I was privileged to speak at the St. Catherine’s School Cum Laude honors induction on April 3, 2014. My dear friend and former student (yes, it can happen) Doug Bader teaches at St. Catherine’s and invited me to share some thoughts with the audience of honorees, friends and relatives, and the entire upper school. The event took place in a chapel, and the audience filled it. We sang several hymns together. I usually like to sing out, especially when I’ve got a good bass line to sing, but this time I tried to sing quietly, as there was an undeniable magic to the way these young women’s voices rang out, clear and energetic, in that space. When at the end we sang the two verses of “Jerusalem” together, the moment deepened, a “sacred and home-felt delight,” as Milton has it in A Masque.
During the talk, I looked out over the room at the faces of these teens, in school and on their way to more. I thought about the world they live in and the world they will soon be shaping, internally and externally. On a clear warm April morning, I tried to let them know how dear their springtime was to me, how important their springtime will be to the world. In my mind’s eye, I saw my teenage daughter, now a second-year student at UVa, and soon to leave her teen years behind forever. I saw my own springtime self, impetuous, brash, no doubt overbearing and facile but with such driven wonder that I could hardly bear to sleep sometimes. I wanted these young women to know that their worlds matter, and that the history of their futures is written in the dreams of the past–in this case, the dreams of human potential that bequeathed us, for better or worse, the digital computer. I hinted that the “better” part might still be something we could work on together.
Afterward, several of the young women came up to say hello. They talked excitedly about their work, their fanfictions, their networked lives and enthusiasms.
And at the reception, even the adults got into the spirit of the event.
A great day.