Now It’s Time To Say Goodbye
Next Monday afternoon, I am being charged with delivering the moving-up ceremony speech for the 8th graders at KIPP:STAR College Prep Charter School. After years of parenting, teaching, researching, writing lesson plans, and assessments, I have no idea what I’m going to say.
I could tell them good luck, but that’s cheesy. I could tell them they’ve worked so hard to get here, but that is not the truth for all of them. I could tell them that great things are ahead, but again, if many continue in the paths they’ve chosen, that’s not trie either. I could remind them of their years in middle school, but for some, those years were neither fun, nor rewarding. I can tell them only their character will matter in the end, but for some of us who thought it would be the end, we’re still waiting to be counted. So, I don’t know what to say.
I want to tell them that their “graduation” day is not a moving-up, but a moving-on from one chapter of their lives to the next. I want to tell them that the world rewards results, but not always, so they have to reinvent themselves in a way that keeps them true to how they really want to be remembered in life. I want to tell their faces that are every shade of chocolate, that though this world is not fair, giving up must NEVER be an option if they want a better life for themselves. I want to tell them that sometimes mistakes follow you further than victories do, but you have to keep piling on the victories, until those who focus on your mistakes look stupid. I want to tell them that angels and demons are everywhere, and that we sometimes get them mixed up because we prefer the smooth tongue of a demon, rather than the harsh reality of the angel.
I guess I want them to know that they are in charge of what happens to them in the end. That staring at a wall when you should be studying gets you nowhere. That complaining about the amount or rigor of an assignment makes you look like the picture of every academic racial stereotype. That urban novels may be books to read, but are not necessarily stories one should follow. I want them to use their powers for good, and not to allow segregationist and prejudiced corporations to amass wealth off their ignorance. I want them to devour information in a way that to some may be sickening, but to them will be life. I want them to quit bragging about their checker game when the rest of the world is playing chess and winning. I want them to know that I fully expect to read about their wonderful exploits as musicians, teachers, attorneys, medical practicioners, reformers, advocates, parents, entrepreneurs, civil servants….
Still, I’m not sure what to say. But I’ll have 10 minutes to put a lifetime’s worth of wisdom into a few paragraphs, that I hope will be memorable.