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Farewell Address at Graduation: On Perseverence
To The Grauer School Senior Class of 2018

Ancestry, Ecosystems, Community...We are a part. Try as we might even in our sad or lonely times, none of us can succeed in ever being separate. We say we are individualists: What is amazing about high school is that we are destined to seek our independence. And once we believe we have arrived there the full truth is revealed: We are utterly dependent beings.

The human longing and lure for independence reaches its fullest action in the coming of age years. It is a force of nature, a Grand Canyon to be split in stages: innocent entry, being stranded, navigating the wild rapids, observing in awe and wonder, emerging as an independent adult to find we are more connected than ever—to our ancestry, our community, our ecosystems ... This has been true for around 40,000 years. Graduates, you are a force of nature at fusion time.

Sustaining us, for several hundred thousand years even before humankind, the atmosphere has remained fairly stable: 21% oxygen. This, and clean, plentiful water, your rightful inheritance, and the rightful inheritance of your children. No matter how great you think you can be at your college studies, your job, your career, no forces will rival ocean and river currents or prevailing winds or coming of age, all for you to cherish, forces never to hold separate from your education, your job, family, or life. The happiest among you never lose the feeling of these connections.

Grauer Senior Dante V. '18 sings "My Way" as a surprise guest during Dr. Grauer's Keynote Address

Life started as a single cell and this is the ancestor we share, everyone in the room, we are all relations, Mitakuye Ossin, as the Lakota phrased it to a group of us in Pine Ridge. High school is to me life's most fascinating time: In independence we spend our days finding unity. As a species, we keep severing ourselves from nature and one another, our business or profession from our authentic life, our mind from our spirit, only to find separateness diminishes our humanness both in and out of career. It astonishes me how often I hear people reveal that they sever behavior and spirit in this way because they "have no choice."

We have all been taught to limit our view of what we can be, to define ourselves in high school grades, or, later, job slots and titles. Here is the news: you get to choose who to be. Here is the demand: you must choose who to be, no stakes are higher. And our faculty has never seen a class do it better than you are doing, class of 2018. Many people will try to set rules for you, to separate your private life from your life's work, your ancestors from your children's children.

I read of an aboriginal tribe dealing with a corporation that moved into their area. The company presented them with a 10-year logging plan. They refused, and came back with a demand for a 500-year logging plan. The notion that we are separate from our ecosystem, school, business, community, is delusional. There is no separateness.

Dr. Grauer presents the Highest School Honors: The Annual Resourcefulness Award based upon the school's founding value, to Pete M. '18

It was just a few days ago, I'm sitting along the banks of the Colorado River, 50 miles south of the Glen Canyon Dam, where I have come to write this speech, between steep canyon walls, the wind and water gliding up the canyon so easy, when you are in the right spot the whole of creation seems like shadows playing.

My guide on this trip, Hannah, a former Grauer student of mine, a coincidence of epic proportions, continually reminds me that our school has ignited her passion for the natural world, and--now--she is my teacher. With a gleam in her eye and an unmatched work ethic, Hannah has taken me into nature's greatest masterwork, through rapids and narrows, deep into the inner sanctum of the whole earth, the Grand Canyon, Hannah's office. This is who she has chosen to be and I feel a surge of pride and success at her freedom and joy of connection, and then, and this is embarrassing and hard to articulate, another part of me feels a tiny disturbance, a mosquito, that asks, "will the people back home think this is a real enough profession?" and I feel ashamed and irritated. I shoe it away.

No force I have experienced, especially those arising from man's greatest ingenuity or ego, rival wind and water. No significant work we ever do, no technological breakthrough, no merger or acquisition, no poem, can ever rival these forces or the perfection in living in harmony with them.

Christina Burress presents the Senior Introduction speech for Kyra W. '18 during the graduation ceremony

I hope we have shown our students that life is an expedition. I can see from this class of 2018, when I listen to and observe you, the fearless and free pursuit of passions. You are forces of nature.

Leadership is the capacity to see the whole in things. The class of 2018 wisely defines itself as a diverse group--a collection of extraordinarily unique individuals, who struggled with differences for a while and then, over a quadrennium, learned to coexist and thrive on their differences. Together through high school they have given over 5000 hours of humanitarian and ecological service.

You may case study this class if you want to learn why diversity is so important in groups: their distinctions don't only help define them, they become points of pride. Diversity enabled them to overcome the forces of opinion or ego: they are confident, they help each other, and a shared identify has caused an enormous pride in their school. It is a unique group, with strong clear proud respectful voices: unique voices, captivating voices that blend into a whole.

This class, before you today for the last time, sung in harmonies and formed teams they could not have formed without diverse talents, consistently stayed after hours to develop those teams in clubs, sports, arts and passions. They are an ecosystem, a biosphere.

Grauer Seniors Jordan W., Tia C., Bennet B., Sierra P., and Kate M. pose together after the graduation ceremony

Grady says: "Perseverance has proved to be the most important trait in my life." Rory says: "I love to take what is best of each of you and what I am grateful for you for, and to and apply it to my own life." According to Kyra, "Compassion is to suffer together," and I can't speak to this group's suffering, but I have seen you developing your hearts. The class of 2018 is tribal.

The class is resourceful. Divya explains: "This is what I want to take from Grauer: Alicia's grace, Fariba's hugs, Dana's organization, Trevor's smile, Isaac's encouragement, my friends' inclusivity, Stuart's philosophy, Shelley's heart, Patricia's empathy, Clayton's patience, Peter's humor, Morgan's rationale, Christina's love, and my parents' gift of opportunity. Thank you."

Most of these students express 360 degrees of thanks, too, not just faculty and parents: the lunch server, the custodian, the office staff, and others. What a gift of gratitude! Oh, and the door dash deliverer...

Ever one to say, in one line, what takes me five pages, Kate noted, "Grauer gave me a community to belong to and an environment to thrive in."

Grauer Seniors throw their caps in the air at the end of the graduation ceremony

In closing, a thought I hope you will never need: Loneliness does not mean no friends or no popularity, loneliness is when you lose your place in your communities of belonging, lose your gratitude, lose track of your elders, of the ecosystems that sustain us. What the class of 2018 has shown us is that independence means being a loyal, trusting, part of a whole.

Thank you.

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Grauer’s writing reminds us that
"Great Teaching, singular, rare, unusual, is something that should be sought after and found. Thank you.”
Richard Dreyfuss, Actor, Oxford scholar, founder of The Dreyfuss Initiative

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