Sending Off the Class of 2020

On Wednesday, June 10, the CRS community gathered -- both online and safely distanced on campus -- to celebrate the Class of 2020. The day started with a virtual graduation ceremony, which featured remarks from Head of School Gretchen Larkin, creative presentations from the eighth-grade graduates, and the class slideshow. Middle School Coordinator Mary Walsh also gave her traditional remarks about each individual student. Her words were thoughtful, personal, and heartwarming and as she spoke beautifully about each student they each appeared live on-screen with her. It was a very special moment for all.

Later that day, graduates and their families gathered together (at a safe distance!) as the rest of the CRS community drove through campus with decorated cars and signs celebrating the class. The energy was palpable and made for a graduation day we'll never forget. Continue reading for Gretchen's remarks and photos.
Graduation Remarks from Head of School Gretchen Larkin

To our dear eighth-graders –
What an unbelievable whirlwind these last few months have been. When we were last together you were all riding high having just dazzled our community with Aladdin, the musical. Your energy, spirit, and humor shone through each number, and each song will be etched in my heart as a joyful memory.

Music has that power over me – there are songs I listen to over and over again that evoke certain memories from my childhood to the present. I put these songs into playlists and I run to them. These playlists create a fire in my belly that motivates and inspires me. I have multiple playlists and none of the songs have too much in common except for the personal connection I feel to them and the energy I gain from the lyrics and the melody. One of my running playlists is so
random it's got everything from broadway musicals and disco to the Rolling Stones, The Who, Kendrick Lamar, Mavis Staples, Kool and the Gang, Brandi Carlile, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Chris Stapleton, Whitney Houston, Post Malone, John Legend, Vampire Weekend, The Grateful Dead, Mondo, Shawn Mendes, Michael Jackson, and Yo-Yo Ma. Some of these songs I love because they hold powerful memories from when I first heard them and others from being a young girl dancing around the house with my mom and my sister listening to tunes from our collection of family records.

Several songs on this running playlist represent three pivotal moments in my life. The first is the song Peace Train by Cat Stevens. I was 8-years-old and I had just taken my first modern dance class with a teacher by the name of Betsy Ceva. One day Betsy had us listen to the lyrics of Peace Train over and over again and then she had us improvise a dance as if we were leading a peace train. It was so uncomfortable at first and yet it was because of that moment of discomfort
that I came to understand the power and beauty of a song, its lyrics, and their connection to movement.

The second pivotal moment represented on this playlist is when I watched President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009. Air and Simple Gifts was performed by Yo-Yo Ma in a
quartet and it was one of the most beautiful arrangements I had ever heard. Now, when I run to it, the arrangement brings me peace, calms my worries, and feeds my soul.

The third moment represented on my playlist is from my college days. Some of you may have read an article I wrote several years ago about the summer I lived in Vermont. On a day off from work I hopped in the car with some friends and drove north to explore Montreal for the day. When we arrived, we were swept into a large crowd which led us towards a roar of chanting and upbeat music. The crowd’s energy became more powerful – there were thousands and thousands of people. Within minutes, I was quite literally in the presence of greatness. There, before my eyes, was Nelson Mandela. Four months after his release from prison, Mandela stopped in Montreal for four hours specifically to thank the Canadian people for their fight for social justice and for their unending support to end apartheid and racial tyranny. It was awe-inspiring to be witness to a person who embodied such grace and dignity; to be in the presence of someone who endured immeasurable oppression and adversity yet rose triumphant nevertheless. As you can imagine, there are many songs on my playlist inspired by that day that fill me with hope and determination.

My point in sharing this is that you, too, will have a playlist representing this historic moment in time. What will those songs be? What will they represent for you when you look back 20 years from now? How will you feel when you hear them? The songs might make your heart sting a bit from nostalgia or grief but they may also represent a time of deep reflection, optimism, and transformation. We are in the process of stepping out of a three-month quarantine for an
unprecedented pandemic into the rush of what I fervently hope and believe is a turning point in our country to end systemic racism and create long-standing social change. This is a moment in time where we must continue to honor the memories of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubrey, George Floyd and countless others who lost their lives senselessly. THIS is a moment in time none of us should ever forget.

Class of 2020, I know the last few months have been filled with complexities and they have been scary at times. And yet, I know that you have learned much about yourselves, your families, and the greater world as a result of your circumstance. And because I know who you are as
individuals and collectively as a class, I have faith that you will use your voice, your compassion, and your conviction for what is right and just. Simply continue to let your love light shine, let it guide your actions, and you will surely make our world a better place. Nelson Mandela said, "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” 

A song I highly recommend for your future playlist is a new version of Cat Stevens’ Peace Train. Cat Stevens, now known as Yusef Islam, created this version a few years back. Many artists have actually recorded this song. A friend of mine introduced this new version to me last weekend and I have yet to stop listening – I will close with just a few of the lyrics:

Now I've been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun
Oh, I've been smiling lately
Dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be
Someday it's going to come
'Cause I'm on the edge of darkness
There ride the Peace Train

Oh, Peace Train take this country
Come take us home again
Get your bags together, 
Go bring your good friends, too
'Cause it's getting nearer, 
It soon will be with you

We love you, eighth grade – thank you for all that you have brought to our CRS community. We miss you already and we’ll look for you on that peace train. Congratulations to our newest alumni! We could not be more proud of ALL that you have accomplished. And I want to send a big thank you to your parents and families for sharing you with CRS all of these years. We can’t wait to see you at the parade!