It was a special night on Friday, May 28 for our family. Owen graduated from the Tashkent International School. It was a touching ceremony and an emotional day for Nadia and I. You can see from my speech below, how I felt about the day.
I am honored to open the Tashkent International School Graduation Ceremony for the Class of 2021. This is the 23rd TIS graduating class and the 33 seniors graduating today will bring the total number of TIS graduates to 470, joining our illustrious and very successful alumni. Shout out the Class of 2020 who made it today!
The first thing I want to acknowledge is that we are here, in-person, together as a school community. I see this as the one of the first glimpses of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. COVID challenged us all and I think of all of the uncertainty and isolation this once-in-a-century, global pandemic has caused us. There were many days I wondered if this Class of 2021 would make it here today. They showed resilience to get through having ⅓ of the Diploma Programme online. They were one of the few international schools in Eurasia to take the IB exams and they’ve been staying safe, together, on-campus since October!
I am so thankful the pandemic taught me to savor life’s moments, and what a moment this is. The setting sun coming through our glorious trees. These young people on the stage, bursting with dreams and possibilities. Proud parents, siblings and TIS staff members, who have given them so much support to help them to complete their high school education. It is wonderful for us to be together as a community again, deepening our relationships and human connections with each other, not through Zoom, but as it should be, face-to-face (although, of course, adhering to our protocols of physical distance, wearing a mask, spraying our hands, checking our temperature, etc. not too close)
I’ve had a long career in international education and have attended or led many graduation ceremonies. However, this graduation ceremony is different from all the others I’ve attended. This time, not only am I an international school leader, but I am also a father of a graduate. As with the parents, guardians, siblings, grandparents, in the audience today, this is a bittersweet event for me. In many ways, I see my son is ready to go. Late adolescents get a bit tired of their parents and the routine of K-12 schooling. He wants to make his own way in the world. I am happy for him. In other ways however, I am breaking up inside that he is leaving our family. Where did the time go? I can still remember very clearly the first time I saw him in the delivery room. The doctor lifted him up to cut the umbilical cord and my first thought was wow, he is this big, fat, red round ball with a full head of blond hair. As you can see on the stage today, he has grown quite a bit and is no longer a big, red, fat ball, although he is still blond. I think many of the parents have some of the same thoughts, wondering how we so quickly got to this milestone and can we slow down the steady tick of time.
Graduation speakers are supposed to give you sage advice or give some high-minded quote in graduation speeches. I am only going to say to you, on behalf of the many of the parents in the audience
#1) When you are at university next year, remember that money is a finite resource. You do not have an unlimited bank account. Maybe parents can track your spending. Say goodbye to your daily Express 24 or that sandwich and coffee from Paul’s. And, taxis in other countries cost a bit more than Yandex. It adds up and give your parents a break.
#2 Call your parents! Call them often! And not just when you have a problem with #1 and need more money. Thank them often for everything they do for you.
Class of 2021, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know many of you inside and outside of school. As parents, my wife and I appreciate that you treated our son who really just arrived here, with kindness and helping him through the DP journey. You have survived the great pandemic of 2020-2021 and after starting out your adult life in the midst of COVID, you can meet any challenge that awaits you. You got this! I can’t wait to see how you can clean up the mess (climate change, income inequality, media misinformation, etc.) that my generation and generations before me have left you. Young people like yourself give me hope for the future!