(Delivered on Wednesday evening, 3 June 2015, at the Providence Performing Arts Center)
(Your Excellency, Bishop Evans; Brother Thomas; Mr. Kavanagh; Representatives of the Diocese and the Brothers of the Christian Schools; Members of the Board; Faculty; Alumni; Parents; Guests; and fellow members of the graduating Class of 2015),
It is my great honor to have the opportunity to speak to you tonight.
I want to begin with a song: The first verse of the La Salle Academy Spirit Song. I hope my classmates will join in: “On La Salle Rams, On La Salle Rams, up the mountain climb. Heads held high with one desire, we’ll score for sure this time (U RAH RAH). On La Salle Rams, on La Salle Rams, Fight on for her fame! Fight Maroon and White (Fight, Fight) We’ll Win this game.”
As timid, awkward incoming freshmen, each of us learned the words to the Spirit Song from none other than Mr. Timothy Finnegan. Some of us laughed at Mr. Finn for his crazy hand gestures and startling grunts of U RAH RAH, while others of us simply kept to ourselves, desperately hoping that he would not notice we were only mouthing the words. I won’t say which group I was in. I can say, however, I remember our apprehension and hesitation. As a graduating senior, it is strange to think back to that time as we reluctantly sang the Spirit Song and began “up the mountain climb.”
Over the next four years, under the direction of our caring dean, Mrs. Kelly, we experienced La Salle through our academic work, involvement in extracurricular activities, and daily encounters with classmates, teachers, parents, and administrators who ensured we did not have to climb this mountain alone. It is these people who make up our Lasallian community that we have to thank for helping us in our “mountain climbs.”
First, thank you to the Christian Brothers, who taught us how to selflessly serve others through one’s vocation. Your legacy and presence touched the hearts and minds of each of us everyday, with a handshake in the hallways or a smile in the athletic center. You are the cornerstone of our academy and a critical part of our ascent up the mountain.
Thank you to our administrators. You were accessible and kind, genuinely cared for each and every one of us, and facilitated our mountain climb from our first days to our last. In particular, thank you to our dean, Mrs. Kelly, who treated each of us as one of her own children, as if she didn’t have enough already.
Thank you to our teachers. You have instilled an enthusiasm for learning in us that we will carry to the next phase of our lives. But, you were not merely teachers of subject matter. You were teachers of life, who provided examples of Patience, in the math teacher who stayed after class to explain a problem just one more time and Zeal, in the English teacher’s passion and enthusiasm for every literary work, even, no especially, the boring ones.
Finally, the people who truly made this opportunity possible: Thank you to our parents. You have been with us every single step of the way… even when we did not think we wanted you to be. Your constant loving support pushed us through the toughest of times, and grounded us in the best of times. It is your love and sacrifice which has helped bring us to the peak of our “mountain climb.”
The next line to the Spirit Song reads, “Heads held high with one desire.” In all likelihood, this line, when originally written, simply referred to the La Salle faithful rooting on our teams. But, I think this line is one of the many things that can only be known about La Salle after experiencing it. Also included in this category is our fourth floor swimming pool and what purpose our elaborate front steps serve. Actually, maybe I still don’t understand that.
I think having our “heads held high with one desire” runs much deeper, and relates to La Salle’s Mission. Two statements we heard everyday at La Salle effectively summarize the Mission of La Salle Academy: Let us remember we are in the holy presence of a loving God, and Live Jesus in our hearts forever. Remembering God’s holy presence and allowing Jesus to live in our hearts calls us to live out the Gospel and serve the poor, the marginalized and the neglected in our society, as is La Salle Academy’s Mission. As we enter the world, allow our “one desire” to be to carry out the Mission of La Salle, living lives of faith and service to others.
We exit La Salle “with our heads held high with one desire” but while at La Salle, we fulfilled the next line of the Spirit Song, we “Fought on for her fame.” La Salle’s fame surrounded us at school. There is the banner in the athletic center which proclaims“The Legacy Continues,” and the mural in Heritage Hall on the first floor. These are just two reminders of our school’s storied tradition. The Class of 2015 embraced La Salle’s tradition and has left its own unique mark. We, the nervous and hesitant incoming freshmen have grown into college-level thinkers, State Championship Athletes, renowned actors and actresses, talented musicians and dancers, state and nationally recognized Mock Trial participants and Academic Decathletes, and so much more. Be proud of the things you have accomplished while here at La Salle for you, the students, continue to give La Salle its well-deserved reputation as a great place for young men and women to grow and develop their unique talents. That is La Salle’s fame and you certainly have and will continue to fight on for it.
Each part of this speech has made reference to a line in the La Salle Spirit Song. The Class of 2015 has climbed the mountain. The Class of 2015 holds our heads high with one desire. The Class of 2015 fights on for La Salle’s fame. We have embodied the words of the Spirit Song.
As I reflect on my time at La Salle, it is hard to forget all the incredible memories we have made as a class. For example, the brisk, fall nights we stood shoulder to shoulder rooting on our football team, or when we danced and sang at Winter Balls and Proms… and even, on occasion, on top of lunch tables. But, I also recall the less glamorous nights: finishing an essay, or cramming for an exam, or even decorating a project and wondering why I still had to practice coloring between the lines. While we may not have realized it at the time, these arduous tasks developed an unwavering grit and persistence in us that we possess today. All the hard work we have put into our four years is what the diplomas we receive tonight represent. We have learned skills of perseverance and resolve which will enable us to be the best versions of ourselves in the coming years. In essence, this diploma says we have learned to “Fight, Maroon and White, Fight Fight, for we will win this game,” and every game to come. Thank you for your attention and congratulations Class of 2015!
Brendan T. Nigro–Class of 2015