Chef Gerry Prevost, as the Guest Speaker of this year’s National Honor Society (NHS) Induction, was the last speaker of the afternoon, and he gave a powerful and poignant speech that emphasized the same theme that had woven together the student speeches before him. Katie Girouard, Grace Larocque, Anna Piro, and Zoe Montague each spoke about the mission of the organization: to serve others by pursuing leadership, scholarship, character, and, of course, service. In his occasionally emotional remarks, Chef recounted his high school years and the life lessons that his parents and mentors taught him. He summed them up in the motto “live to give.”
He explained that, though he himself was not inducted into NHS (in fact, he never even made honor roll), he went on to be a success in his chosen career and his life—living with “no regrets”—because he followed a few key pieces of advice:
1. Build relationships.
2. Be kind.
3. Help those who need it.
4. Find a passion and be passionate about using it to make a difference.
5. Be aware of the effects of your actions.
6. Be part of something bigger than yourself.
He closed by referring back to the message alumnus Marc Isabelle had delivered in Chapel two days earlier: “do good whenever you can because each good deed starts a ripple effect that will have impacts and influences far beyond what you can see.” Chef congratulated the new inductees on their accomplishments and encouraged them to “keep the ripples going.”
Gerry’s and Marc’s words echoed a recent editorial by New York Times columnist David Brooks, “A Nation of Weavers.” In the article, Brooks laments the current state of social isolation and fragmentation, citing evidence that these societal banes are increasing and are increasingly causing depression and suicide, injustice and anger, loneliness, and a sense of worthlessness. He recounts his decision to do something to counteract this trend. In short, he began Weave: The Social Fabric Project at the Aspen Institute—an effort to mend and strengthen our social fabric by prioritizing relationships over selfish pursuits. As he developed this project, Brooks discovered a whole host of people who are actively working toward this same prosocial goal, and he identified some common traits they share: a concern for the whole person, a desire to act in concert with others (don’t do for others or to others; do with others), and ability to love beyond boundaries, listen patiently, see deeply, and make someone feel known.
Brooks, like Gerry and Marc, emphasized the power of strong and healthy relationships as the key to changing the world for the better. This week in Fuller Hall, we saw several examples of these relationships formed across boundaries. Throughout the week, we were joined by our guests from Kaijo Gakuen in Tokyo, Japan, as 30 young men stayed with local families and attended classes with their “host brothers and sisters.” On Wednesday, before Chapel began, these young men and their teachers joined with our faculty and students spontaneously singing along to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (a song they had learned to sing as part of their English class as 7th graders—a happy coincidence!). Later that morning, Social Studies teacher Lucas Weiss and English teacher James Bentley gave an outstanding spirited musical performance collaborating with three student musicians—Joey Yan, Marc Lamontagne, and Myles Thornton-Sherman. Finally, on Thursday, Gaku Nagata, the English teacher from Kaijo, gave a powerful and eloquent farewell speech that showed how much he understood and valued our community, and he was followed by Kaijo student Tsuyohi Enta, who expressed the connection that Kaijo students had formed with their host families.
Brooks ended his article by stating that cultural change happens when a small group, often on the margins of society, finds a better way to live and other people copy them. This week showed us that such groups of people live among us, and we would do well to emulate them. Lots of forces in contemporary society can rip us apart, but we can choose to be part of a nation of weavers and create ripple effects that can change the very fabric of our society. In this way, we really can change the world.