Welcome to the 1997 Oak Grove School Graduation Ceremonies. Each and everyone of you contributes to the quality of this school's environment and the education we provide. On behalf of us all I extend my deep and heartfelt appreciation.
There is nothing more magical or relaxing than to sit quietly in the Oak grove watching the sun filter through the oak trees and scatter across open meadowland. There's something about the light, how it dances with the shadows in constant movement and flux. We dance with shadows. Oak Grove School blossoms in the shadow of a great man whose clear and intelligent insight planted a seed, the intent of which sometimes seems to be overwhelmingly unattainable given the limitations of our human condition. In the wake of Krishnamurti's death we struggle to gain insight from his words; we turn to quotations attempting to draw nourishment from their clarity. I stand here at the podium feeling the pressure to speak in lofty terms and at the same time I feel the shadow of that pressure. I wish to speak what is true. I wish to tell the story of what is.
No one, as far as I know, became enlightened this year. Although we may set our sights on levels of consciousness that are undoubtedly worthwhile, our daily work is occupied in simple things. We spend time considering what it is to be kind, considerate, and courteous to one another. We practise seeing the other's point of view. We encourage each other to admit when we don't know. We attempt, not always successfully, to be honest. We try to listen. We make mistakes, forgive each other, and start over - one of those small but significant human interactions - when someone is capable of saying 'sorry, I messed up' and 'that's okay, let's try again'. Compassion and understanding for our human frailty seems essential in order for growth to take place. I have faith that this is a place where one can fall down and be assisted to stand again rather than be reprimanded for falling in the first place.
But Oak Grove is not a perfect place or a paradise. There is much work to be done. The world is on the brink of environmental disaster and we, too, suffer from complacency and an illusion that someone else will take care of the problem for us. It's easy to become insular and regard the world as 'as there' instead of 'right here'. We are beginners at treading lightly on the earth and with each other, at responding with an intelligence that acknowledges our limitation and the tricks of mind that categorize and hold as our opinions and push truth underground. Our work is difficult and there are times when we all doubt if anything at all is taking place here beyond a good academic education. The question I am most frequently asked is 'What's so different about Oak Grove?' and just as frequently I am tonguetied. Most days my gaze falls upon a large and sprawling bunch of teenage people who require constant nagging to clean up after themselves. On the fifteenth time I've asked a student to please keep their voice down, I'm ready to tear my hair out, like a frazzled mother of forty five hormonally challenged adolescents.
Then, on another day, unexpectedly, I will fall witness to this same group rescuing an injured hummingbird, or a three legged lizard, or a fellowstudent having a bad day, with such deep care and thoughtfulness for LIFE and each other.
I hold my breath at the possibilities contained within each moment.
I am tremendously proud and delighted at the achievements of our students - in academics, in the arts, in sports, and a myriad other accomplishments - but what I value most, what is so stunningly absolute, is their infinite capacity for goodness.
This graduation ceremony is in honor of PARENTS, particularly mothers, and one particular mother - Lena Frederick - who we lost this year to breast cancer. Lena's children Rowan and John Michael, who attended Oak Grove from pre-school through high school, are a testament to what can be done when a partnership is formed between a home and a school whose purpose is to provide the nurturing soil from which a child can grow and flower.
Tonight, six students graduate, each of them uniquely grown: Adrienne with her incredible musical talent. Han Saem with her diligence and persistence toward her goal of studying medicine. Juno, outrageous, actor, poet, and human being. Aisha and her fierce devotion to human rights. John with his passion for baseball, fishing, and marine biology. Serra, friend to the earth and all creatures great and small that walk upon the planet.
This group has a collective identity too: the class most frequently full of righteous indignation at the state of the world. The class least likely to accept things as they are but to lay bare their complaint and insist we look again - upside down, backwards, and inside out, possibly even whilst hanging from a tree... barefoot. These are the students that kicked and screamed their way into young adulthood, I think, because adulthood represented too many boxes and narrow grooves, far too much conformity to the norm.
These are the questioners, the critics, the trouble makers. You wouldn't think so by their quiet voices and a predominant shyness, but don't be fooled. They have countless times stopped me in my tracks, forcing me to re-examine some long held assumption - I profoundly thank them all for their fresh insights and simple friendship. They are a group willing to share their shadows alongside their light: their anger, their confusion, their tears.
They stand here on the threshold of their futures. My wish for them is that all their lives they remain, in the words of Mary Oliver, 'brides, married to amazement, bridegrooms taking the world into their arms.' That they find a place in the world which embraces the whole of them. A place where they can be authentic, honest and real. My hope is that they keep stirring up trouble. That they don't succumb to a notion of what they should be but continue to grow into who they are, because who they are is so very precious.
One of the graduates is my daughter, who several months ago, when I asked her what she needed from me as her mother, looked me straight in the eye and with considerable kindness replied, 'Mom, all I need now is for you to let me go.' Eighteen years of parental challenge flashed before me: potty training, the terrible twos, first days of school, the agony and ecstasy of pre-puberty, puberty, post-puberty, and here the greatest challenge of all was not going to be an active endeavor of patient problem solving...but after all the years of exercising and strengthening those muscles of independence, the challenge was going to be, willingly and without fuss, to step back, cut the string, and watch her fly away.
We hold our children tight to us, protect them and love them with a fierce devotion until their roots are thick and deep...So that when the time comes...they will scatter themselves like wild flowers...across the yellow savannah...and they will grow high, high above the grasses...turning their wild smiling faces toward the good sun. Han Saem, Juno, John, Aisha, Adrienne, Serra...the time has come.