2021 Commencement Address
by Wilson "Will" Mazimba '11
Good morning family, friends, faculty, and graduates. Well, I know I am not alone in saying this whole last year has been exhausting! It has been nothing short of a whirlwind ranging from euphoria at being able to go to school in your PJ's to the very real effects of COVID fatigue. This year has also been a very complex one with all that has been going on in our collective communities, with social injustice becoming significantly more visible. Getting through all of that intact is a major accomplishment in itself, so give yourselves a pat on the back for finishing high school on top of that.
I want to start off by saying: you made it! You are all about to step into the most fascinating years of your lives, and I hope I'm not alone in thinking that's extremely exciting. I say that for two reasons. One: your world is about to expand dramatically. Two, all of your experiences here will be invaluable when it comes to navigating that wide, crazy world. You have picked up something far more valuable than words in a textbook; you've picked up life skills. From learning how to pack smart for an extended camping trip to volunteer work with organizations that desperately need help, you've been growing every step of the way. I never thought learning how to tie so many different types of knots would be so useful in so many situations (I guess Matt Toms wasn't trying to tie me up and leave me in the woods after all).
While I don't want to be cliché in saying "this isn't the end, it's a new beginning," think of it this way; no more class for a while, summer is around the corner, then come fall, your first challenge is figuring out how to manipulate your class schedule to maximize free time (not that I did that of course...). In any case, don't fall into the age-old trap of feeling like you absolutely need to know what you want to do the minute you set foot on your next campus. We are all on the same journey with too many unknowns to count. Thrive in that. Use the unknown to your advantage and explore your passions. Learn something you never thought would make sense for you. Try that thing you've always wanted to but never got to. Don't let trepidation hold you back. That is yet another way to grow. The world around you won't stop changing, so you will need to change and adapt with it in a way that allows you to bring out your best self every day.
Given the difficulty of this past year, I wanted to draw your focus to a word that has maybe fallen by the wayside during such a trying time and has been a guiding principle for me from day one: kindness. I stumbled across an interview from Dave Chappelle the other day (I promise parents, I'm not going to swear) that really resonated with me in a few different ways. One piece of it that really stuck with me was:
"I'm on my kindness conspiracy. As long as I'm kind to people, if we live by an ethic of kindness, if we foster trust amongst each other, it will matter less what corporations and politicians say because we'll be able to trust our society's cohesiveness. However, if you politicize these things, it will become increasingly difficult to come to an understanding and agreement."
I particularly want to emphasize the importance of coming to an understanding and simply being empathetic towards others. You never know what someone else might be going through at that exact moment in time. No matter what happens in the world, we are all humans living on the same planet we have pledged to protect, moving along our dynamically intersectional journeys. If we can't be kind to each other, we need to find other ways to support each other instead of outright rejection from disagreement.
To paraphrase the rest, he mentions that every time we get together in groups, there's always something to be learned regardless of differences, and that is how we can keep learning to push each other to be better. No matter what generation, no matter your beliefs, no matter your political affiliation, kindness is key. That will be how we rebuild and thrive. I challenge you all to strive for kindness every single day. It doesn't have to be grand; it doesn't have to be complex; simplicity can change someone's entire day if you think about it.
So, now that I have sufficiently depressed and hopefully also delighted you, I want to leave you with a few last thoughts. Be an independent thinker. Keep questioning everything and everyone around you, and most importantly, keep looking for unexpected ways to solve problems; you never know what you just might find.
Congratulations, Class of 2021. Thank you for your time!
2021 Senior Commencement Address
by Arli Moyao-Ramirez '21
Good morning everyone, my name is Arli, and I want to give a huge shoutout to everyone who made this in-person graduation ceremony possible. Congratulations to parents who are here to support us and to those who are not able to be here in person, friends who cheer us on, faculty and staff for their hard work in cultivating a sense of community in uncertain times, and most importantly, congratulations to the Class of 2021.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge how difficult this past year has been. People have lost their lives for which families are still grieving, and many others have lost their jobs. For many, it has caused an excruciating toll on their mental health. Therefore, I am so grateful to have this moment to bring together everyone who has had an impact on our lives and share a moment of joy amidst a frightening storm.
Not too long ago, we were home sitting behind our screens, still processing what had just happened in the world. Then we came back to school, and almost everything was different. It seems so silly to even worry about how my senior year went. But, ever since freshman year, I had senior year planned out.
While everyone was able to physically be on campus, our minds were thinking about the future. Over and over again, I heard students and faculty alike talking about how this wasn't a typical WMS school year. I knew this wasn't a typical school year. WMS doesn't have four people at a table; it doesn't have hybrid learning classes; it allows off-campus trips. It frustrated me because, as the student body president, I couldn't plan the activities that I wanted to or engage with the community like a normal year. It was a trial and error year, a transitioning year. A year where we knew the "next year would be better." Because of this, it became more about the things we couldn't control.
As much as I counted down to the next weekend, to the next break, to graduation, and to college, I had to remind myself to appreciate the precious moments here and now. My friends—shoutout to Leah and Isabel, who've been right beside me since freshman year—helped me remind myself to become fully invested in the present. Whether it was sitting in our kiddie pool when it was snowing outside, having game nights with Kara, Daria, Johna, and Maggie, going camping on Hood's Hill, or binge-watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians, these are the small moments I will remember the most. In all of my four years, I can definitely say that senior year was the most memorable.
To the Class of 2021, I want to congratulate all of you. Watching each and every one of you grow over time, accomplish, try so many different things, and create long-lasting friendships is awe-inspiring. For those that went on the senior trip, it was so nice getting to see everyone laughing and having fun. We will all now be wrapping up a chapter in life and starting a new one. Some of us will move across the country, go abroad, pursue a gap year, or leave home for the first time. From here on out, we'll all be going to bigger places. I know some of us, if not all, are afraid about going to college, being an adult, and thinking about what's next or who we need to become to be successful, but thinking too much about that won't do us any good. Challenges will always be part of our lives. Don't lose sight of who you are.
Stay in the present, savor the wonderful moments, and enjoy the friendships you've created. I wish you all happiness and the best. Thank you.
Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.