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2011 Commencement Speech: Eric Widmer and Meera Viswanathan

Eric Widmer: Your Majesty, Mr. Chairman, Headmaster Austin, Dean Alia, trustees and distinguished guests, faculty and staff, all the proud families gathered in front of us, juniors, sophomores and freshmen, and last but far from least, members of the Class of 2011 – Dr. Meera and I are thrilled to be back, so privileged to be in the company of His Majesty once more and on the campus of this great school. We can't begin without thanking the headmaster for his gracious invitation to be your speakers. And when I then asked what we might speak about, the answer was prompt and to the point: we should speak about ten minutes. So here we go.

Meera Viswanathan: The spirit of King's is still so strong. Seniors, we congratulate you on keeping that special faith and you have earned the right to feel as proud of yourselves as we are of you. The fact that you are about to be graduates of King's Academy means that you are unusually accomplished in Arabic and English, knowledgeable about the great religions and philosophical traditions of the world, practiced in the arts and world languages, young and budding historians, mathematicians and scientists. You are indeed ready to take on the world – or just about. I would advise you to go to college first (as you are doing, of course) and I know that one of you, at least, will be at my university next fall. But as much as we celebrate your graduation today, there is sadness as well. Endings are so often sad because of the loss we feel. You can imagine how sad Dr. Eric and I felt at this time last year. So instead we use the euphemism of commencement. This is the start of your onward journey and we now send you on your way with all the confidence and all the congratulations you deserve.

Eric Widmer: Seniors, it's not just been in the classroom but everywhere in school life that you have helped to bring the school to a new level of distinction. In the hallways and walkways of the campus, in your co-curricular lives, on the playing fields you have all left your mark. Working with Ms. Tessa you have helped fast-track the school into Round Square. You look terrific and I'm sure that the boys are now, without fail, tucking their shirts in and tying their neckties properly. Most of you know how to swim in the King’s Academy pool, not just the Dead Sea. As debaters, declaimers, dancers, poets, servers to your community, athletes, young journalists – you have led the way. Even as enthusiastic wrestlers for Coach Yamaguchi last year or as boxers this year, you have shown that same King's spiritedness, although I would advise none of you to make the mistake of challenging His Majesty to either a boxing or a wrestling match. And as Ms. Nahid's and Mr. Mazen's Robokings you have once again excelled. Your lives now belong to you more than ever and therefore the question of what you do with yourselves is yours as well. My only wish is that you make the most of that lifetime ahead of you – whether, as His Majesty said last year, it's across the street or across the world.

Meera Viswanathan: None of what Dr. Eric has said would have been possible without that example so thoughtfully set by your headmaster and the first family of King's – Ms. Monica and their children; or without the passionate mentoring of your faculty; or without the unwavering support of our dedicated staff. So may I suggest that we all give them an immensely well-deserved round of applause? And of course that must also signify our appreciation for how well the school rose to the challenge, under Ms. Nancy's leadership, of preparing for the accreditation visiting committee and passing through with such flying colors. If the mission statement and the five principles were helpful I am glad, but I won't remind you of the haphazard circumstances whereby they came into being! In all of that language, one word strikes me as especially important today and that is the word “cherish” in the last sentence of the mission statement. I hope so fervently that you will always cherish one another and that you will always cherish King's Academy.

Eric Widmer: In speaking about cherishing, Dr. Meera spoke about each of you and then about the school. Let me turn that around. When His Majesty first wrote about King's Academy, one of the most memorable things he said was that the school will be "utterly idealistic, utterly progressive, utterly optimistic...and utterly necessary." Now I say to you seniors that exactly the same can be said of you. One way or another I hope you will work for the betterment of humanity and for peace. One thing is certain: your King's diploma will give you a special distinction and so also a special opportunity to make the world a better place. This is a challenge we must never relinquish, even as the leadership of the older generation (that means me) subsides and it is time for the younger generation (that means you) to move to the front lines. I am sure that Dr. Meera and I speak for all the Class of 2011, as well as for ourselves, when we express our gratitude to His Majesty for giving us this chance to be at this wonderfully idealistic, progressive and optimistic – and necessary school. However can we repay him? By doing what we can in our lives, Insha'Allah, to serve our sovereign and our world.

In case you forgot, Dr. Meera always has the last word, and all I know is that we have just a few moments left and that it is something about leaving our beloved camping ground...

Last updated
May 2, 2017