At the Commencement Exercises on June 17, Social Studies teacher Eric Bowman delivered an Address to Seniors entitled “What Matters?”.
Bowman, who was selected by the graduating students to be their faculty speaker, encouraged students to do away with cynicism and detachment in interpersonal relations and to rediscover their potential for caring: “I think we have learned how not to care, how not to commit, how to say things don’t really matter. Our words and conventions often have no meaning. It’s easy to be insincere. It’s the ultimate cop out—avoid pain and emotion by simply not caring about anything.”
“Since the 1990s (the decade in which you were born),” Bowman continued, “we have done a good job of teaching you to challenge tradition, to not give too much blind allegiance to what doesn’t matter—and I am all in favor of that. I celebrate critical thinking. But we haven’t done a great job of helping you to fill in what DOES matter. And thus, irony and insincerity rule the day.”
Bowman argued that it is important to make the change now, on a momentous occasion such as graduation, and he wanted students to start engaging with one another on this very last day they shared at ConVal High School.
“So let’s practice by looking at today for just how special it is. Don’t be sarcastic about it. Don’t downplay it. Don’t say things you don’t mean and then hide behind the fact that you were just kidding.”
“Look someone in the eye, feel that awkwardness until it melts away and you feel the warmth, and you see deep into someone else’s soul, for a change. When we do this, we will feel sad for all that we’re leaving behind, but we’ll also feel full joy for having experienced it at all.”
“And if we start today, maybe we can all be part of a movement that lives life more deeply, more meaningfully. We can create a world where your word means something.”
In the end, Bowman’s Address to Seniors was met with a standing ovation by students, staff, board members, parents and relatives.