17 June 2016 – 7:00 p.m.
Thank you very much, Dr. Gialamas, for those warm words of introduction. Dr. Gialamas, Monsignor Casale, Ambassador Alali, faculty and staff of the American Community School, parents, friends, family, and, most importantly, members of the graduating class of 2016, it is a great honor to welcome you all here tonight for this year’s commencement ceremony.
Tonight, we celebrate the achievements of the class of 2016, eighty students from over a dozen countries, who have worked very hard to make it to graduation. But, even as you celebrate tonight, you shouldn’t forget all of the effort you put in to get to this point. Your teachers are proud of you. I know your parents are very proud of you. And I am proud to celebrate with you tonight.
Most importantly, you should be proud of yourselves. You are graduating from a remarkable institution, with over 71 years of history here in Greece. Your student body is a miniature United Nations, with students from over 50 countries. Your time here was a memorable experience and, as almost all of you head off to universities and colleges and start talking with your fellow students next year, you’re going to realize how exceptional your high school years really were. Few of us indeed have the opportunity to be exposed to so many cultures, so many histories, so many diverse and unique people before we even graduate. Thanks to ACS, you have already had that rich experience, and will be better prepared and more well-rounded when you start the next phase of your lives.
Even though your time here at ACS is ending, you will take the lessons that you have learned here with you. All of you will be faced with some tough choices next year – whether at university, in the workplace, or wherever your next steps take you. For many of you, for the first time, your families won’t be right by your side to guide and advise you. But, thanks to your parents’ support in sending you here, ACS has prepared you well for these decisions and for your future. This school prides itself on teaching you to think for yourself, to come up with creative solutions, and to respond, confidently and intelligently, to changing circumstances.
You’re leaving behind a great group of mentors here at ACS. You may have thought of them simply as teachers, but they are far more than that. I am sure you can think back to something one of your teachers said in class, or something they told you when you went to them for advice, and realize now how their words set you on a different path – how you’re going to a different school next year, or considering studying a different subject, because of the advice your teachers have given you. My high school and college instructors instilled in me a life-long love of classics and, even though I became a journalist and then a diplomat, it’s a part of me I’ve always maintained – because it has become part of who I am. I’ve been extremely lucky over my three years here in Greece to be able to pursue that lifelong interest in archeology and ancient history and literature. And it all started with my teachers. So do thank them today – and then, in the future, remember to either come back or send them an email and let them know how things turned out. You’ll be surprised how they remember you and want to hear what you’re doing.
So, yes, the classes, the exams, and the papers are all over. But you’re taking with you today something important. ACS has given you a toolkit – an intellectual toolkit you will use to fashion the rest of your life. So good luck with that. I wish you all well as you get on with that job. To the ACS class of 2016, and to your families and friends, Συγχαρητήρια!
Congratulations. It has been an honor for me to be here with you on this special night. Thank you and best wishes.