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Codman Academy Charter Public School

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					Codman Academy Charter Public School Class of 2007 Graduation Address by Aaron Schildkrout
Oh, my dear dear students, it is your graduation. I‟d like to start this evening by leading you in a final centering exercise. So, you can gently close your eyes. And, if you‟re in the audience and you‟d like to, you can do the same. Feel your breath come in and go out. Become aware of your own body sitting here, right now. My dear dear students, right now, you are sitting here on your graduation stage. Let yourself feel this. Let this be real. You can open your eyes. My dear dear graduates. Codman Class of 2007! When I first came to Codman to apply for a job, I‟ll never forget sitting in what is now Meredith‟s office with Meg. She said to me, “These”—and she pointed to a group of students in the science lab—“these are your Zen masters.” And what she said has proved true. You have indeed been my teachers. And so I begin my talk from a place of gratitude. My dear dear teachers, thank you. Thank you for all you have given me. And thank you also to the Codman community—Meg, Thabiti, faculty, board, partners, families, alumni, students—being at Codman has been a truly blessed gift. Graduates, you have achieved amazing things in your time at Codman. I think of our work together—just next door, 2 years ago almost to the day, you performed your Justice / Injustice piece to roaring standing ovation. And I recall last year‟s hip hop opera. And this year, your beautiful and courageous college essays, senior talks, social actions, and today, your graduation performance. I think of your profound growth as students of mathematics, science, language, arts, fitness. I think of the colleges into which you have earned entrance. Against so many odds, these are unbelievable accomplishments of which you should be proud. Indeed, I have watched you give yourselves completely to Codman—and to me—many many times over. And I, too, have given myself completely to Codman—and to you—many many times over. And why? Why have we done this? Why have we done this? Indeed, why are we here? What is our reason for living this life? If there was anyone bold enough, _____ enough, to try to, in a ten-minute graduation speech answer this most fundamental question of human existence, sadly, it is me. And so, here goes… We‟ve always known that our work together has not ultimately been about completing tasks, becoming successful, or achieving recognition but about learning how to be true to ourselves. As a meditation teacher, Swami Muktananda, once taught: All that we have achieved is like a thousand 1

zeroes—they only attain their true value when we place in front of them the one of self-knowledge, of living true to who we are. And this isn‟t easy. This isn‟t easy at all. To live true to who we really are—this is a very difficult thing. Indeed, this is how life is built—as the most crucial and beautifully designed of all tests. A single question is posed. Can you live true to who you are? One question: Can you live true to who you are? And you have only one life to answer this single question. Not in words. Not in writing. Not through mathematical proofs or scientific explanations. But through your actual life. What kind of parent will you be? What kind of grandparent? How will you care for your family members as they age? Will you be faithful and devoted to your lover? Will you work with integrity? Will you be kind when you don‟t have to be? Will you serve selflessly? Will you be true to your word? Will you speak and think for yourself? Will you allow yourself to celebrate? To mourn? To pray? To walk the earth knowing it is sacred? I have a terribly important thing to tell you: it is possible to live your whole life without really being yourself. There is no rubric for this test, no grade, no powerschool, no due date. The only judge is yourself. Only you will know if you have lived true to yourself. And you will know. Others may try to hide from this truth, but you—even if you try to hide from it, you will not be able to. (And I joyously apologize for that as it is partly my fault.) Soon you will leave this stage. You will leave Codman. And while Codman has seemed hard, life after Codman I promise you will be harder. Perhaps you have finally realized how precious a place Codman is. Perhaps you will only realize this later when you see that in our world, it is a very very rare thing to be in a community where each person is expected to learn to be true to who he or she is. When you go to college, when you begin to work for a living, you will most likely not be pushed to consider what it means to be true to yourself. And so, it will be up to you. It is, starting right now, fully up to you. It is up to you to have the courage to choose to constantly seek to live your life true to who you are. And if there is anything that I believe in, anything that I know it is this: you can do it. You are each completely capable of living true to yourselves. You have everything it takes. But then you might ask, if we are so capable, why is it so hard? What stops us? Well, that‟s an easy one: Fear. Like a giant prehistoric octopus with a thousand tentacles, each capable of encircling and choking the most noble of souls. An octopus whose tentacles have names we know: Fear of failing of being bad of being wrong of being inadequate 2

of being unloved of being unworthy And what is the name of this ancient horrible sea creature? It‟s name is Smallness. Ironic, isn‟t it? The essential fear of our own smallness: that is our real obstacle. We do not believe we are great. We do not believe we are worthy of unconditional love. Instead, we have somehow come to believe that we are small. Look at the wreckage these tentacles have left in their wake. Fear leaves us: Depressed. Mean. Bored. Angry. Vengeful. Spiteful. Hopeless. Annoyed. Stressed. Anxious. Numb. Cold. Lost. Conformed. Oppressed. Oppressive. And so, if we want to understand what it means to live true to who we are we must figure out what it takes to not be ruled by this sea monster of fear. We‟ve spent years together battling this core fear—you in yourselves and me in myself. And through this battle, you have taught me what seems like the most important thing I know, the one thing that is surely and truly true to who we are. It would be nice if I now had some long-kept secret to tell you, some key that I‟d never revealed that would unlock the mystery of what it means to live a life worth living. But I don‟t. I have nothing new for you, only this very simple answer, the one we‟ve always had: Love. It is love that lets us stand in our own greatness. To be true to ourselves is to love. To be true to ourselves is to be constantly guided by the principle of Love. This is already your wisdom. I‟ll never forget the day before the hip hop opera. I was stressed and annoyed. We weren‟t even close to ready. Kids were doing what kids do—refusing to wear their constumes „cause they made them look fat, declaring that they had mandatory pedicure appointments to attend…the usual. I was getting more and more frustrated. Finally, my frustration was unleashed in some nasty comment or curt remark. And then I heard from behind me, gently, one of you say what I have so often said to you, “Aaron, love yourself.” My point is, you already know that love is the answer. This is already your wisdom. It‟s just not always yet how you (or I for that matter) live. 3

And so, my deepest hope today is that you hold this wisdom, the wisdom of love, close to your own hearts and close to your own wills, and that you take hold the huge courage that will be required to live true to it. Will you, in your lives, live with love—and this does not mean not having fears—no, we are all afraid. Rather, it means to love with our all fears on the table. Vulnerable. Real. Strong precisely because we are not hiding. In this way, our fears do not rule us. And instead, it is our love that rules us. It is our love that shows us how to parent. How to work. How to be kind and true to our word. How to think. How to pray. How to live. This is, in the end, what I think it means to pass this great test of human life. To love. To live your whole life as love. It is not how much money you make, or how successful your life seems that will define its worth. No, it is simply how fullly you have loved. One of you once told me that you felt like your life was filled with Bee‟s—not just Spelling Bees, but Interview Bees, School Bees, Relationship Bees, Family Bees, Job Bees. You said you felt like you lost all these Bees in the first round. I told you then, and it is still true—the only Bee that matters is the Love Bee—and that Bee you were born to win. It will take all our years and maybe longer for us to understand this mystery of love. I feel that I only just being to understand it. Love in its hundred shapes—romantic love, platonic love, love for nature, love for community, love of place, love of ideas, love of God, love of self, love of life…and ultimately just love—love as the very essence of our being, a total acceptance of, delight in, and union with all things as they are. It is a vast mystery. But I do know, if I know anything, that, in the end, after we get through all the muck, we are born to give our world the gift of love. We are here on this planet to give this gift. This, this is why we are alive. And so, if you remember one thing, if you keep in your hearts one thing from me, one teaching, please keep this. Love. Live your lives as love. Live your lives as love. This evening, you are surrounded by those who love you most. And this journey of love is a communal one; we love together—give it and receive it. Indeed, to receive love with grace is itself one of the deepest expressions of love. And so, your first task as graduates is to receive our love fully. And in order to give you this chance, I‟m going to invite all of those here now in the audience to join me in offering our love to you. As an audience, later we will have the chance to offer shouts of joy and huge applause. But now, as I repeat the name of each graduate, I invite us to offer our love silently. So, graduates, if you like, you can close your eyes one more time. We offer our love to you: Simone 4

Corey Joaquina Francine Bruce Brandon Chris John Sherica Marcus Joya Kyle Kerlyne Jenna Lahai Ebonie Stephen Tatiana Shataya Thank you. To love. Our task is immense: to let the ultimate concern of love guide every moment of our lives. But I know we can do it. I know we can do it. And the reason I know this is that I have never been loved so much by a group of people as I have been loved by you. And I have never loved a group of people as much as I have loved you. My dear dear friends, let us live our lives as love. Thank you.

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