(Student Welcome Address at the Commencement Exercises for La Salle Academy on Thursday evening, 7 June 2018)
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 2018, welcome to the graduation ceremony of La Salle Academy.
After four years of hard work, dedication, and commitment, we have finally earned the right to be called graduates of La Salle Academy. This journey all began on a warm and sunny day in August of 2014. As we sat in the theater awkwardly looking around at each other for the first time, we had two things in common. The first was that we were all scared out of our minds and feared that none of the other students would want to be friends with us. The second was that we were all suddenly a part of the Lasallian community. At the time, most of us did not realize this.
On that end of summer day, we were all anxiously waiting to begin our high school career and were definitely not thinking about or concerned with the larger community that we were about to join. When class dean Mr. McGinn told us “La Salle chose you, and it is now time for you to choose La Salle,” this may have gone over many of our heads. What he really meant was that the Lasallian community is something that is larger than ourselves with the ideals and values that have been set in place since St. John Baptist de La Salle opened the first Lasallian school to educate poor boys in Reims, France, and is carried on by La Salle Academy opening in Rhode Island in 1871. The fact that the class of 1968, students who graduated 50 years ago, still feel the sense of commitment and dedication to come and support us as we graduate shows just how important this school is to so many people, and how this is a truly unique community.
Similar to each class that has graduated from La Salle, over the course of four years, we have been instilled with the values of the Gospel, faith and zeal, the importance of respectful human relationships, and exercising a preferential option for the poor. One of the most important principles is having a concern and sympathy for “the working class and poor.” What separates La Salle, aside from an amazing education is how we take action rather than simply discuss issues. This is demonstrated by our commitment to serving those who are impoverished in our local and global community. Our class has been especially dedicated to this ideal as we have been greatly involved in various fundraisers, mission trips, service activities, and social clubs.
The idea that we must not forget as we continue past high school and pursue a higher education and career is that while we each have our own individual interests, we now understand that we have a responsibility to the world around us. The fine gentlemen from the class of 1968 understood this and they set a fantastic path for us to follow. Whatever path we choose, whether business, engineering, the arts, social sciences, or any other field, we all will have the opportunity to share the values that we’ve learned at La Salle. What is important is that we never forget to treat people with respect and love, especially when something may not seem to work in our favor. In a serious moment, comedian Conan O’Brien reflects on his life and observes that “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” While simplistic, it is with hard-work that we put into use the gifts that God has given us, and with kindness that we spread God’s love. These are the values we learned at La Salle Academy and they will serve us and our community well.
La Salle is a school where we have been continuously taught how to remain focused and dedicated to our school work and serving others. As a result, we must thank our teachers for all that they have done for us. Each teacher has been chosen specifically because they embody the 12 virtues of a good teacher. The virtues of gravitas, silence, humility, prudence, wisdom, patience, reserve, gentleness, zeal, vigilance, piety, and generosity is what holds this school together and elevates the education to another level. However, no person at La Salle embodies these ideals more than our class dean, Mrs. Richard. She has stood by us from the beginning and she has been a continuous presence in our lives throughout these past four years. The entire class of 2018 is thankful for everything that you have done, and we will never forget the love that you have shown to us. Lastly, we must thank our parents. They were our original teachers and without them, none of us would be sitting here. It is impossible to fully understand the love that our parents have for us. Whether it was helping us with our homework, driving us all around the state, or paying for our tuition, they have been there for us every step of the way. There is no way to repay you, but we love you and thank you.
To close, I would like to share with you a message from Father Pedro Arrupe, a well-known Jesuit Priest who dedicated his life to serving the poor. He says that “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love. Stay in love. And it will decide everything.” My older sister received a note-card with this message while a student at La Salle and my family keeps it on our refrigerator as an inspiration. We, the class of 2018 have chosen La Salle, and will continue to make this choice. Thank you all.
Matthew Carranza–Alumnus (Class of 2018)