Linden Hall graduates 48

By on May 27, 2014

Linden Hall School for Girls held its 268th annual Commencement ceremonies on May 23 in the sanctuary of Lititz Moravian Church. Kathleen Pavelko, President and CEO of WITF Public Media, was the guest speaker.

The class valedictorian was Jillian Silbert. Serena Liu was salutatorian. Approximately 250 academic and club awards were given out to students, among them:

  • Linden Hall Medal and “Lindy” Award — Jillian Silbert;
  • “Character, Conduct & Acheivement” Class of 1925 Prize — Emilee Gehlert;
  • “Spirit of Linden Hall” — Vanessa Yang;
  • Annelise Vidal Photography Award — Serena Liu and Abeer Alghamdi;
  • Master Musician Award — Christine Ogunleye and Nicole Chen;
  • Mathematics Award (Concentrated Studies) — Melody Li; and
  • Senior Athlete Award — Christine Ogunleye.

Below is the valedictorian address, delivered by Jillian Silbert, in its entirety:

Welcome board of trustees, administration, faculty, parents, and students.

Today, I stand before you one of many who have stood, are currently standing, or will stand before their graduating class to impart some final morsel of wisdom.  Like my counterparts, I will rely on platitudes to convey an ultimate piece of advice.  However, and this is an area in which I believe my speech deviates from the norm, my purpose in relying upon these banalities is to discuss their validity and to search for a deeper meaning in our graduation today.

Linden Hall’s 2014 salutatorian, Serena Liu, and valedictorian,  Jillian Silbert.

Linden Hall’s 2014 salutatorian, Serena Liu, and valedictorian, Jillian Silbert.

The first cliché that I will focus on is the saying that “This is not the end, but the beginning.”  Maybe this isn’t the end, but it can be viewed as an end.  This morning was the last morning that I walked through the halls of Linden Hall as a student, and this year was full of many other lasts: last first day, last Gretna Day, last tennis game, last musical, last night of the last musical, last Ledger edition, and the list goes on.  Graduation is, by definition, an end.  And yes, graduation can also be a beginning – we’re about to be college students and about to begin an experience unlike any that we have ever had before.

Perhaps the biggest flaw with this concise statement is its precise view of time.  To give order to our lives, we as a society have set up social constructs that delineate the events in our lives.  We prefer to look at graduation as a concrete thing, a clear divider between the comparative “immaturity” of high school and the responsibility of college.  However, instead of focusing on graduation as marking wholly either the end of our high school years or the start of our college years, we should instead view this as the continuation of a transition.

Viewing graduation as only a beginning underemphasizes these past years and trivializes the character and intellectual development we have undergone throughout middle school and high school.  Similarly, viewing it in the opposite fashion, as only an end, places too much importance on our high school years and ignores the potential that the rest of our life holds.

Life is continuous, with one moment blending into another and changes occurring so gradually that they go unnoticed.  Tomorrow I will feel no more mature having received my diploma and officially graduated from high school than I felt yesterday sans diploma.  Having graduated, I will not suddenly take on the persona of the enlightened college student.  While I do wish this change both for myself and for all those of the graduating class, such an alteration will only occur in minute increments after we have actually entered college.

Thus, this graduation is neither the end nor the beginning, but rather (and excuse my reliance on a different cliché) another stepping stone in the path that each of us is taking.

Another oft-heard statement is the phrase “One door closes, and another door opens.”  Newton’s third law states that every action causes an equal and opposite reaction, and in the physical world this may very well be true.  But in the academic world, furthering our education widens our possibilities — instead of closing one door in order to then open another, each class we take, each revelation that pops into our mind, each new and maybe strange situation opens another door without shutting previous ones.

While meant as encouragement, this cliché ironically underemphasizes the resources available to us as graduates.  The doors, both physical and symbolic, that we have opened at Linden Hall will remain forever open to us.  We have permanently opened doors leading to both academic and extracurricular interests.  We have also opened forever the door leading to the Linden Hall community.

Seniors, think of the doors that you have opened at Linden Hall.  You have created friendships and explored new academic areas.  You have flourished artistically and intellectually.  Graduation will not cause you to forgo these developments.  Your high school relationships will remain intact even while you forge new ones.  The classes you take in college will depend upon the foundation that you built here at Linden Hall.  No doors are closing, although the number of doors available to you is exponentially increasing.

These two maxims that I have discussed are simple and are offered as encouragement.  We are expected to accept the trite truth that they proffer and move on.  My point in delving into the meanings behind these sayings is quite simply this: we must always think critically.

Seniors, we are about to enter an atmosphere in which we will be bombarded by new and different philosophies and ideas.  We must think critically.  Our time here has endowed upon us important analytical skills — use them.  Create your own opinions and find your own truth.  Decide what you believe in, and do so not because that is what’s popular or cool but because you have thought critically.  Challenge yourself by questioning not only the beliefs of others, but also your own.  Open yourself to the flow of ideas and be discerning in your judgment of them.

And perhaps even more important, know the difference between thinking critically and being critical.  We are fortunate to have gone to school in a diverse environment and to have already been exposed to different belief systems and cultures — still, college could very well be a culture shock for many of us.  Learn the distinction between analytical criticism and biased judgment.  Hold your own beliefs up to the same standard of criticism to which you hold other beliefs.  Allow yourself to explore new ideas.  Think critically.

Congratulations class of 2014.

* A complete list of Linden Hall award winners is found at LH_awards.


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