Your Majesties, Your Royal Highness, Your Highnesses, Your Excellencies; distinguished guests, family, friends, faculty and staff; alumni, students and, most especially, the graduating Class of 2014.
Today is a milestone, King’s Academy’s fifth Commencement, and I am honored and delighted, on behalf of the faculty and staff, to welcome all of you.
O for a muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
So speaks the chorus at the beginning of Shakespeare’s Henry V, which, for the last few weeks, I have been teaching my 11th grade English class. My students will tell you that reading Shakespeare can be hard going. Shakespeare is indeed a demanding writer. To read a play by Shakespeare requires an unusual degree of attention and a particular kind of engagement. Shakespeare requires not simply that you “read”; he requires that you imagine. Like the chorus, he asks the reader to see, to envision, and in so doing complete the play with their own imaginations; he asks that the reader make the play her own; that the reader bring the printed page to life.
This act of imaginative completion – of taking something that is given to you and transforming it into something new and more powerful, something imbued by the spark, the fire of your own intellect and imagination – is a fitting metaphor for what we mark and celebrate here today at Commencement, and I would suggest to you for your own educations. It is one of the paradoxes of schooling that no matter how well your parents parent and your teachers teach, only you can learn. Only you can complete the education which you have been given.
A great education, the only kind of education worth having, the kind of education for which King’s strives, is not an object that can be bought because education, at its best, is a dynamic creative transaction between students and teachers. And that, more than anything else, is what we celebrate here today: the imagination, spirit and initiative that each of you and your class has brought to your education and your time here. Of the way you have taken the script we have given you and sought to transform it and make it something distinctly your own.
This transformation will of course continue at university and beyond – there is no end to learning -- but it is fitting that we pause here today and take note of our pride in you. You are not only the Academy’s largest graduating class to date, you are also the most diverse. We are proud of the way you have come together, transcended the differences of creed and nationality and background, to create a community of kindness and respect that is radically welcoming and inclusive: you have celebrated one another’s differences and at the same time reached beyond those differences, striving to create something greater, a powerful sense of community founded on the ideals of learning, care for others and respect for all. We are proud of your leadership and of your willingness to stand in solidarity with others in need. We are proud of the way you have reached out to other schools, through Madrasati, through your tutoring of young children, through artistic initiatives like the Jordan Youth Orchestra, the Jordan Dance Exchange; your zarb basketball tournament, and in debate and in Model United Nations, which you transformed, expanded and democratized. We are proud the spirit if inquiry you have helped create in our classrooms, making the school a place that honors curiosity and academic achievement, a place where the great and enduring civic virtues of debate and dialogue can flourish. We are proud of the way you have sought to live in the spirit of the Academy’s mission and values. Of your spirit, your gift for friendship and the sheer delight you take in one another. Of your willingness to lead through service, and community engagement. Of how you have created a culture that is uplifting, vibrant and inspiring.
So, today is a day of great pride. It is also a day to give thanks.
This July we celebrate we celebrate the 10th anniversary of His Majesty laying the foundation stone for King’s. We are thankful for the leadership of the King’s Academy board of trustees, past and present, and its chairman, His Excellency Karim Kawar, and for all of our friends who have believed in us and built from that stone a school.
We are thankful for our dedicated staff, who have done so much to make this year, this commencement on this beautiful campus possible. And we are thankful for this faculty, who have taught, mentored and advised you, our students, with such patience, wisdom and generosity.
We are thankful to your families, your parents and grandparents for their support and trust.
We are thankful for Their Majesties’ vision – their visions for this school and for the future of the kingdom and its young people. I know I speak on behalf of all of us in attendance when I say that we are humbled to be a part of this great undertaking and to serve you and this school.
As much as today is a celebration of each of you and of your class, it is also a celebration of this community. We make our communities, and our communities, in turn make us, and when they are as strong as this one is, they give us strength and courage, they enable us to discover our best selves, they sustain us with hope and love.
As you depart today, know that you take with you the collective strength of your families and of all of us here with you; that we believe in you and that always, always you, the Class of 2014, will be part of this great family.