The Circle Voice

Prize Day: Hats Off the the Class of 2018

The+Form+of+2017+throw+their+boater+hats+after+graduating.
The Form of 2017 throw their boater hats after graduating.

The Form of 2017 throw their boater hats after graduating.

Adam Richins

Adam Richins

The Form of 2017 throw their boater hats after graduating.

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“Dare to be all you can be.” “Life is just one, big improvisation.” “Fall forward.” “Make good art.” “Continue to share your heart with people even if it’s been broken.” “Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

It has been years since the famous commencement speeches as quoted above were given by Hillary Clinton, Jane Lynch, Denzel Washington, Neil Gaiman, Amy Poehler, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs at universities across the country, but the world has not forgotten them. Commencement speeches are daunting and intricate paradoxes, serving as the final period in a chapter and the first page turn to a new adventure. Now, this beautiful challenge falls to Prize Day 2018’s speakers: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Christian Carson ’18.

Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka is the United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary-General and the Executive Director of UN Women, and was sworn into office in 2013. Prior to her work in the UN, Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka was a member of the South African Parliament, serving as the first female Deputy President of South Africa from 2005 to 2008. She has also worked extensively in fund management and youth development. Currently, her work in the UN focuses on gender-based violence, women’s economic empowerment, and mobilization of men and boys for gender equality. In an interview for The Circle Voice, Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka said she is striving to build “a strong youth base for gender equality.”

Born in Durban, South Africa in 1955, Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka said activism has always been a part of her life: “I was active as a teenager in my community as a member of a young organization already concerned about race and gender issues. I also became a student activist fighting against inferior education for blacks.” Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka added that apartheid inspired her to pursue social justice, saying, “The manner in which the regime dealt with dissent made me join the fight for racial equality.”

On Prize Day, Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka will speak on achieving substantive equality by 2030, focusing specifically on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals––a global collection of seventeen goals the UN has created targeting poverty, health, education, climate change, gender equality, environment, and social justice.

Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka was invited to speak by English teacher Vuyelwa Maqubela, who has known her since their college days, despite going to different colleges. Mrs. Maqubela said, “[Mr. Maqubela and I] have great respect, admiration and adoration for her and what she stands for… She should be an inspiration to the Groton community as she embodies scholarship, globalism and service.” In addition to being a global citizen and scholar, Mrs. Maqubela added that Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka is an incredibly accomplished African woman whose work and character is an inspiration to feminism: “It is also important for our community to hear from a woman who is celebrated and respected on many continents, a woman who has changed the lives of many.” Mrs. Maqubela herself is excited to hear Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka speak, because “there is such breadth and depth of experience and knowledge to Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka that there is no limit to the amount of wisdom she will possibly impart.”

While Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka already knows what she will speak about, student speaker, Christian, admitted he is having more difficulty writing his commencement speech. Shaking his head, Christian said, “There’s an ocean of cliches in graduation speeches and I’m finding it remarkably difficult to avoid them.” He added, “A graduation speech is tough because you want to make it personal so it’s interesting, but it’s also a larger thing for your form.”

While writing his speech, Christian was struck by the realization that in less than a week, his Groton career will officially be over: “You’ve been here for four years and you grow to think of this place as your own and then it’s not, and you can never come back and have it be yours like it is when you go here, and I think that’s the saddest part for me, that it’s the end of something you can never get back.” Christian’s sentiments are echoed across his form; in a sixth form survey, Senior Prefect Elechi Egwuekwe ’18 responded, “I’m dreading leaving my closest friends that I call my family. I don’t know when the next time I’ll see them all.”

Prize Day is a poignant time for everyone on campus. Mrs. Maqubela said, “It’s a beautiful celebration of the best of what Groton is all about… This day brings us all together, strengthening the already tight bond. Everyone is emotional, not just the graduates.”

As the Class of 2018 prepares to throw their boater hats into the air and say their goodbyes, everyone on the Circle wishes them the best; we hope they dare to be all they can be, fall forward, make good art, and continue to share their hearts with people even if they’ve been broken. We pray they remember that life is just one, big improvisation and failure is just life trying to move them in another direction. Class of 2018: stay hungry, stay foolish.

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