Senior Dinner Talk
by Jesica Eames
13 May 2010
Class of 2010 you have quite a treat coming, and one that is as distinctly Paideian as the woodchips: after crossing the stage at Symphony Hall you will hear yourself eulogized by Paul Bianchi in that way that no one but he can do. My husband, Brian, had his twenty year Paideia reunion recently, held at the home of Jennifer Swift, a class mate and teacher in the Junior High that many of you know. Paul showed up at the party with a folder in his hands, printouts of the very speeches he delivered to the students and their gathered families in May of 1988 at graduation.
It was surprising enough that Paul could even get his hands on them after all these years. Macintosh computers had not evolved much past toaster ovens by then, and those paragraphs might even have been tapped out on a typewriter. But what was really surprising—haunting even to those class members who passed the sheets around at that party—was how keenly the words captured the essence of the students as they were graduating, and also how much they foretold about their futures that turned out to be true. It was uncanny, and we concluded that although Paul can seem to take on supernatural qualities at times—an illusion he does his best to promote, no doubt—there had to be a more reasonable explanation for how he and his committee of high school teachers who gathered to share observations and create those written impressions from scratch had been able to do so with such clarity and vision.
There is only one explanation, of course, and it is the same for the late 1980s as it is for each of you today. You have been seen, all of you. You have been seen over and over again by teachers and administrators who consider you, the student—the child, the young person, the emerging adult—as an individual, a complex and sometimes perplexing chemistry of talents and frustrations. Seeing you is what this school does. It is what makes Paideia such a distinct and special place. You haven’t always been seen at your best—have you?—and that’s a little humbling – I know from personal experience. You have been sad, discouraged, hostile, rejected. You’ve set your sights high, too high sometimes, and you’ve fallen short. You have gotten your taste of growing up. And you’ve been overjoyed, passionate, and downright brilliant. You have done things you never thought you could do even though your teachers said you could. You have begun a process of creating and understanding the wonderfully varied and multi-faceted personality you possess. You’re not even fully aware, most of you, of how you show yourself to the world, but you do. And what you show has been interpreted at Paideia through a lens of great compassion and encouragement and hope.
Saturday, you will join us, a growing body of Paideia alumni, and now just over 2,114 strong. We’re an active group. We stay in touch with the school and keep it apprised of our successes and our joys. We visit during reunions and regale each other with funny stories. And we continue to be a living part of the school, giving of our time, talent and treasure to the extent that we are able. You will be asked to do the same. I hope that when your call comes, you will know that the transition is complete. No longer are you the center – a student – you are one of many supporting hands. We hold this place dear, and we help Paideia to continue to be the best of places for young people to discover and mine the rich complexities of themselves and their world.
Congratulations, all of you, and welcome as you join us as alumni of this life changing place.