What Story Will You Write?

Tim Breen, Head of School
Convocation Speech August 31, 2011
What Story Will You Write?
Convocation 2011 at The White Mountain School
By Tim Breen, Head of School

125 years ago, 8 boarding students, 14 day students, and 6 teachers came together in Concord NH. This was the beginning of our School. At the time, we were called St. Mary’s School. In the 1930s we moved from Concord NH to these mountains and became St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains. In the early 1970s we became coed, and changed our name to The White Mountain School. Three names, two locations, one School.
 
As we gather together today, I think back on 125 other convocations. Thousands of students and hundreds of teachers have gathered here before us. And their spirit lives on in this place, because each one played a part in helping to shape our School.
And now it’s our turn. As we celebrate the past 125 years of our School, let’s not forget to look forward. What part will you play in shaping the school for the students of the future?
 
For our 125th anniversary, we’ve adopted the theme of “telling the story.” Throughout the year, we are collecting stories from alumnae/i. Stories of their lives, of their time at our School, of how the School has helped shape who they are, or how they helped shape the School.
 
You are in a different situation from our alumnae/i. You are beginning to write your story.
 
What story are you going to write this year?
 
Is your story going to be about avoiding things that are hard, because you don’t want to fail, or will it be a story about stretching yourself, even though you know you will fall short at times?
 
Will it be a story of complaining, or of gratitude?
Of cynicism, or of hope?
Will it be a story about intellectual arrogance, or about intellectual curiosity?
Will it include laughing at those who stumble, or praising them for trying?
Will it be a story of righteousness, or of doing the right thing?
Will it be a story about dragging others down, or about inspiring others to greater heights?
Of blaming others, or of taking responsibility?
Will it be a story of indifference, or of engagement?
 
If the students are the body of our School, the teachers are the soul. And we are lucky to have such passionate, caring, engaged teachers. All of us are here for one reason. Because we believe in you. We believe you can accomplish great things in the world. And our mission is to help you do so. We want to help you write your story. We want to teach you physics, and we want to teach you history. But we also want to teach you how to live. How to live an engaged, committed, happy life. That is the story we hope you will write.

You’re lucky. You are now part of a community that is remarkably supportive. This is a safe place. You are encouraged to be yourself here. You are encouraged to find and follow a passion; to push yourself academically and athletically; and to think about meaning and purpose in your life. When you combine curious students with engaged teachers in a supportive community and majestic setting, you have the magic that is The White Mountain School.

 
There’s a quote I like that you can find on our website. It’s from WB Yeats:
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
 
I heard a related quote recently (from Arnold Glasow)
“Success is not a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”
 
So don’t sit around waiting for something to happen – make it happen.
Light a fire.
Write your story. Begin now.
Have a good evening and a great year.
 

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