It falls to me to bid the class of 2012 a final farewell on behalf of the Randolph faculty. We take pride in your many, many accomplishments, we share the joy mingled with sadness on this special day, and we look with you to the future with anticipation, eagerness, and possibility as you greet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
When I was in high school many years ago, I ran competitively, and over the years became better and better. I remember a Nike poster adorning the walls in my room at boarding school. It was a photograph of a lonely runner on a deserted road amid rolling hills replete with a canopy of trees on either side. The cryptic caption captured my imagination and intrigued and mystified me. “There is,” the poster stated boldly, “no finish line.”
It has taken me years to grapple with the meaning of this assertion, mostly because we’re conditioned in our culture to see life as a series of constant finish lines. The school year ends. The businessman closes a deal. The attorney wins a case. The surgeon saves her patient. The athlete wins the championship or endures a bitter defeat. The mother gives birth, and we mourn those who die.
And in our culture we often see high school graduation as a finish line. The diploma you now hold in your hand is a testament to what you have accomplished over the years to make your way through this signal rite of passage and take on college life and the world beyond. Surely for the class of 2012, May 26 is a finish line that you’ve planned for, yearned for, and maybe even prayed for over many weeks, months, and years.
But more and more I’ve come to see the wisdom in the notion that “there is no finish line.” At our best, we are never complete, we are always under construction, and we are forever learning what we can do to live a meaningful life and make a contribution to others. That is our hope, and that is our calling.
Here at Randolph you learned to see a chance and take it. Here you learned to thrive in a community of peers and teachers and coaches who always challenged you to do a little better. For the rest of your lives I hope you will hold firmly on to the belief that at our best we make others better, and in their presence, no matter where we are or what we do, are made better in return.
Those of us who struggle most in life fail to grasp the value inherent in each of us as a child of God. Or we suffer at the other extreme from a misguided belief that we are more important than we really are. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that it is natural for each of us to spend time in both places, sometimes both places in a single day.
This never-ending quest for meaning is part of what is surely meant by the suggestion that “there is no finish line.” Bankston Creech, a Randolph sixth grader, helped me understand this paradox more completely when I happened upon a poem she wrote for fun outside of class earlier this year. It’s called “Moments,” and it reads as follows:
I look upon the roaring fire,
The powerful ocean,
The mighty forest,
And the shifting wind.
I realize I am but
A single spark,
A mere drop,
A breeze whispering by.
But the largest of fires begin with a spark,
The most powerful oceans with a drop,
The most mighty of forests with a seed,
And every shifting wind with but a breeze.
I am but a moment in Time,
But Time is made of one-thousand
There is no finish line, just “moments” of which we can make the most. As you navigate the uncertain shoals of life, bring bravery, courage, compassion, humility, perseverance, and gratitude to the fore. May you remember the strength that you drew upon here in this special school, from your teachers, coaches, parents, and especially your classmates. May each of you know that you are a gift with an important contribution to make every day. Above all remember that the gift of life is an invitation, not a guarantee, and that you may do with this gift what you choose. In the words of the poet/philosopher/songwriter Robert Earl Keen, remember above all that “the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.” We wish you the very, very best in the months and years ahead, and hope you will come back to visit us and your kindergarten buddies many, many times as proud alumni of Randolph School.