Sonoma Academy Opening Convocation Speech


Clare and I were recently asked to give the opening convocation speech at my high school. It was an exciting event, not only because the speech occurred roughly 12 hours after my return from Romania, but because it was a continuation of my recent involvement with the school. Furthermore, it was an fun to share this experience with my sister and all the incoming freshman whose seats I was in over 10 years ago (!!!). The focus of our speech was informed by recent events as well as Clare’s and my relationship. We spoke of the differences we experienced in high school (and continue to face today) and how, in learning to appreciate those differences, we grew both individually and collectively. Cheesy I know but it was a high school convocation speech!

Note: the most difficult aspect of this speech by far was writing it as a dialogue. The only speeches that could serve as inspiration were award show nominations.

Full text below:

Speakers: Julian & Clare Mackie

Date: 8/21/17

Julian: Good morning & welcome to the first day of school!

Clare: Thank you to Janet and to the board for their invitation to speak today

J: And Congratulations to the class of 2018 on your last first day of high school

C: and to the class of 2021 on your first, first day of high school

J: This is my twin sister Clare

C: And this is my twin brother Julian

J: Janet asked us here today to share a bit about our experience at Sonoma Academy and give you some tips to take with you for the upcoming year.

C: The more we talked about it, the more we realized how different our experiences were

J: See, as much as we have in common, we certainly have a lot of differences

C: At SA, Julian was the competitive one. If he wasn’t in the gym or on the field, he was racing his friends to lunch or up the stairs

J: Clare was less competitive. But whatever she may have lacked in the gym…

C: I would point out that I played for 3-time NCS winning team!

J: Regardless… she made up for in her commitment to pushing her boundaries — in chorus, in physics, in Nicaragua and Thailand.

C: Julian was also the mouthy one. You couldn’t go to a community meeting without hearing him hold forth..

J: Clare was the compassionate one. Always serving as a mentor, or a tutor, or a listening ear.

J: While competitive in sports, I initially lacked focus on academics….it was quite a shock when Marco pulled me up by my collar and told me that I not only could but WOULD do better….or else!  And I did.

C:and I had never felt confident in schoolwork, and was pretty terrified my freshman year. Amazing teachers and Margie Pugh supported my growth; I learned persistence and how to ask for help, and I graduated confident that I could be a successful student.

C: Since SA, Julian has focused on public affairs and business. He lives in San Francisco and is usually travelling for work.

J: And Clare is pursuing her love of psychology and education. Now she lives in Boulder, Colorado, does a lot of exploring and hiking,s  and works in the engineering department of the university.

C: When we arrived to our first day of school…

J: To a campus that, by the way,  looked nothing like this…

C: We arrived as the Mackie twins.

J: But 7 years after graduation, our paths couldn’t look any more different.

C: Yet, our relationship has never been better.

J: What SA taught us was the importance of self-exploration. Of finding our own values and goals. Pursuing our own paths.

C: At the same time, we learned to have appreciation for those with different goals

J: It was the teachers, many of whom we see today, and the staff, that set this example – to be ourselves, but not to reject “different ness”.

C: People like Brandon, and Kerry who  taught me to find my own voice. To be ultimately proud of my own insightfulness and sensitivity.

J: And it was people like Doug who taught me to look outside this community and to identify with those in far off places like Romania or Liberia.

C: Today, we would like to issue a challenge — to all of you:

J: Rigorously pursue your own identity but do so with real appreciation  for those around you.  Be curious and open in building your own community.

C: When you leave SA you may go any number of directions, but the person you become and the values you develop will remain central for life.

J: This principle of being true to yourself and accepting of others is relevant not only in how you treat your teachers or classmates, but also how you approach and communicate with those outside of this school community

C: In the news it’s easy to see how often the world is defined as  black and white: Republican vs. Democrat. We vs. them.

J: It could be easy to define yourself with these same labels but the truth is that, now, and for years to come, your identity, your beliefs, even your friends, are fluid.

C: Practice empathy with those in your classes as they explore their ideas and , their beliefs, and their friends.

J: Challenge yourself to do the same. To push your own boundaries. To explore new ideas. To meet new people.

C: Take pride in the diversity of this community and the community that surrounds you.

J: Take pride in adding to that diversity. To the discussion in the classroom. To community meetings.

C: Create new clubs. New publications. New exploratory sessions.

J: And if you find yourself doubting yourself, or your confidence wavers, as it surely will, realize that you are surrounded at all times by teachers, mentors, friends that are here to support you in this journey.

C: We have a more particular challenge for each class.

J: To First Years, give yourself permission to be a new person at this school. Challenge yourselves to meet all sorts of new people and to explore new ideas. High school is going to be some of the best four years of your life and I hope you live it up.

C: To Sophomores, you’ve already begun to feel comfortable in this community. Push yourself to try new things. You are supported here, and what you may see as a failure is really a step towards success and finding out more about yourself.

J: To Juniors, as you begin to look past SA, to college or otherwise, reflect on this community. Seek out other spaces, other communities that emulate not only your own values, but also the values of diversity, inclusion, and self-expression.

C: And to seniors, recognize that you are the leaders of this community. Lead by example but also take the time to truly appreciate the peers you have spent the last four years with and the uniqueness of this community.

J: Thank you all again for welcoming us back

C: And best of luck this school year!