It is a tremendous honor to be speaking to you tonight, one night before we release you into the world, stamped officially as “King’s Academy graduates.” I feel especially honored, because in some ways I feel like a part of your class. For many of you, your first day at King’s Academy was my first day too. And as you all say goodbye to King’s to move on to college, I will be saying goodbye too, and moving on to graduate school.
I think back over the past four years we have spent together and realize how much has changed. All of you look like completely different people from when you started, with the exception of Moutasem Al-Huneidi, who looks exactly the same. Someone needs to check his birth certificate. I remember Layth Ismail when the gel in his hair weighed more than the rest of his body combined. I remember when the teachers in Sulafat were still a bit frightened of Mohammed Kassab before they realized what a caring individual he is. I remember when the males in the class, like Talal Soror, measured how cool they were by the amount of hair on their head, and I’m so glad that this has changed. Someone really needs to give Khaled Jarwan that memo. And I remember when you were all even more crazy and excitable than you are now, which is really saying something. One time, in school meeting, Dr. Eric was announcing the names of the students who would accompany His Majesty on a trip, and he said “Swara,” the name of a senior at the time. Thinking she heard her name, Sewar Quran leapt up in her seat and cheered, which was incredibly sweet, but really awkward. And now she, like many of you, has grown up to be a poised and mature person ready to face the world.
More importantly than those things that we see very obviously on the surface, you have all grown to be more independent, more responsible, more understanding, more efficient, more resourceful…more adult.
But just because you are pretty much an adult now doesn’t mean the change will stop here. When I really think about it, you are not the only ones who have changed a lot in the past four years. At a newspaper meeting, I showed Leila Shaban a picture of me from the beginning of college, and her immediate response was “When did you stop looking like that?” I wasn’t really sure how to take that. But beyond my receding hairline, I know that I, like you, have changed in a whole lot more substantial ways. I know I am more patient, more sympathetic and more easy going, and compared to four years ago, I know far more swears in Arabic.
We have all changed SO much in so many ways. Yet, despite having experienced so much change recently, a lot of you seem to be terrified about taking this next step, scared of the change that is about to occur. I realized this a few weeks ago, when I announced that a certain homework assignment was our last of the year, and Farah Kilani threw her hands up in the air and let out a sad shriek of disappointment and disbelief. I can’t say I always get that much enthusiasm for calculus homework. But I knew that this reaction wasn’t really from love of homework. All those lasts have been so meaningful, not because you will particularly miss doing the things that cause the lasts themselves, but because that word “last” signifies that something big is coming. A change is on the horizon. Last study hall, last sit down lunch, last 3 am fire alarm.
But, honestly, I’m right there with you, and so are many of the other teachers that are leaving this year. We are stressed about what is happening next in our lives, confused about whether to be excited for new opportunities or sad about leaving King’s, and terrified of leaving the people about whom we care deeply. Last exam proctoring, last dorm duty, last calculus pun from Talal Sisalem.
A conversation I had with one of your classmates made me realize what was actually happening. Ghazi Al Zyoud was telling me how he really did not want to make new friends in college because he is happy with the ones he has now, which…well…to each his own. But it made me realize that I, like him, and probably you, are worried about the next step because we are worried about losing what we have here when we leave. Something about moving on to somewhere else can make you feel like you are abandoning what you have now.
But I think we all have to remember that what we are about to go do is never meant to replace what we have just done, but rather it is meant to add to the sum total of who we are, an addition that could not occur without taking risks and making changes. Your friends next year won’t replace those that you have now, and no new life experiences can erase the experiences you have had here at King’s. You should be excited that we are all about to go do a wide variety of amazing and life changing things, so that when we see each other again in one, four, 10 years, we will all be different, better versions of ourselves from having challenged ourselves in some way beyond King’s. At the same time, you should also be comforted that we will always remain people who can fundamentally connect with each other because of our experience here.
The changes that you will go through over the next four years won’t make you a completely different person, but rather the same person, just different. And this is what should actually get you really excited about this big change on the horizon. You’ve changed a lot in the past four years, and you will change a lot in the next four years, and I can almost guarantee that you will feel like a completely new person another four years after that, a cycle that will always happen in life. But now that you are finishing your time at King’s, you will have a constant to add to that cycle of change, a way to ground your identity, something that will make you always you. Very soon, you will forever be able to call yourself a graduate of King’s Academy. And after I depart next month, I too will forever owe a part of myself to being a part of this community.
With that, I wish you best of luck on the future, and hope that you all have an absolute blast tomorrow.