The word “familiar” is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as, “well known from long or close association.”
President Fox, Trustees, faculty, parents and my fellow graduates. Welcome and thank-you.
Before we head out into unfamiliar territory, I want to take this last moment to touch on what’s familiar…
Harry Potter. We grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. If you didn’t read the books, you saw the movies. There was no escaping this story and therefore, it became familiar. Who remembers that day when they walked in the door and their acceptance letter from St. Lawrence was on the table? Sound familiar? Or when we arrived here, dragging our things and we were sorted in to our FYPs where we lived with like-minded people and tried to win the FYP cup at the end of the year. Sound familiar? And we may not have owls, but we do have The Hoot.
Yes, that wonderful warm feeling of hearing something familiar.
I want to take this moment to pull from the great story of our childhood three great lessons.
Lesson One: We may be strong on our own, but much stronger with friends. There is no doubt that the Harry Potter series is all about friendship. Harry Potter as an individual was capable of so much, but time after time he was shown how much stronger he was with friends. Do you think he would have made it to the sorcerer’s stone without Ron’s chess skills, and Hermione’s ability to solve the potion riddle? No. Do you think we could have made it through these four years without the support of our friends? Absolutely not. Dumbledor once said, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided… We can fight only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust.”[i] Sound familiar?
Lesson Two: There’s nothing wrong with muggle-borns. Harry Potter’s most intelligent character, Hermione Granger had muggle parents and although purebred families looked down on her, she was just as good as any other witch or wizard. As readers, we soon forgot about Hermione’s bloodlines, family ties, and heritage. She was beloved for her intelligence and loyalty. As we sit here as graduates, we have spent our four years becoming friends with people who were once unfamiliar, and learned to live with fellow students that first seemed so different from ourselves. We all came from different places, different stories, and yet we find familiarity at St. Lawrence, here, together.
And finally, Lesson Three: You can influence the sorting hat. I’m sure there have been times where we have slumped down in the seat and let someone else tell us what he or she sees for us and sends us off to that direction. In Harry Potter, the sorting hat was put on the new students and determined in which house they were best suited to live. For Harry, the hat was going to put him in Slytherin house because the hat felt he had the characteristics to succeed there. However, Harry kept whispering under his breath “Not Slytherin. Not Slytherin.” The sorting hat’s mind was soon changed and he sent Harry to Gryffindor… Although some of us may not have majored in what our parents wanted or did not end up playing for the varsity team as our family had dreamed, we made different choices on which to capitalize and grew into the people we were meant to become. “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”[ii] Sound familiar?
For the past four years, St. Lawrence has been our home away from home. We have been incubating in its warmth, nurture, and its familiarity. We are familiar with the lunch hour chaos, the still unknown calorie count of a pub cookie, Sunday Sundae, 7-month winters, and quesadillas taking forever to make. We are familiar with the traditions: Chapel bells ringing at 5, clapping when someone drops a cup in Dana, and the Moustache ride. We’re familiar with the annual events: Spring Fest, Dance Ensemble, playing Clarkson, and senior streaking (even if we did go a little early, sorry President Fox)… And of course, the familiar St. Lawrence successes, our sports teams winning Liberty Leagues, Laurentians winning the Kenya elections, Grace Potter, Kick-it-for-Claire, Run4Boston...
St. Lawrence is familiar. It’s familiar like the cold days of winter, scarlet and brown, like a childhood book, and like a love song, baby on repeat, peat, peat, peat…
But now we are headed to unfamiliarity and perhaps we will come back and visit to be reminded of what familiar feels like. However, the sense of unfamiliarity means now is the time to chase adventures, live on ramen, and do what scares us. We are heading in to the unfamiliar, new cities, new schools, and new jobs. Some of us are heading to grad school for PHDs, medical degrees, and environmental sustainability. Some of us are taking up jobs in journalism, music, finance, and teaching. I’m moving to L.A., Sara to D.C., Michael to Salt Lake, Martina to Florida, Brian to Boston, and Mary to Chicago. This next step is unfamiliar.
But just as Harry Potter had no idea what he was getting in to, we shall quickly make this next phase our next home. We will drag our trunks onto trains and get off at our next stop. Our next phase holds great adventures, more education, and new people. Like a Saturday night at the Tick Tock begs for a story, our life from this day on will be full of new plot lines, characters, and heroic anecdotes.
St. Lawrence class of 2013, let’s do this!
[i] J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, (U.S.A.: Scholastic, 2000), 723.
[ii] J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, (U.S.A.: Scholastic, 1998), 333.