandfather’s bed the day before he died, he said to me, “Time. Goes. Fast.” And it does. My encouragement to you is to figure out what you want, make a plan to get it, and then act. You are what you do, not what you say you’re going to do.
A lot of you know that I get up very early every morning, and I do this not just because I like to be up in the dark, but because I have a focus–I write.
When I was in my 20s, I was calling myself a writer, but I wasn’t writing. I went to graduate school with the idea that either I would write and call myself a writer, or I would find something else to do.
Fifteen years later, I can call myself a writer, not because I am a published poet, not because I have two novels written, not because I once worked as a journalist but because I got up this morning and I did what writers do–I wrote. This morning I wrote, and so today I am a writer. You are what you do.
Mrs. Burns: Ok, he’s right again, a Plan is vital. Don’t dawdle and waste your time. Have purpose in your life. In addition to that, .Don’t forget to takes risks and give yourself a lot of opportunities…. My one regret from my four years in college was not taking opportunities. For instance…More often than not, you will all be faced with a decision to travel abroad. DO IT. I always said “I’ll do it when I graduate because i’ll have more money then.” I’ve never had as much money as I did when I was in college. I’m an art teacher who has never been to France or Italy. I don’t have that to bring back to my classroom. I missed out.
One of my favorite students of my 20 yrs teaching here was the king of taking risks… and I envy him on a daily basis. He was one of “those” without focus while he was here. After he graduated from Bapst, he went to Oregon School of Arts and Crafts, left after a year and traveled the world staying in hostels, strangers’ homes, tents and the like for a few years. This was where he found his passion for greener living. He returned to the west coast, studied farming and paleo life-style living, learned to be a professional chef, and now lives in Hawaii and cooks for George Clooney, Ambassadors, and many other high-society people. After exploring and taking risks, he found his passion, explored the world, and now lives a life he can truly call his own…taking month-long ski vacations around the world, and living on one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
I’m not saying to take time off from school… this doesn’t work for everyone. I AM saying, don’t be afraid to do things you might not normally do… it can open up your world to so much more. Take a class you don’t think you’ll like… for instance Drama, or Astronomy, or a Cooking class, or Welding, or Basket Weaving. Join a group like a Barbershop Quartet or a Star Gazers Association…. go to a Cos Play event… take summer classes at another school in an area you find interesting like London or Florida or Alaska. Take that semester and study in Italy… or Paris… or Peru. Just don’t sit on the sidelines… you are in control, so make your life interesting.
Mr. Hamilton: So here we are at the end of this speech. This is the spot in every speech that I’m usually thinking, “Thank god it’s over.” Hang on, we’re about to wrap this up.
This is the last thing I have for you before we get out of this long ceremony, you get on with your parties, your friends and families, and I drive back to Searsport–take personal responsibility for everything you do.
Here is the core of what I believe is most important in this world. Don’t blame other people; don’t look for the easy way out; don’t turn the focus outward. The only thing I have any control over, and the only thing I believe you have control over is yourself. And this is the hard part. You have to take responsibility for yourself even when it is hard, even when it is uncomfortable, even when it hurts. Especially when it is difficult.
Here is what I have learned. If I don’t take responsibility for my thoughts and actions, then I become a victim. I hand over all my power to other people. If I say, “She makes me mad.” Or, “That teacher gave me a bad grade,” Or, “My boss doesn’t understand.” Then I turn myself into a victim of people, places and things.
Instead, I encourage you, graduates, as you continue out into the world, that you look at the last four years and claim responsibility for the good, the bad and the indifferent things that you have done. I encourage you to see your part in your life. It’s all you’ve got! And as you move throughout this awesome gift of your life, be active, be engaged, be mindful that you are the only one you can credit or blame for the way you approach your life.
Good luck, Seniors, I have enjoyed my time with you. I love you, and I’ll see you down the road. Now, here’s Burns with the last word, as usual . . .
Mrs. Burns: Alright, I couldn’t have said that better myself. This is probably the most sound advice we could both give you… and as we end this Baccalaureate Speech, it’s a miracle to find Mr Hamilton and I actually believe in the many of the same things, just in different ways.
We are proud of you. But more importantly, we are excited for you. This chapter is closed and you get to move on to the next one. How exciting is that?! You have grown since you came to us a squirrely freshmen, and now you are leaving us honorable men and women who have the chance to make a difference… for yourself and for the rest of us around you.
Do the best you can every day….but understand we can’t do it all. Even you, Linley Wakeland.
Take care of yourself… but also don’t forget the community in which you live. Pay it back and pay it forward.
Focus on your plan for your future and be mindful of an end-result… but don’t be afraid to take some risks and venture outside of your comfort zone. Explore what life has to offer.
And own your own behavior. Own your actions. Take responsibility.
You have a lot going for you. And on Sunday we will be sitting in those chairs off to your right, cheering you on.
Congratulations and enjoy the rest of this amazing weekend!