(Student Welcome Address delivered at the La Salle Academy Commencement Exercises on Wednesday evening, 8 June 2016)
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 2016,
As we move forward from a significant period of our lives, it is important that we look back and contemplate on the influences that have transformed us. Since infancy, we have been shaped by our observations and experiences. We have been guided by prior generations. Whether it be our parents teaching us to walk or speak our first words, or prominent figures in pop-culture, the generations that have come before us have molded us into the individuals we are today. Take childhood cartoons for example. A yellow sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea taught us about fun and how to spell the word “campfire”. Twitter taught us how to express our lives in 140 characters or less and how to use little yellow faces to convey our emotions. Netflix taught us the art of binge watching and that no matter how late it is, there is always enough time for another episode. Picture-based apps like Instagram and Snapchat have taught us that everyone is a professional photographer and that filters can fix just about anything. Music icons like Carly Rae Jepson and, one-eyed-wonder, Fetty Wop have taught us that against all odds, anyone can succeed, no matter how much talent they don’t have. And of course there are the Kardashians, who have taught us nothing at all.
Considering all of these influences, a significant factor in our lives, as members of the graduating class of 2016, is the mission that La Salle Academy has instilled in us. The Academy has taught us Lasallian principles such as compassion, empathy, and generosity so that we continue the legacy of St. John Baptist de La Salle. Principles such as these allow students and graduates to fulfill the Lasallian mission. This mission is a calling to further our Catholic identity and further our relationship with Jesus Christ by using our education as a tool of service. To say it simply, “Enter to learn, leave to serve.” This phrase embodies the meaning of the Lasallian mission, the calling to respect education and use our knowledge to help those who are less fortunate. This influence has continued the process of molding us into THE contributing members of society.
As we leave La Salle and the road we have traveled for the past four years comes to an end, a new path begins. From this point on, our generation, specifically the graduating class of 2016, is responsible for the advancement and direction of our society.
- We will be the doctors making breakthroughs in healthcare, the pharmaceutical scientists who develop new or improved medications, and the medical experts who unlock new secrets of the human anatomy.
- We will be engineers of our generation who augment old inventions and fashion new technology, making this world ever more efficient.
- We will be the innovators who take music to new heights, and make strides in the arts that no one could have anticipated.
- We will be the actors, actresses, and performers spending hours on stage or on television in front of record breaking audiences.
We will encounter formidable challenges on this path, but as La Salle Academy graduates, we have many notable alumni that we can look to for inspiration; figures such as governors, senators, representatives, news broadcasters, professional and semi-professional athletes, and Attorneys General. Many alumni also play significant roles in the church, figures like Christian Brothers, Catholic priests and bishops who can help us to strengthen our spiritual relationships. One does not have to look far to see the impact of a La Salle education. There are teachers and administrators who have graduated from the Academy and returned to live out the Lasallian mission. These alumni can serve as models for us as we enter into the unknown.
As La Salle graduates, we have a responsibility to make the world a better place. No longer is our road paved for us like it has been in the past. Now we must forge our own paths. This is an exciting but frightening adventure. Not only are we responsible for our own decisions now, but our decisions affect those around us. Fortunately, we will not need to tackle such an intimidating task alone. The virtues that La Salle has taught us will guide us in the right direction. The discipline, dedication, determination, and motivation that La Salle has demanded from us over the past four years will allow us to steer our society, not only in the right direction, but in the best direction.
While growing up, we have lived in the shadow of previous generations, their accomplishments influenced who we are. Over the past four years, we have exceeded the expectations others have had for us, living up to the legacy of classes that have come before us. Now, as we graduate from La Salle and enter into the world beyond, we establish our own paths as individuals and as the class of 2016. We are a class of champions, record breakers, performers, artists, and lyrical geniuses with immeasurable potential. By walking across this stage tonight and receiving our diplomas, we, as a class, accept the responsibility laid out before us. With the guidance of the 145 La Salle Academy graduated classes that have come in the past, and other significant influences such as our parents, family, friends, teachers, and administrators, we accept this responsibility with pride. This is a heavy task, but the class that sits here today is more than capable of accepting it. Not only will we take on such a duty, but we will take it and run with it. We will continue to excel, creating a better, more hopeful future, one with this class leading it to a greater and more Lasallian world.
Mason J. Bernard–Class of 2016